MARY ANN ANDERSON
The May workshop and regular meeting of the Hazlehurst City Council focused once again on the imminent building of two roundabouts in the school district, one at the intersection of Charles Rogers Boulevard and Pat Dixon Road and the other at Collins Street and Pat Dixon Road.
During last Monday’s workshop, Mayor Bayne Stone predicted that construction of the roundabouts, coupled with the two-year closure and building of an overpass on Larry Contos Boulevard – also known as Hollingsworth Boulevard or simply the bypass – will be “bedlam.”
Speaking directly to not only the councilmen but also making a general statement, Stone warned, “You can just get ready for it.”
He said that the City plans to do a “good job” of detouring visitors who come to Hazlehurst, adding, “I think when we get accustomed to them, they will be real good projects.”
But then Ward Four Councilman John Bloodworth questioned the finances of the roundabouts project, saying that he isn’t opposed to the traffic circles unless the cost of building them becomes a “burden” to the taxpayers. He said that’s when he would oppose them.
Stone then explained the original cost of the project was $611,000, but that amount had eventually been reduced to $361,344 after some modifications. Most of that money for construction, he said, will come from a Georgia Department of Transportation grant of $250,000, and that even with money stretched “as tight as a rubber band,” the additional $111,344 will come from the City’s T-SPLOST and other SPLOST funds.
With that, the council voted unanimously to accept the recommendation of the Macon-based city engineering firm of Hofstadter and Associates to award the construction contract for the roundabouts to Georgia Asphalt Producers of Odum. Stone finished the discussion by saying the roundabouts should be finished by the end of summer, adding, “Everyone is going to love them eventually.”
But then, during last Thursday night’s regular meeting of the City Council, former Ward Two Councilman Tommy Purser addressed the council regarding the roundabouts.
Purser said that he wanted to “refresh the memory of the council” that the DOT had been “pushing” the building of the roundabouts in the school zone for safety reasons.
After the initial meetings several years ago with school officials, the DOT, and others, Purser had understood the roundabouts could be built with grant money and at no charge to the City through a DOT program that would pay 100% of the cost to improve safety in school areas. He said he then sought the funding with the help of Hofstadter, Sen. Blake Tillery (R-19), and the DOT’s Brent Moseley.
But when the funding awarded was only $250,000, Purser said that he was ready to “scrap the whole thing” because the funding from the DOT was far below the estimated cost of the project.
He then told the council that Hofstadter later trimmed the total to about $400,000, but still told Tillery that the $250,000 DOT grant wouldn’t cover the costs. Tillery then told Purser that the grant could be used instead to build only one roundabout and a four-way stop, which Purser thinks is a “good compromise.”
Purser then left Thursday’s meeting, after which Stone reiterated from Monday’s meeting that the cost of the two roundabouts would be $361,344, to be built with Hofstadter’s design and the work of Georgia Asphalt Producers, with the City footing the bill for additional cost.
When Ward Two Councilman John Ramay asked Stone of the possibility of going back to Tillery to seek more funding from the DOT, Stone said the idea was “probably not going to fly,” as the one percent T-SPLOST had already been voted in, thereby giving the City the additional funding for the project that it needs.
Stone concluded the lengthy discussions by adamantly saying, “As soon as the last school bus leaves on the last day of school, we’re going to start building two roundabouts.”
In other action, the Council ….
…. heard from Lance Helton, head football coach at Jeff Davis High School, about the upcoming Legends Gala, golf tournament, and formation of Legends Hall of Fame in June that will honor former football greats Calvin Harrison, Mike Stewart, James Earl Cray, Barry Jones, Nate Hybl, and Deshay McKever. “We want to make Jeff Davis County and Hazlehurst the center of southeast Georgia that weekend,” he said of the events. “With the community’s help, we want to make this event the most special thing that’s come through Hazlehurst in quite some time.”
…. agreed for the full council, City Attorney Ken W. Smith, and representatives from Utili-vision to meet to discuss invoices and contracts for cleaning, maintaining, and refurbishing City water tanks.
…. heard an update from Stone and Natasha Bennett of the City Attorney’s office of Smith and Bennett on the building of a new Georgia State Patrol office in Hazlehurst. Bennett said that she had prepared a letter of intent for Jeff Davis County to work closely with the City to see the project through to fruition.
…. after hearing a sometimes heated discussion between Code Enforcer and Building Inspector Charles Harrell and James Earl Cray of Empact Church of Hazlehurst – the church is renovating the former Crystal Palace to hold its services – agreed to meet with Bennett to work out details of ordinances and building permits.
…. approved fire and life safety codes for the Hazlehurst Fire Department, as well as a public safety explorer program that will be a joint effort among the Hazlehurst Fire Department, Hazlehurst Police Department, and Jeff Davis Emergency Medical Services. The explorer program, in conjunction with the Boy Scouts of America, offers benefits to area youth including improved self-confidence, hands-on career experiences, and community service opportunities.
…. approved the selection of Josh Turner to replace Tim Callaway on the golf course committee for the City-owned Twisted Pine Golf Course.
…. voted Ward Three Councilman Eric Griffin as the delegate to represent the City at the Georgia Municipal Association’s election of District 9 officers.
…. approved a range of training for city employees including Hazlehurst Fire Department administrative assistant Brandy Miller to attend a FirePrograms Software training class from June 6-7 in Palm Coast, Fla.; Dustin Atkinson and Brian Newell, also of the Fire Department, to attend the Georgia Fire Safety Symposium from June 25-29 in Forsyth; Fire Chief Charles Wasdin to attend annual convention of the Georgia Municipal Association as the representative for the Georgia Association of Fire Chiefs from June 22-24 in Savannah; and for Randy Roberson of the Hazlehurst Police Department to attend DARE training from June 18-22 in Helen.
…. after hearing the results of a traffic study from Police Chief Ken Williams, agreed that for the time being a three-way stop at Farmer Street and Old Graham Road isn’t necessary.
…. approved April’s departmental reports, water and sewer adjustments, and check register.
…. in the Citizens’ Comments section, heard from Harrell, who reported that 30 projects were completed in the first annual Hazlehurst-Jeff Davis County Clean-Up Week. He called it “a total success” and a “super job” by everyone who participated in helping to clean up the community.
The next workshop of the Hazlehurst City Council is scheduled for June 18, at 6 p.m. at City Hall, with the regular meeting scheduled for June 21, also at 6 p.m. at City Hall.