Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Oconee County Commission Chairman Says More Information Needed Regarding U.S. 441 Widening But Withholds Maps Of Project

No Web Presence

Oconee County Board of Commissioners Chairman Melvin Davis last night refused to put onto the county website maps that the George Department of Transportation provided him in June showing the route under review for the widening of U.S. 441 and construction of the Bishop bypass.

Davis took that action following a request by Carole Ludwig, one of the landowners in the area, that the county and GDOT be more forthcoming in providing information about the project.

Davis said he agreed there was confusion and that he wanted to help solve that.

When asked specifically to put the maps from the June meeting on the county website, Davis said he would want to get clearance from the state before agreeing to do that.

No member of the Board of Commissioners countered Davis’ decision.

Sounding Board

Near the end of the three-hour-long meeting, Davis provided to the Board a list of eight people he had selected to serve as what he is calling a “sounding board” for the U.S. 441 project.

Commissioners John Daniell, Jim Luke and Mark Saxon approved the group without discussion. Commissioner William “Bubber” Wilkes missed the meeting because of illness.

The sounding board consists of Bishop Mayor Johnny Pritchett, county Land Use and Transportation Planning Committee Chairman Abe Abouhamdan, Land Use Committee member Tammy Gilland, as well as land owners Jerry Thomas, Walter Lee, Buddy Murrow, Bobby Griggs, and Bill Douglas.

Davis said one assignment for the sounding board is for it to meet with GDOT officials to learn about the process GDOT is following and give GDOT feedback.

Davis made no mention of how that sounding board might interact with others in the community and share any information it received or how the public might express its concerns to the sounding board.

Davis did not indicate if the sounding board meetings would be publicized or open to the public, though state law would require public notice and open access now that the commissioners officially have appointed the board.

Other Business

The Board spent most of its time last night dealing with a pay classification system for county employees and with the proposed Mars Hill Road overlay district.

In neither case did the Board take any action, deciding after lengthy discussions in each case to meet in separate work sessions on the topics this month and early next year.

The Board gave first hearing to a revision of the county’s animal control ordinance but turned back requests by four speakers, myself included, that the Board also consider more significant changes to the ordinance in the future and deal specifically with tethering or chaining of animals.

Davis said he wanted the Animal Control Advisory Board to deal with that matter, but that Board has been adamant in its opposition to discussion of a stricter ordinance.

The Board also agreed to issue a request for proposals for a redesign of the county’s web site.

Maps At Issue

Much of the uncertainty about the U.S. 441 widening and the construction of a bypass of Bishop centers around the potential route to be taken.

At a June 16 meeting, which Davis organized, GDOT officials said “we are trying to deliver the project as shown on the layouts provided” for the meeting, according to minutes of that unpublicized meeting that I was able to obtain through an open records request.

I obtained the three maps through an open records request, and they are here:

Sheet 1

Sheet 2

Sheet 3

On Nov. 13, GDOT signed an engineering design services contract with KCI Technologies Inc. of Sparks, Md.. The bid documents said that KCI’s assignments is to do “concept validation and revising.”

Web Page Suggestion

During the public comment section of the meeting last night, I asked the county to create a place on its web site for documents relevant to the widening project and that it upload the three maps that GDOT gave to Davis at that June 16 meeting.

I made my comments after Ludwig had spoken and Davis had responded to her.

In the video below, Davis first tells Ludwig there is a problem of lack of information about the project and says he wants to help solve that problem.

Then, in response to my request that the county upload the maps to make them more readily available, he said he would need to check with GDOT first. He never acknowledged the maps given him at that June 16 meeting.

OCO: Davis Comments On Information from Lee Becker on Vimeo

Full Video

Below is the full video of the citizen comment section of the meeting from which the above clips were taken.

OCO: Citizen Comment 12/15/2015 from Lee Becker on Vimeo

Below is the full video of the discussion of the sounding board, including a listing by Chairman Davis of the board’s members.

OCO: Sounding Board from Lee Becker on Vimeo

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