MARY ANN ANDERSON
For those residents who travel by foot or wheelchair from Hammock Homes just off the Douglas Highway to Jeff Davis Hospital, cheers went up when the City of Hazlehurst announced its new sidewalk projects that would link the two. At the same time, the city also said it planned to build other sidewalks in the school district, a project that is now nearing completion.
But in last week’s workshop and regular monthly meeting of the Hazlehurst City Council, Mayor Bayne Stone said that because of an “error in design” by Hofstadter and Associates, one of the city’s engineering firms headquartered in Macon, the cost of the hospital segment of the project jumped from $8,000 to $40,000, which squarely placed the plan in jeopardy because only the lesser amount had been budgeted.
Stone said that Hofstadter designed the sidewalk that is to link Hammock Homes with the hospital as a street project, but because it will instead run along the state route of Highway 221, also known as the Douglas Highway, the budgeted amount of $8,000 leaped skyward to $40,000 because of, among myriad reasons, increased construction and utility costs.
“We have $8,000 but $40,000 worth of work to be done,” said Stone. “I don’t know how we’re going to do it. It’s been in the works for a long, long time, and that project needs to be done.”
Stone pointed out that if any money is left over from a Local Maintenance and Improvement Grant (LMIG) street paving project, the funds could go toward the now, in Stone’s words, “much more complex” sidewalk project.
[EDITOR’S NOTE: We contacted Carl Hofstadter of Hofstadter and Associates about Mayor Stone’s saying the increase in the cost of the hospital sidewalk project from $8,000 to $40,000 was due to an error in design by Hofstadter and Associates. Carl Hofstadter said that was “absolutely false.” He added that the firm did bid the project, but after designing it, the Department of Transportation decided to move the location of the sidewalk which ran the cost up because of having to relocate utilities. “The problem is, it is a $45,000 project and DOT put an estimated cost of $8,000 on the project,” he said. “The money wasn’t there to do that project.”]
The resurfacing project, which the counsel okayed during Monday’s work session, is for all or portions of Gill, East Plum, Railroad, James, Wilson, and Hughes streets; Carey Drive; Burketts Ferry Road; and Pine Forest Avenue. The LMIG is providing about $124,000 for repaving, with an additional $24,000 to come from SPLOST funds.
Public Works Director Carl Leggett offered that his department could help with in-kind services such as providing fill-dirt for the Hammock Homes-to-hospital sidewalk.
Both Stone and Ward One Councilman Dywane Johnson suggested that funds may be available from Governor Brian Kemp’s emergency fund, with Stone saying that he would be in touch with the governor’s office to determine if the project is eligible, and with Ward Three Councilman Eric Griffin proposing that he would speak with officials from the Georgia Department of Transportation to seek additional solutions.
In other action, the council ….
…. after hearing a request by Ward Four Councilman John Bloodworth to approve outside employment for a police officer, agreed that all requests for part-time employment must be approved by the department head and the council member assigned to that department only and not the approval of the entire council as had been previously required.
…. after a lengthy discussion regarding Ryland Environmental of Dublin, the waste management company with whom the city commissioned several months ago for trash pickup services, came to the conclusion that the contract is not, in Bloodworth’s words, “in our best interests,” and then passed a motion for Stone and his designees, to include city council members, to meet with Ryland representatives and discuss the best way to break the agreement.
…. after yet another very lengthy discussion with Airport Manager Cody White and City Attorney Ken W. Smith about the legalities of purchasing a new and much-needed credit card machine at Hazlehurst Municipal Airport and possibly contracting with and splitting the cost of the equipment with World Fuel Services, the company that supplies fuel to the airport, the council made no firm decisions on the matter.
…. heard an update from Griffin on recent cleaning, painting, and repairing work at Bully Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant. He said the projects are “moving along and looking good,” that previous violations cited by the Environmental Protection Division (EPD) have been taken care of, and that the costs were much lower by several thousand dollars than had been anticipated.
…. authorized Stone to sign an agreement with the Department of Community Supervision to allow probationers to work on city buildings at no cost to the city, with the specific request that no sex offenders would be allowed in the local program.
…. agreed to vote for the slate of officer nominees for District 9 at the Georgia Municipal Association’s upcoming 2019 convention. The council also directed that Smith draw a resolution to approve the recently-designed city flag, and then passed another motion to have Griffin serve as the flag bearer and Stone as the delegate for voting credentials at the convention.
…. approved training for several employees including Hazlehurst Police Department’s David Moore, Randy Roberson, and Jose Zamora to travel in July to Socorro, N.M., to take the Incident Response to Terrorist Bombings course at New Mexico Tech; for Macy Deen, also of the police department, to travel to Alpharetta May 20-21 for the Georgia Tactical Officers Association’s Criminal Interdiction Training class; for City Clerk Vernice Thompson to travel to Moultrie in June for the GMA’s Election and Ethics Training class; and for Rory Chaney of Hazlehurst Main Street to travel to Monroe for the Heart and Soul Downtown Workshop on May 23.
…. appointed Johnson as the city’s representative on the Jeff Davis County Board of Health.
…. gave the okay for naming the city-owned splash pad. The four finalist names, chosen by each member of the council, are Hazlehurst Waterworks, Hydrohurst, Yellow Jacket Chill Zone, and Hazlehurst Yellow Jacket Splash Pad, with the winner to be named on May 22 (today).
…. approved water and sewer adjustments and departmental reports for the period ending April 30 and the check register for bills already paid in April.
…. voted to purchase an advertisement for the Hazlehurst-Jeff Davis County Chamber of Commerce’s 2019 city and county map.
…. in Citizens Comments, citizen advocate Rhonda Walsh asked the council if boaters could purchase high octane aviation or jet fuel from Hazlehurst Municipal Airport since other surrounding counties were allowing it. Stone explained that in the past it had been done but because of liability issues it is now a violation of recently-enacted laws.