October 15, 2013

Grant rules postpone roadwork

Rachel Brown

— Work on three-quarters of a mile of road through the Carbondale Business Park would have already been completed if not for stringent requirements of a $1 million federal grant for the project.

Mike Babb, Whitfield County Board of Commissioners chairman, said by the time all the environmental studies, public hearings and other grant requirements are complete, only about half of the grant will be left for the road. The entire project is about $2.75 million.

Babb and the other four commissioners struggled aloud during a Monday meeting with whether to spend another $46,000 and delay the project another year to meet one last major requirement for the grant through the Federal Highway Administration. They finally voted unanimously to spend the money — which goes toward formally gathering public input over about a year — but they did so through gritted teeth.

Babb said he didn’t think the detailed public input requirement was necessary since the project is already highly publicized, and there were formal hearings on related aspects of the project earlier. However, he also didn’t want to back out of the grant after having spent so much money for the requirements.

“I think we’re backed into a corner,” he said.

The road will extend from an already-completed portion out to Carbondale Road, thus paving the way for new businesses to more easily move in.

Commissioners groaned about another federal requirement, too. They voted unanimously to delay a vote on working on Brooker Road because they’re still waiting for environmental permits through the Corps of Engineers.

The project is to spend about $5 million to build a road from Heritage Point on the North Dalton Bypass to Dawnville Road at Pleasant Grove Road to help traffic flow and provide infrastructure for possible future businesses.

Officials put out bids in July and have been waiting for permits ever since. In a document presented to commissioners Monday, a county employee responsible for the project said he thought the permits would be finished by the end of the month.

Officials said they since learned that because of the government shutdown, that might not happen. Commissioners plan to revisit the issue at a meeting on Oct. 28. If they don’t have the permits by Oct. 29, they’ll likely have to re-bid the entire project. The road is being paid for with funds collected from a local sales tax for transportation projects that ended a couple of years ago.

In other business Monday, commissioners:

• Authorized $7.19 million in bonds for infrastructure such as gas and sewer lines for Engineered Floors and the surrounding area. Engineered Floors is expected to open a new manufacturing plant in June 2014 and employ about 1,000 people.

Babb said officials plan to pay back the bonds over several years by selling land in the industrial park as businesses come in and through payments in lieu of taxes. Those payments are amounts companies agreed to that are lower than the usual tax rate and were offered to them as an incentive to locate in the community. There is also a backup plan to tax property owners at $1 for every $1,000 of property value if officials don’t collect enough money through those means.

• Renewed software related to departmental servers for $9,654.10.

• Approved buying a single axle dump truck for about $88,000 from Peach State Freightliner of Norcross.

• Voted to buy a 2013 Ford F-150 from Brooker Ford for about $23,000 for the public works department.

• Agreed to spend $103,900 on an asphalt recycler and pugmill for the public works department. The equipment will be used to repair potholes “at any time of the year no matter the temperature,” according to a request signed by a city employee. Commissioner Robby Staten questioned the need for one and voted no.

• Approved spending $12,770 for scoreboards at Westside Park.

• Voted to buy a used infield groomer from Jerry Pate Turf & Irrigation in Atlanta for $9,341 for use at Westside Park.

• Signed an agreement for the county’s public works department to demolish the old Eastbrook Middle School building no later than by March in exchange for the county owning the old gym building and parking lot.

• Gave no objection to Varnell’s plans to annex three parcels of land from the county into the city. Commissioner Harold Brooker voted no, saying he was concerned the residents who would be affected hadn’t been told that once they were annexed, their taxes would go up.

“They have not informed me that they have told these people,” Brooker said.

• Read proclamations recognizing the Northwest Georgia Family Crisis Center during October, which is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

• Appointed Jane Harrell to the board of directors for the Whitfield County Department of Family and Children Services. Her term lasts through June 20, 2018.

• Met in closed session for nearly an hour to discuss possible litigation. They did not say what the possible lawsuit was about.