Monday, October 31, 2016

Oconee County Commissioners Being Asked to Pay Between $30,000 And $60,000 For SR 316 Study

Exact Figure Not Released

Oconee County Board of Commissioners Chairman Melvin Davis is asking his fellow commissioners tomorrow (Tuesday) night to spend between $30,000 and $60,000 on a study to justify widening Daniells Bridge Road and building a flyover of that road to the Oconee Connector at Home Depot.

The exact cost of the study isn’t known because county Public Works Director Emil Beshara has not yet released the three bids received.

The county informed the three firms in a pre-bid meeting that the county expected to spend the $30,000 to $60,000 on the project, Beshara said, setting the rough parameters for the study costs.

Beshara said cost will not be the deciding factor in making a decision among the three bidders.

“This is a qualifications based process,” Beshara said, “and the cost is a minor component.”

Davis is retiring at the end of December, and this is his attempt to get the study underway before he leaves office.

Question Of Priorities

Davis has been pushing for the study since June of 2015 as a way of justifying the Daniells Bridge Road projects.

In April of that year, the Commission turned down his efforts to get the county to sign project framework agreements with the Georgia Department of Transportation for the flyover and widening.

Many citizens in the neighborhoods along Daniells Bridge Road spoke in opposition to the roadwork.

The county’s Citizen Advisory Committee on Land Use and Transportation Planning subsequently ranked the flyover and widening of Daniells Bridge Road near the bottom of its priority list of 18 road projects in the county, but that did not stop Davis from pushing the projects.

The regional transportation planning body, Madison Athens Clarke Regional Transportation Study (MACORTS), has the projects on its lists of long-term priorities.

The project framework agreements Davis tried to get the Commission to approve in 2015 would have moved the projects forward on the MACORTS’s priority lists.

Three Bids Received

The county has received bids from Moreland Altobelli Associates of Duluth, Pond and Company of Peach Tree Corners, and Design Workshop of Ashville, N.C., for the study of the SR 316 and Epps Bridge Parkway corridor.

The county issued a request for bids on Sept. 15 for a study of SR 316 and Epps Bridge Parkway within the county boundaries with the goal of identifying “needed improvements, with an emphasis on updating and expanding upon the 2001 GDOT corridor study.”

According to the bid documents, “The project will focus on addressing safety issues, congestion, economic development and other transportation improvements.”

The successful bidder is to hold at least two community meetings, identify costs, and prepare a final study document with recommendations.

The bid document included a diagram outlining the steps in the process of bringing recommendations before the Commission for action.

Click To Enlarge

$20,000 For Moreland Altobelli

Tomorrow night’s agenda already includes payment of $19,750 for Moreland Altobelli, a firm with which Davis has close ties.

At last week’s agenda-setting meeting, the Commission agreed in principle to pay the firm that amount for a change order for work done on the widening of Experiment Station Road between Butler’s Crossing and the U.S. 441 Bypass of Watkinsville. (The video is HERE.)

The payment is on tomorrow night's consent agenda, meaning it will be approved without further discussion unless a commissioner asks that it be pulled from the consent agenda.

The bill for work by Moreland Altobelli was the result of a redesign of the intersection of Government Station Road with Experiment Station Road negotiated by Davis with the University of Georgia, which owns land along the two roadways.

Beshara Not In Loop

Public Works Director Beshara told me last week he had not seen the proposed redesign in its entirety.

“I understand the road would come from opposite Bishop Farms Parkway and sweep around to intersect with GSR near their first driveway,” he wrote. GSR stands for Government Station Road.

Beshara gave me a copy of a letter from Davis sent to officials at the University of Georgia dated Oct. 7, 2016, saying “we have instructed our design firm, Moreland Altobelli,” to redesign the road.

Davis wrote that “we” instructed Moreland Altobelli to “Design the roadway from the Experiment Station Road traffic signal (Experiment Station Road and Dickens Farm Parkway) to ‘T’ intersect with Government Station Road.”

He certainly meant Bishop Farms Parkway not Dickens Farm Parkway.

Design Changes

The T intersection will be a three-way stop, Davis wrote, and the existing Government State Road intersection with Experiment Station Road will be closed.

Davis, who is not an engineer, instructed Moreland Altobelli to do the design work before it was approved by the Board of Commissioners, unless it was done in executive session or without a formal vote.

At the meeting last week, no member of the Commission objected to Davis making the decision without their input or the involvement of Beshara.

Beshara is a certified engineer.

Commission action tomorrow night will pay for Davis’ decision to engage Moreland Altobelli on the design change.


Anonymous said...

How many more days before we will be rid of Melvin and his cronies??? I thought the Daniels' Bridge/ Flyover issue had been settled long ago with a decision against it. Once again I will say, he is a determined little jerk, isn't he? Get everything done for his peeps that he can while he is in office.

Anonymous said...

"Dickens Farm Parkway"...nice Freudian slip King Melvin

Anonymous said...

Is anyone else as outraged as I am regarding the actions of Mr. Davis? I find his actions reprehensible. I hope our incoming chairman and our commissioners hold to the promise of more transparency and being responsive to not only the input of our citizens but also to recommendations of our various committees.

Thank you Lee for your vigilence and thorough research of county records. Thank you also for providing tapes of the meetings. This is a great service to our county.

Anonymous said...

Lee thanks for posting the diagram of the process for consideration of the flyover. The most glaring problem is the lack of involvement with public, which occurs too late. Before the first step is initiated, public meetings should be held to seek input about the project. Otherwise, the diagram suggests the decision has already been made and the public meetings are simply to tell the public exactly what the BOC is going to do, despite opposition or public concern. Sadly this is the "norm" in Oconee County.

Xardox said...

Huge bonanza for the businesses from Mars Hill Rd to Home Depot area along the newly formed thoroughfare and to those "fortunate" enough have bought up the property. Probably will be built eventually to meet the stub been there for many years, suggesting a done deal for quite a spell.
Too bad about a huge area of what used to be quiet neighborhoods.

Anonymous said...

To the new commissioners and chairman-
Every single contract should be made available for public review on the county website.
The contracts should disclose the name, address, etc. of the parties (not just an LLC) involved in all bids and the amount awarded for the contract based on the scope of work stated in the contract.

Transparency is vitally needed.

Good point 2:48PM- not just a meeting to tell the public what the BOC is going to do- include input from the public during the process.

Thanks, Lee.