County BoC approves N. Hill St roundabout design from ’08 SPLOST funds

SHEILA MATHEWS :::

The final project to be funded by the 2008 Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) will soon be underway, as city and county officials have approved action on intersection projects for three locations – North Hill Strett/6th Street; North Hill Street/Northside Drive/Tuskegee Avenue; and North Hill Street/East McIntosh Road.

The Griffin Board of Commissioners previously approved full funding for the North Hill Street/6th Street improvement, which will create a T-intersection, as well as half the funding, projected at $714,681, for the North Hill Street/Northside Drive/Tuskegee Avenue intersection, which will become a round-about. That intersection is a joint city-county project, as the right side of the intersection is within the city limits while the left side is in the county.

Spalding County commissioners at the Monday, Dec. 16 meeting first heard from Cynthia Reid-Ward, who serves as a Griffin commissioner.

Reid-Ward stated that she had understood and relayed to her constituents that the city and county would work together to improve this specific intersection.

“There were a lot of other items on the agenda that I led my residents in that area to believe that we would wait, that we would support the other SPLOST items. Since that time, we’ve spent millions of dollars in the industrial park; we’ve spent tens of millions on UGA campus; we’ve spent millions everywhere else,” Reid-Ward said. “It was my understanding until two weeks ago that we would jointly share the costs of the intersection that is known as The Flats. But at the public hearing, I kind of got the feeling that that was not so. If I’m wrong, I would hope I would find it out tonight.”

She then said she was addressing the BoC not as a Griffin commissioner, but as a constituent.

“We’ve waited, I know for 12 years, we’ve not complained, but we’ve been promised we would get assistance in that area. The area that we’re talking about is probably the worst area in the city as far as crime in the scenic route into the city from Sun City,” she said, reminding the commissioners that the city has approved funding for its half of the round-about. “What I’m asking you guys to do tonight, is basically for the residents in that area, is to just do the right thing. We’ve been promised some things and I feel like we’ve waited patient.”

Reid-Ward said the city has spent tens of thousands of dollars to tear down houses in the area to improve the corridor, with plans for future blight abatement.

“Someone will probably be happy to come in to redevelop, but right now no one will,” she said, adding that it is a dangerous area for children to walk past en route to school. “We would like to see more park and play areas. I’m just asking you guys to give us what you promised us.”

Spalding County Commissioner Gwen Flowers-Taylor also spoke at length about this project, saying that it would benefit not only area residents and business owners, but also Sun City residents, who she said were promised The Flats would be cleaned up and decriminalized.

She referred the N. Hill St., Northside Dr. and Tuskegee Ave. intersection as a dangerous gauntlet of drug dealers, drunks and prostitutes they must walk through on their way to school.

The County BoC’s first related vote, which carried 3-1, named the North Hill Street/Northside Drive/ Tuskegee Avenue intersection as the top priority, and the North Hill Street/McIntosh Road intersection as second priority. Commissioner Chipper Gardner opposed the measure, citing his constituents more often express concern about the McIntosh Road intersection. Ray recused himself from the vote because of a business interest at the first location.

Commissioners then took three votes in an attempt to approve a final design concept.

In the first, a motion and second by Flowers-Taylor and Commissioner Rita Johnson called for a roundabout for the North Hill Street/Northside Drive/Tuskegee Avenue intersection. The cost of $750,000 would have been designated for that project and property acquisition and improvements at the North Hill Street/East McIntosh Road intersection. The motion was denied by a 2-2 vote, with Gardner and Commissioner Bart Miller opposing. Ray again recused himself from the vote.

The second vote involved a motion and second by Miller and Gardner, respectively, and called for a T intersections at both locations. The motion was again denied 2-2, with Flowers-Taylor and Johnson opposing, and Ray recusing himself from the vote.

The final motion was made by Flowers-Taylor and seconded by Johnson. It called for commissioners to approve the funding for the design and engineering of a round-about at the North Hill Street/Northside Drive/Tuskegee Avenue intersection, and the T design for the North Hill Street/East McIntosh intersection. Flowers-Taylor said this would allow the county to obtain firmer cost projections prior to beginning construction. The vote carried 4-0, with Ray again recusing himself.

This allows funding for only the design and engineering process, but not construction. Flowers-Taylor said once the costs are more closely known, county officials should meet with city officials to “let them know how broke we are.”

One additional issue that stirred dissention was the North Hill Street bridge in The Flats that crosses Cabin Creek. It is currently rated for eight tons, which means school buses and fire trucks may not cross. It is located in the county, but there was concern that funding would be insufficient to undertake the necessary repairs along with the intersections improvements.

Flowers-Taylor repeatedly said she is uncertain if that bridge is the number one priority bridge in the county, and that it was not part of the original agreement between the city and county.

Ray expressed more serious concern, saying if the bridge fails, there is no North Hill Street corridor, as it would be impassible. Ω

 

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