Mars Hill Road construction is going to cause major disruptions to the lives of the people who live along and who use that roadway, but the state, the contractor and local officials are going to do everything they can to help everyone cope.
That was the message of those who spoke last night at the special meeting in the Civic Center called to give people in the community an overview of the project, which is now underway.
Ninety-five citizens, nine GDOT staff members and at least three county staff members attended the meeting, according to Pope’s count. The formal part of the meeting lasted an hour.
Oconee County Board of Commissioners Chairman Melvin Davis opened and closed the meeting, and he said at the start the he knows the project “affects a lot of people.”
“We are pleased we are at this point with the project,” he said. “Now, we all understand there is going to be issues...with construction,” he added.
The purpose of the meeting, according to Davis, was to provide information about the project and allow people to ask questions.
Brent Cook, engineer in charge of GDOT operations in the 21-county Northeast Georgia District, followed Davis, and he praised the chairman for setting up the meeting.
Cook said he had been at GDOT 23 years “and this is the first time I can ever recall having a meeting like this to share what’s going to happen.”
Cell Phone Numbers Given
Chris Fowler, construction project manager for G.P.'s Enterprises of Auburn, which has the $26.3 million contract for the road work, told the group he knew people were concerned about access to their homes and businesses.
He said people would be informed in advance of possible blockages, and he gave out his own cell phone number (770-560-9874) and that of G.P.’s Senior Vice President Tim Phillips (770-570-2930) for anyone who needed to discuss access or other problems.
He said the project will focus initially on clearing land for the roadway.
That will be followed by utility relocation and then by storm drainage and the bridge over Barber Creek.
When construction gets underway, traffic will be switched back and forth from the existing road, temporary roads, and new roadway, according to Fowler.
Restrictions On Construction
GDOT Communications Officer Pope told the audience that the contract with G.P.’s Enterprises contained restrictions on when construction can take place.
For example, no work will be allowed on the road from the southern intersection of Windy Creek Drive to Hog Mountain Road while Oconee County Schools are in session.
No lane closures will be allowed anywhere along the road during University of Georgia home football weekends.
Lane closures also are not allowed Friday evenings of Oconee County High School home football games.
Details of closings are on the Oconee County web site.
Questions And Posters
Most of the questions from the audience dealt with issues of access and details of construction.
Before and after the formal presentations, audience members could look over 12 large aerial photographs of the project, which runs from SR 316 to Hog Mountain Road at Butler’s Crossing.
Overlaid on the photographs were representations of the completed roadway, allowing visitors to see how the roadway will change the existing landscape.
Those aerial photographs with overlays also are on the county web site.
The project is being paid for largely by federal and state funds, and BOC Chairman Davis said the county could not afford to do the construction on its own.
Davis estimated the county’s contribution to the costs at 5 percent.
Oconee County Public Works Director Emil Beshara told me in an email message today that the county’s contribution will be almost $4 million, including purchase of right of way, design work, and water and sewer relocation and upgrades.
That would bring the county’s contribution to more than 13 percent.
The final costs are not known, as work has not been completed and condemnation litigation is still underway.
All utilities that are in the project area must be relocated. This includes phone, cable, gas, electric, fiber optic, water, and sewer.
The county pays for 20 percent of relocation costs for water and sewer, according to Beshara, with GDOT picking up the rest.
Other utilities that need to be relocated are paid 100 percent by the utility owner except in circumstances where the utility was on a private easement.
In that case, the county pays 20 percent and GDOT pays 80 percent, according to Beshara.
Video Of Session
The video below is from the session last night.
The video starts just after Davis introduced himself and asked people to take a seat and end individual conversations.