MARY ANN ANDERSON
For those who regularly travel the intersection of Gill Street and Highway 341, the site of hundreds of accidents over the years, a traffic signal may be forthcoming. That’s what Ward 4 Councilman John Bloodworth reported at last week’s monthly workshop of the Hazlehurst City Council.
Bloodworth, joining the meeting by telephone as he is still recovering from recent surgery, said that Mayor Bayne Stone has made several trips to Atlanta to speak with Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) officials to discuss improving safety at the intersection. He also stated that he and Stone have spoken with Rep. Dominic LaRiccia, District 169, and District 19 State Senator Blake Tillery, both of whom have prioritized the project.
“I really feel comfortable and assured that in the very near future that we will have a signal at this intersection,” Bloodworth said.
Ward 2’s John Ramay echoed that it is “absolutely necessary” that a signal is placed at the intersection and is confident the council can, as he said, “depend on both LaRiccia and Tillery” to help get the project off the ground.
Later, in the Citizens Comments section of the workshop, Stone reported that GDOT plans to widen the now four-lane U.S. Highway 341 from the new overpass northward to Captain D’s, including the Gill Street intersection, with a much-needed turning lane. While Stone gave no specific dates for its construction, he stated that the $10-12 million cost of widening the four-lane will be borne by GDOT and not the City of Hazlehurst.
In other action during the workshop, the council ….
…. approved a resolution authorizing the city to accept $30,000 in no-match grants from the federally funded Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act for payroll, operational and debt service costs at Hazlehurst Municipal Airport.
…. agreed to provide a maintenance checklist to be placed in all city-owned vehicles, with the exception of those belonging to Hazlehurst-Jeff Davis Fire Rescue, which has its own specialized checklist, and for the street sweeper, which also has its own check sheet.
…. approved travel and expenses for Randy Roberson of the Hazlehurst Police Department to attend the Georgia DARE State Conference in Statesboro July 31-Aug. 2.
…. authorized May’s departmental reports, water and sewer adjustments and payment of bills.
In the Citizens Comments of the workshop, Stone revealed that a private developer plans to further improve downtown Hazlehurst, and that the developer had asked the city for a lease on the old jail located on North Williams Street. Stone said that he asked the developer, who he noted is making a “big investment” in downtown, to come up with a plan to later submit to the council to, in the mayor’s words, help Hazlehurst to become “a very unique little town.”
During the Thursday night regular meeting with the full council present, including Bloodworth, the councilmembers ….
…. unanimously approved the city’s property and liability insurance renewal with McLendon-Reynolds Insurance of Hazlehurst at a cost of $237,849.
…. listened as City Clerk Vernice Thompson gave the first reading of an ordinance modification to regulate the sale of alcoholic beverages by the drink and for consumption on the premises in downtown to include Latimer, Hinson, South Tallahassee, Railroad and South Cromartie streets. Stone said that the modification will be more “compatible” for developing downtown restaurants.
…. agreed to place for a minimum bid of $10,000 a city-owned 2.75-acre tract of land on North Gill Street.
…. in a somewhat confusing agenda item, passed the 2020-21 budget, contingent upon first approving a modification of $10,000 for salary adjustments and payroll expenses. After agreeing to the adjustments, the council then okayed the $5,313,194 budget as amended.
In the Mayor and Councilmembers Comments section, the council agreed to allow Stone to accept a loan modification from the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority that allows for governments impacted by COVID-19 to defer payments and interest for six months.
Also in this section, the council voted to replace the seat of Ward 1 Councilman Dywane Johnson, at his request, on the Jeff Davis County Board of Health, with Ramay to take his place. The council then appointed Bloodworth as the city’s liaison on the Hazlehurst-Jeff Davis County Industrial Development Authority.
Johnson also announced that the Jeff Davis County Health Department will begin free coronavirus checking, with no doctors’ orders necessary, beginning on Thursday, June 25.
The next workshop of the Hazlehurst City Council is July 13, with the regular meeting scheduled for July 16. Both meetings are held at 6 p.m. at City Hall.