By Mary Ann Anderson
When last summer’s extensive road paving project was approved during the June regular meeting of the Hazlehurst City Council, Ward 2 Councilman John Ramay thought that he would be smelling asphalt by now. But that hasn’t yet happened, leaving Ramay, in his words, “very disappointed” that the long-awaited paving project has yet to begin.
During the June meeting, the council voted to resurface portions of Hillcrest Avenue, Kings Lane, Burketts Ferry Extension, and Oak, North Railroad, McDonald, Rogers, Kelly and South Gill streets. Georgia Asphalt Producers of Baxley, owned by Joey Hiers, won the low bid for paving.
“We’ve been promised and told that we would be smelling asphalt,” said Ramay during Monday night’s meeting. “Unless I see something by Thursday, I’ll make a motion to take more bids or use the second highest bidder.”
Mayor Bayne Stone countered, “We’re all dissatisfied,” noting that the heavy rains the area has seen over the past few weeks have contributed to the work not being started.
Ramay pointed out that it took three years to find the money to approve the paving, and that he had personally talked to Hiers about getting the work started. Hiers, who was not at the meeting, told Ramay that because of the weather and other paving contracts with Jeff Davis County that it would be at least three weeks before he could get started. Ramay also asked for assurances from Hiers that paving would begin in three weeks, but Hiers said he could not give them.
After explaining that to the council, Ramay then moved to repeal the approval of Hiers’s low bid and offer the contract to the second highest bidder, adding, “contingent only if they can do it in a timely fashion.”
Ward 4 Councilman John Bloodworth seconded the motion, asking if the project could be split evenly between Georgia Asphalt and SWW Construction of Soperton, the second highest bidder, if they could do the work in three weeks or less.
“I would be acceptable to that to just get something going,” Ramay said.
The mayor said that Hiers had called him and said he would interrupt the county’s work to get Hillcrest and Kelly streets, the two with the highest priority, paved immediately and work in the rest of them.
Ramay said that if Hiers would pave at least three streets, he would be willing to withdraw his motion, with Bloodworth telling him, “That’s a reasonable request,” and with Stone adding that he believed Hiers would agree to those terms.
With Stone again referring to the “rainy, rainy” weather, he defended Hiers, who has completed myriad projects for the City, saying, “He’s done us a lot of favors. He’s doing the best he can.”
Ramay conceded and withdrew his motion only on the condition that Bloodworth and not Stone would be the go-between for Hiers and the City.
In the meantime, more rain has continued to fall and is expected through Wednesday before a long dry spell begins later this week.
By Mary Ann Anderson