Construction of the planned entranceway to the new Dove Creek Elementary School off Hog Mountain Road in the far west of Oconee County has hit a major snag.
The county has discovered that a gas pipeline owned by the City of Winder is along and possibly under Hog Mountain Road, making it impossible to build the entranceway as originally planned without relocating the pipeline.
Oconee County Board of Commissioners Chair John Daniell told the Board of Education on Monday that the county is not willing at this point to spend the estimated $600,000 to $750,000 to relocate the pipeline and is seeking at least a temporary modification to the entranceway to the school.
Even that temporary solution is on hold because of the pipeline, Daniell said. Dove Creek is set to open with the coming school year.
In other action at the Board of Education meeting on Monday, the Board agreed, in response to requests from parents, to change the meeting times of both work and regular sessions from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m.
The Board generally meets on the first two Mondays of the month.
Daniell told the Education Board that the City of Winder has an 8-inch, high pressure, natural gas pipeline buried approximately three feet deep along the edge of pavement and possibly under the pavement “in the entire project area, which is about 3,500 linear feet.”
|Bagley And Burgess|
The City of Winder has declared a three-foot safety zone horizontaly and vertically around the entire gas line, Daniell said.
“The safety zone essentially prevents any road improvements from occurring along State Route 53 until after the pipeline is relocated and existing facilities are abandoned,” Daniell said. Hog Mountain Road is SR 53.
The cost of this relocation is estimated between $600,000 and $750,000, Daniell said, and the City of Winder has no plans for upgrading or relocating the pipeline in the near future.
The alternative is to have an entrance to Dove Creek Elementary on a relocated V.M. Osborne Road, a county road, Daniell said, but that relocation also crosses the pipeline.
The county is seeking an “engineering solution” for that problem, Daniell said.
The deadline agreed to for the county’s work is July 13, Daniell said, and he said he anticipates no delay in opening of the school with the revised plans.
Back And Forth
Daniell’s proposal met with stiff resistance from the Board.
Board Member Wayne Bagley claimed that the county had not sought adequate engineering services and is not being aggressive enough in working with the Georgia Department of Transportation to solve the problem.
Daniell told Bagley there would be time in the future for “post mortems” on how the problem developed and that the goal now is to find a solution to make sure the school can open.
Superintendent Branch told the Board that the School System knew of the problem with the gas line in December and had communicated that issue to the county.
Board Member Tim Burgess told Daniell that the county needed to find the resources to relocate the gas line.
Bagley stressed that the changes in the plans could adversely affect school safety and jeopardize plans to add a middle school at the site in the future.
Problems with the entranceway to the Dove Creek Elementary School first became public in February, when Chair Daniell appeared before the Board of Education to discuss delays in the design work for the roadway.
The Board of Education and the Board of Commissioners signed an Intergovernmental Agreement late last year obligating the county to do road work for the project.
In March, the Commission awarded a contract for $2.6 million to E.R. Snell Contractor of Snellville for road improvements for the Dove Creek Elementary School entranceway.
Daniell told the Board of Education on Monday that the county is spending additional internal monies on the project, bringing the total county expenditure to $3 million.
The cost of relocating the gas line would require the county to dip further into its Fund Balance, or savings account, with possible negative impacts on the county’s financial standing and could jeopardize other county projects, according to Daniell.
In addition, Daniell said the county, as a matter of policy, does not pay to relocate utilities for construction projects and does not want to set precedence by doing that now.
Superintendent Jason Branch informed the Board that he had explored whether the Board of Education could approve spending money on the road work and learned that it was not allowed by state law.
Board Meeting Times
At its April 16 meeting, Brandi Herndon, moderator of the Facebook group, Parents Improving Oconee Schools, asked the Oconee County Board of Education to consider changing the times of its meetings to accommodate parents and to hold town hall meetings.
Herndon said the current 5 p.m. meetings are “really hard for parents and especially working parents” and that town hall meetings would be “a place to identify and implement solutions to problems” in the county’s schools.
Board member Amy Parrish raised the question of meeting times at the next meeting of the Board on May 7 and made the motion on Monday that the times be changed to 6 p.m.
The motion passed unanimously without discussion and will go into effect in July.
Parrish is seeking the Republican nomination for her post on the Board in the May 22 primary and has Democratic opposition in November.
I was not able to attend the meeting on Monday because of scheduled medical treatment.
Penny Mills did attend and recorded the video below.
Daniell began his comments to the Board at 37:37 in the video.
Discussion of Board meetings times is at 1:51:20 in the video.