Oconee County’s plans to begin design work on a road being sought by Atlanta developer Frank Bishop are on hold while County Attorney Daniel Haygood looks into the bids and the bidding process.
At the request of Board of Commissioners Chairman Melvin Davis, the awarding of the design contract to ABE Consulting, 2410 Hog Mountain Road, was removed from the consent agenda at the Sept. 2 meeting of the Commission.
Davis said it was necessary “to check a couple of things on the contracts,” and County Administrative Officer Jeff Benko told me in an email message on Sept. 3 that Haygood “was reviewing a few items.”
|Gordy Property From Epps Bridge Ctr.|
Benko said “we intend to place” the awarding of the contract on the Sept. 30 agenda.
ABE Consulting, owned by Abe Abouhamdan, chairman of the county Land Use and Transportation Planning Committee, had submitted the low bid of $96,925. Williams and Associates, 2470 Daniells Bridge Road, had the next low bid of $98,980.
The roadway, an extension of Parkway Boulevard to connect to the Oconee Connector across from Epps Bridge Centre, came before the BOC on Aug. 26 without earlier public discussion. At that meeting, the commissioners gave tentative approval to ABE Consulting’s bid.
Bishop’s name did not come up in the brief public discussion of the Parkway Boulevard extension at the meeting on Aug. 26, but the roadway would cross through 114 acres owned by the Evelyn and Frank Gordy Family behind Wal-Mart and Lowe’s.
In 2011, the Commissioners were told that Bishop had an option on that property.
Oconee County Commissioner Margaret Hale told me on Sept. 4 that she had talked to Bishop “one-on-one” about the road and “I assume he has talked to other commissioners as well.” She did not say when the conversation with Bishop had taken place.
Commissioner John Daniell also told me last week that he had talked with Bishop more than a year ago about the road.
Daniell said that Bishop had options on the Gordy property at that time.
Bishop is the developer of Epps Bridge Centre, which is across the Oconee Connector from the Gordy property.
ROW An Issue
Hale said that discussions with Bishop have centered on which land owners were going to grant the right of way for the roadway to the county and which were going to require the county to purchase the right of way.
The new Parkway Boulevard would be an extension of the road that now leads to Kohl’s from Epps Bridge Parkway. The new extension would turn back to and connect with the new Oconee Connector, crossing the 114 acres owned by the Evelyn and Frank Gordy Family.
The drawing that was part of the request for proposals for the design work shows the new road running across land owned by three parties other than the Gordys.
The proposed Parkway Boulevard extension runs along one side of a 41-acre-tract owned by Rod and J.L. Wright, developers who own large parcels of land throughout the county.
It also crosses a narrow, five-acre parcel owned by Henry L. and Corneli Combs of Winterville, and the corner of 32 acres owned by Sebelle Hill Jordan as trustee, 5051 Mars Hill Road. Both properties are at the closed end of Jordan Drive, which intersects with Epps Bridge Parkway.
|Jordan Drive Ends Here|
Parkway Boulevard currently is blocked at the end of the Kohl’s parking lot. An incomplete section of roadway runs through property owned by Epps Bridge Parkway LLC, 2500 Daniells Bridge Road.
The two separate tracts sum to just less than 20 acres, according to the county’s tax map, but much of the larger piece of land is immediately on McNutt Creek and not developable.
The county has not discussed in open session the costs of the construction of the roadway or who pays for it.
Benko told me in an email message on Sept. 3 that the cost of the design work will come from either Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax revenue or from the county’s surplus fund, called “Fund Balance.”
Developers usually pay for roadways to their projects and then turn them over to the county once the projects are completed.
The issue of who pays for road construction is something that could be discussed in executive session if it were also discussed in the context of right of way acquisition.
The Board of Commissioners has gone into executive session with the stated purpose of discussing “real estate acquisition and disposal” seven times since the first of this year, including at the end of the session on Sept. 2.
Without any public discussion, the county issued a request for proposals for the design work for the extension of Parkway Boulevard that were due on Feb. 27 of this year.
Because of an error in the specifications in that bid, according to county Public Works Director Emil Beshara, a second request for proposals was issued with the due date of Aug. 7. This RFP also was issued without discussion at a Board of Commissioners meeting.
|Parkway Boulevard Beyond Kohl's|
The error in the first RFP was the result of a miscalculation of the length of the road to be built, according to Beshara. The first bid specified 2,500 linear feet of roadway, and the second 3,600 linear feet.
Developer Bishop was involved in email discussion of the discrepancy and the need for a second bid, the file on the Parkway Boulevard extension in the Public Works Office shows.
I reviewed that file last Friday after filing an open records request with the county and talked with Beshara at that time.
The county received five bids in response to the second RFP, including the bids by ABE Consulting and Williams and Associates.
Abouhamdan of ABE Consulting attended the BOC meeting on Sept. 2. He told me a week later at the meeting of the Land Use and Transportation Planning Committee that he had been unaware of any delay and was expecting BOC action on his bid at the Sept. 2 session.
At the Aug. 26 meeting, the BOC had put the contract on the consent agenda, meaning it was to be approved without further discussion at the Sept. 2 meeting. Davis pulled it off the agenda entirely, and the commissioners approved that action.
The Oconee Connector has several curb cuts for future roadways into the Gordy and Wright properties, but the design plan used with the RFP shows a future Parkway Boulevard extension meeting up with the Oconee Connector at a place not currently designated with a curb cut.
The roadway, as drawn, would be immediately opposite one of the existing entrances to Epps Bridge Centre at a low spot in the roadway near a creek. (It would be to the left of the entrance shown in the picture at the top of this posting.)
If the final plans follow that drawing, the new development on the Gordy property would connect with an existing entrance to Bishop’s Epps Bridge Centre.