The Oconee County Industrial Development Authority yesterday voted to explore the issuance of $4.5 million in bonds for construction of Parkway Boulevard Extension to connect the existing roadway in front of Kohl’s department store with the Oconee Connector.
The Authority took the action after Chair Rick Waller said the Board of Commissioners was asking the IDA “to review” the roadway project and consider issuing the bonds.
The Authority is a constitutional body of the county, with some of its members appointed by the Board of Commissioners and others designated as members by the Authority’s governing legislation.
Bond attorney Jim Woodward told the Authority he would explore the bond market and report back in approximately two weeks on the terms he could secure for sale of the bonds.
Waller asked county Public Works Director Emil Beshara to explain to the Authority the basics of the Parkway Boulevard Extension project, which had not come before the Authority before yesterday.
The Board of Commissioners has discussed the project in executive sessions that are closed to the public, and details of those discussions emerged only on Friday when the BOC voted to accept a $3.35 million bid for actual construction of the roadway.
The three-lane road will run for two-thirds of a mile from opposite the second entrance to the existing Epps Bridge Centre on the Oconee Connector east of the Vitamin Shoppe and Sleep Number to the blocked off section of Parkway Boulevard Extension just west of Kohl’s.
Beshara told the Authority that the road is not designed to meet transportation needs but rather to open up for development about 200 acres in the retail corridor of the county.
Epps Bridge Centre developer Frank Bishop has submitted plans to the county for an expansion of his shopping center into about 50 acres of the undeveloped land if the county builds the new roadway.
Bigger Road Discussed
Authority member Larry Benson questioned whether the county should not be making a larger investment in the road to widen it and make it into a major traffic thoroughfare. He suggested the county spend up to $10 million for that purpose.
That would required the county to redesign the road and rebid the contract, and Benson found little support for his proposal for that reason.
Oconee County Board of Commissioners Chairman Melvin Davis, however, said he would relay Benson’s suggestion to the commissioners for their consideration.
The road as designed does not include sidewalks and has limited cuts for access along its route.
Right Of Way Needed
Beshara told the Authority that the county will need about 8 acres of right of way for the road and that most of it will be donated.
The county will have to purchase about 1.5 acres of right of way, he said.
The total cost of the road project is expected to be $3.9 million, and the Authority agreed to explore the sales of $4.5 million in bonds with the understanding it could reduce that amount once Woodward reported back on the terms he can get for their sale.
Woodward said there would be no fees charged unless the Authority actually agreed to issue the bonds at some point in the future.
Who Made Request
Woodward told the Authority members that “the county” last week asked County Attorney Daniel Haygood and him to explore “various options the county has to finance this project.”
Authority member Ed Perkins asked, “Has the county commission actually taken a vote and asked the IDA to fund this new bonding?”
“I think this is one of the options that we will look at,” BOC Chairman Davis, a member of the Authority, said in response.
Davis said at the meeting on Friday when the BOC voted to accept the bid for the road work that the county had not decided how to pay for it. He did mention the IDA as one possibility to be explored.
The only public votes the BOC has taken on the project were the one on Friday and one back in September of 2014 to award the bid for design work on the project.
Video Of Meeting
I was not able to attend the meeting of the Industrial Development Authority, but Russ Page did.
The entire video Page shot of the meeting is below. The discussion of the bond issue came at the beginning of the meeting and lasted for nearly 40 minutes.
The Authority voted unanimously to ask Woodward to explore the possible sale of the bonds.
The meeting was held in the Grand Jury room of the courthouse.