Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Georgia Department of Transportation Has Lifted Stop Work Order Halting Construction On Mars Hill Road

***In Place Since December***

The Georgia Department of Transportation lifted a stop-work order last week against G.P.’s Enterprises Inc., contractor for the widening of Mars Hill Road, that had halted all work on the road project since December of last year.

GDOT had issued the stop work order after discovering problems with storm water drainage at the bridge over Barber Creek that resulted in dirt and sediment entering Barber Creek.

G.P.’s, based in Auburn, Georgia, has been prohibited from moving forward with all work on the project except for repair of the drainage system at the bridge.

Oconee County Public Works Director Emil Beshara said on Thursday of last week that G.P.’s is getting ready to start paving again, and he does not expect any delay in completion of the $26.4 million contract by the May 31 deadline.

Problem At Bridge

The GDOT project manager determined that “a significant amount of sediment had been released into Barber Creek as a result of storm water discharge from the road project,” Beshara said in an email message to me on Thursday of last week.

Barber Creek Bridge On Mars Hill Road, Looking South
Stormwater Pipe In Center Across Creek, 2/10/2018

The discharge is from a pipe on the eastern side of the bridge.

“Essentially what happened was that water being discharged from the new storm system exits the final structure and is discharged onto large rip rap stone to level and spread the flow before it gets to the creek,” Beshara said.

“Due to either improper placement of geotextile under the rip rap or due to improper design,” Beshara wrote, “sediment under the rip rap and geotextile was washed out and into the creek. This was noticeable due to significant settlement of the rip rap.”

The final solution to the problem will be a second stormwater pipe on the western side of the bridge.

Verbal Notice

Beshara received a copy of an email message on Thursday from M.J. Sheehan at Moreland Altobelli Associates of Duluth, responsible for design work on the project, approving the revision to the stormwater design at the bridge that includes the two pipes.

Beshara yesterday told Kathy Hayes, Oconee County Clerk and Open Records Officer, “I did not receive notice of the stop work order from GDOT via e-mail, nor did I receive notice that the order was lifted. These conversations were verbal and no record was kept.”

Mars Hill Road is a state route, and supervision of the project is the responsibility of GDOT. (Please see the note at the bottom of this post.)

I had filed an open records request with the county for correspondence on the stop work order.

I received those documents this evening (Tuesday).

December Notice

In an email message on Dec. 15, Beshara informed County Administrator Justin Kirouac of the problem with construction on the roadway.

“GDOT has currently stopped GP’s from working on the Mars Hill Phase I project due to erosion control deficiencies,” he wrote.

“There is an alleged major release of sediment at the bridge over Barber Creek,” Beshara continued. “GP’s cannot address the release because their contract does not allow them to use equipment within the 25’ stream buffer.

“GDOT is currently in the process of deciding how to proceed,” the note continued.

“Until this matter is resolved, no further work can be done on the project. It is likely that this delay will result in all paving activities being pushed back until some time in March of 2018.”

On Dec. 22, Beshara informed Kirouac that GDOT had allowed G.P.’s to work on erosion control at the bridge.

GDOT Email

Kelly Hairston at GDOT had written to Sheehan at Moreland Altobelli on Jan. 16 about the stormwater problem at Barber Creek, according to the documents I received from the open records request.

Hairston included a “red-line sketch” of a “temporary repair of the scoured/eroded area on the above mentioned project.”

“This will be a temporary remediation until a final solution is approved and implemented,” the Hairston email states.

“The contractor should re-work and re-grade the area including removal of existing plastic filter fabric and dirt berms adjacent to the stream.”

No Additional Dirt

In that Jan. 16 email, GDOT’s Hairston said that “Careful consideration should be given to not allow any additional dirt or sediment to enter into Barber Creek.”

“The Tp. 1, 36'' Rip Rap should be installed in a manner to provide positive drainage from the outfall of the 36'' pipe to stream edge at Barber Creek (PS 11),” the email states.

“The contractor should utilize as noted on the red-line, Tp. 1 Rip Rap at 36'' for the entire area highlighted,” according to the email.

“Plastic filter fabric should be installed under the Tp. 1 Rip Rap per spec and detail, additionally, done so in a manner where water will not be allowed to flow underneath at any time.

“This work should be done within R/W and easement area.”

R/W stands for right of way.

Solution And Paving

The permanent solution proposed by Moreland Altobelli and approved by GDOT will require the county to acquire a drainage easement from one property owner, Beshara told me in the email exchange last week.

G.P.’s and GDOT had been “in negotiations for a couple months now as to how to proceed,” Beshara said.

G.P.’s had been planning to complete all paving around Thanksgiving, “but the stop work order killed that plan and it has been too cold to pave since then,” Beshara said.

“They are trying to get ready again now,” Beshara wrote, “and if the weather cooperates for them they will start paving soon.”

NOTE: I added the sentence above at 1:30 on 2/14/2018 after reflecting on an anonymous comment left on the Blog. Oconee County has turned Mars Hill Road over the state of Georgia in order to obtain the state funding for the widening. Supervision of the project, as Beshara noted, is by GDOT. He indicated he was notified only verbally of the stop work order. The open records request produced no record of his having been notified in any other fashion. Almost all of the correspondence I received from my open records request was generated by GDOT and others. Beshara was one of many persons copied, but he was not the initial recipient of that email. I should have included this added sentence with the initial post. I apologize.


Anonymous said...

December 15th stop work order, Dec 22 allowed to work, stop work order lifted last week. Somewhat confused here. Clearly they have been working on the project between Dec 15 and last week. Curb installed, humane society worked and appear to be installing storm drain at various locations. Did they ignore the stop work order?
Does public works director have a clue ? How can an issue on Dec 15 be the reason a Thanksgiving goal of paving the project? Shoot from the hip BS to cover up lacking job performance.

Lee Becker said...

Dear Anonymous 7:39 a.m.

Thank you for your comments. I have added a note to the post as a result.

In writing a post, I make decisions about what to include and what to leave out. I have written extensively about the Mars Hill Road project and specifically about the county decision to turn the project over to GDOT. I should have included some of that information in the original post as well.

Here is the link to the story that contains information about the agreement between the county and the state:


The county turned Mars Hill Road over to the state as a means of getting state and federal funding for the widening project. As a result, responsibility for the project is with GDOT, not Oconee County. The county was notified of the stop work order as a courtesy.

As I wrote, Beshara informed his supervisor, County Administrator Justin Kirouac, of the stop work order in a weekly report he makes to Kirouac. That was on Dec. 15. The following week, he informed Kirouac that GDOT was allowing G.P.'s to begin work again--but only on the repair of the storm water system at Barber Creek. That is what I reported.

I have no knowledge of the other work you reference. Nothing regarding that appears in the documents I received. I plan additional open records requests of the state and will write about what I learn, including if there is any record of additional work.

What Beshara said was that G.P.'s had been planning to have all work done by Thanksgiving. I do not have a date of the stop work order. I only know when Beshara included it in an email message to Kirouac. It could have been issued before Thanksgiving. As I said, I plan to do additional requests of the state and will to try to get a copy of the stop work order.


Anonymous said...

The Mar's Hill Road Widening project has been a sickening long time for me. Not only has it inconvenienced all of us living in the Crooked Creek Subdivision, but I personally was hit by a truck doing at least 45 mph when exiting my road due to concrete trucks blocking the view of oncoming traffic on Mars Hill. I was beckoned across the road by two workers just before I was sideswiped and both workers and the concrete truck took off up the road before the police arrived. My car was total loss, and what was even stranger, was the police knew the driver of the truck who hit me, and they shook hands with him. Then came over to me, and gave me a citation for not yielding to the stop sign. I felt violated.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Becker,
Is there an update to the completion of the road project?
Thank you

Lee Becker said...

The project completion date is May 26, according to Emil Beshara, Public Works Director. He confirmed that date to me on 4/17/18.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Mr Becker!