Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Oconee County Commissioners Agree To Pay For Work On Rejected Plan To Reconnect Old Mars Hill Road To Mars Hill Road

Davis’ Plan

Oconee County Commissioners tentatively agreed on Tuesday night to pay the $10,000 bill for the design work ordered up by Chairman Melvin Davis without Commission approval last year to connect Old Mars Hill Road with Mars Hill Road.

The Commission ultimately rejected Davis’ plans, but not before county Public Works Director Emil Beshara had requested that Moreland Altobelli Associates Inc. alter the design for the roadway.

Davis pressured Beshara and county Administrative Officer Jeff Benko to order the changes in the roadway, saying it was in response to a request by the late Perry Aycock, who owned land on Old Mars Hill Road. At least one other land owner would have benefitted from the change.

The commissioners agreed at the meeting on Tuesday to put payment of a $44,550 change order for Moreland Altobelli on the consent agenda for final action on July 5. Included in that amount is the nearly $10,000 for the rejected Old Mars Hill Road plans.

Full Agenda

The action by the BOC on the bill for the Old Mars Hill Road redesign work was part of a busy agenda that included approval of another change order with Moreland Altobelli for additional right of way appraisals for continued work on the Mars Hill Road widening project.

Mars Hill Road/Virgil Langford Road/Rocky Branch Road

The Board also reviewed plans for improvements to the Rocky Branch Road/Mars Hill Road/Virgil Langford Road intersection but didn’t take any action on them.

Beshara said the cost estimates are between $650,000 and $860,000, depending on whether the work is done under contract on by county staff.

The county will need an unbudgeted $400,000 to complete the project, Beshara said.

Included are center turn lanes on all of the roads and a turn signal.

Updates On Mars Hill Road

Beshara told the Board that the work on Phase I of the Mars Hill Road widening project is on schedule and that no more lane shifts are scheduled until the middle of September.

That schedule will result in a great deal of congestion at the corner of Mars Hill Road and Hog Mountain Road once school reopens in August, he said.

Phase II work, for the section of road from Butler’s Crossing to U.S. 441, also is progressing, Beshara said, but the state is using two different construction let dates.

One is December of this year, and the other isn’t until 2022.

Parkway Boulevard

Beshara also told the commissioners that work on Parkway Boulevard Extension is progressing as planned.

The roadway, which the county is building to open up land opposite Epps Bridge Centre for expansion of that shopping complex and for other developments, is in right of way acquisition stage, Beshara said.

The notice to proceed cannot be issued to Simpson Grading for the $3.4 million construction work until the easements are in place, Beshara said.

Construction should take seven months after work begins, he said.

Patching And Resurfacing Projects

Beshara also presented the board with a list of other road projects he hopes to complete this year, but he indicated his budget is underfunded by about $200,000.

The commissioners told him to come back with proposals on which of the project he should cut from the list.

Oconee Waste Transport

Beshara Tuesday night presented the Board with three bids for solid waste collection and disposal services and reported that, based on county policy, he could not recommend that the contract go to Oconee Waste Transport, the only local bidder.

OWT was more than 7 percent above the other estimates, Beshara said, and county policy is that local firms can be favored but only if they are with 7 percent of the low bidders.

Matt Elder, owner of OWT, came forward at the request of Davis to explain why he felt the county should give him the bid.

Elder is a member of the county’s Industrial Development Authority, and the county spot zoned land south of Watkinsville for him in 2010 to keep him from making good on a threat to move OWT from the county.

The Board asked Beshara to go back and review the bids again in an effort to find a way to award the contract to OWT.

Luke And Davis

Commissioner Jim Luke prodded Beshara, during the discussion of the request by Moreland Altobelli for additional money for the Mars Hill Road project, to explain why the firm wanted $65,030 in post design services.

Beshara had recommended that the initial request for $65,030 be reduced by $20,480 because of the possible delay in Phase II work.

Luke wanted to know what was involved in the remainder of the bill.

Davis tried to redirect the discussion, but Beshara finally reported that the money was for the Old Mars Hill Road connection and for an additional modification along the roadway.

The video below is of Luke’s questioning and Beshara’s response.

OCO: Old Mars Hill Road from Lee Becker on Vimeo

Calls Creek Again

Residents who live along Calls Creek again used the opportunity afforded citizens at the beginning of the meeting to raise questions about the proposed pipeline down the creek and related sewer projects.

When they had finished, Davis said he wanted to explain how the decision on the proposed pipeline and other sewer projects will be made.

He emphasized that even before the recommendations from consultants comes before the Board of Commissioners, citizens would have a chance to comment.

Davis’ comments are in the video below.

OCO: Davis On Calls Creek from Lee Becker on Vimeo

The Commissioners frequently make decisions on projects and brings them before the public for reaction only before a final vote.

The Parkway Boulevard project, for example, was agreed upon in executive session and then presented to the public as a decision already made.

Full Video

The full video of the BOC session is below.

OCO: BOC 6 28 16 Complete from Lee Becker on Vimeo


Rosemary Woodel said...

Good job!

Anonymous said...

Too bad they can't require Melvin to pay for this stupid decision on his part.

Anonymous said...

Another bleeping conflict of interest: Matt Elder of OWT doing business with the county while serving on the Industrial Development Authority.

There are no professional or personal ethics in this county. We have elected five commissioners who consistently ignore basic ethical practices. Guess Republicans on the local level are exempt from free market practices national Republicans demand: If OWT is more than 7 percent over, the county should go with the lowest bid, case closed.


"OWT was more than 7 percent above the other estimates, Beshara said, and county policy is that local firms can be favored but only if they are with 7 percent of the low bidders.
Matt Elder, owner of OWT, came forward at the request of Davis to explain why he felt the county should give him the bid.
Elder is a member of the county’s Industrial Development Authority..."

Zippity said...

Yes, Melvin should pay the $10,000, not the taxpayers of the county. And yes, there are no ethics in this county. How can poor Mr. Beshara figure out a way to give the contract to OWT when county policy forbids it. He cannot change the policy. He cannot change the bids submitted by the companies. What do they expect him to do? I would hate to be him. The ethics of this commission is zero, but the public does not seem to care. And they just call themselves Republicans because that is the only way to get elected in this county. In reality, they just give our taxpayer money to their friends!

Anonymous said...

Excellent comments.

Question-If the BOC goes back and changes the awarding of bid system -would not the firms that applied the first time have a reason to file a lawsuit against the county.? How much will that cost the taxpayers?