Thursday, August 21, 2014

Mars Hill Road Widening Will Be “Fun” And “Painful,” Oconee County Public Works Director Told Citizen Group

Work To Start Soon

Oconee County Public Works Director Emil Beshara last week described the upcoming reconstruction and widening of Mars Hill road as “fun,” “challenging” and “painful” in his latest update of the project to the Citizen Advisory Committee on Land Use and Transportation Planning.

Beshara said he expects construction crews to be on the site next month or the month after and to continue working on the project for three years.

Road Will Be Higher, Beshara Said

As soon as possible, he wants to hold a meeting with the Land Use Committee and other citizens in the county in which a representative of G.P.’s Enterprises Inc. of Auburn, Ga., which won the bid for the construction work, answers questions about the construction plans and process.

“There is a lot of community interest in what are we going to see, how are we going to see construction progress,” Beshara said.

One Road Closure

It is much more challenging to upgrade a road than to build a new one, Beshara told the Committee, because of the need to maintain traffic on the existing road during the construction.

The construction will result in intermittent lane closures during the construction, Beshara said.

At one point–probably for 24 hours and probably on a weekend--the road will be closed at a point where a box culvert will be installed under the future roadway.

At that time, traffic will be able to travel to the construction site but will not be able to proceed further north or south.

Schools Protected

Beshara said G.P.’s will work around the school schedule, with the majority of work at Oconee County Middle School occurring during summer vacation.

The sole new traffic light on the new Mars Hill Road will be at the school, Beshara said, and the county had to work hard to get the Georgia Department of Transportation to approve that addition.

Beshara said again that residents most likely will see the first signs of construction at the north end of the project where Mars Hill Road crosses Barber Creek.

The roadway will be raised about seven feet at that point, and two new bridges will be built. This part of the project also will take the longest to complete, he said.

Dirt Needed

Almost everywhere along the project, which runs from Butler’s Crossing to SR 316, the new, four-lane roadway will be higher than the current two-lane road.

G.P.’s will need to import more than 300,000 cubic yards of soil to make that possible, he said.

The construction will be “painful for the people that expect to get from Butler’s Crossing to 316 on Mars Hill in the same amount of time it takes them today,” Beshara said.

People need to be patient, he said.

“Look at what it’s going to give you in the end.”

Periodic Updates

Beshara has given periodic updates to the Land Use Committee as the Mars Hill Road project has progressed.

The most recent one had been in June.

At the meeting last Tuesday, Beshara also discussed proposed road projects on Daniells Bridge Road and Jimmy Daniell Road.

The video below, which runs a little more than 15 minutes, contains all of Beshara’s comments on Mars Hill Road at the meeting last week, held in the Community Center of Veteran’s Park.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Federal Government Approves Money To Protect Farmland In South Of Oconee County

Ludwig Farm

The federal government has approved $182,000 for protection of the Carole Ludwig farm in the south of Oconee County as part of the new federal farmland protection program, Sharon Holbrooks, easement specialist with the United States Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservative Service, announced last night.

Funding was approved in early August for the Ludwig farm, Holbrooks told a gathering at the J. Phil Campbell Sr. Research and Education Center of the University of Georgia at Government Station Road and Experiment Station Road.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Oconee County Cities Will Be Holding Liquor-By-Drink Referendums On Nov. 4 By Default

1987 Law

Five intertwined but distinct Oconee County elections will be held on liquor by the drink on Nov. 4, though voters may not be aware of the complexity of the decisions they will be making.

Officially, voters will be asked if they want to allow “the governing authority of Oconee County” to “issue licenses to sell distilled spirits for beverage purposes by the drink.”

Monday, August 18, 2014

Oconee County Issued Building Permit For Cheddar’s At Epps Bridge Centre

Without Liquor

The Oconee County Code Enforcement Office last week granted a building permit to C&P Restaurant Company of Macon for construction of a Cheddar’s restaurant at the Epps Bridge Parkway entranceway to Epps Bridge Centre.

The permit is for a 8,385-square-foot wood and steel building. Cost is listed on the permit as $2.3 million.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Oconee County Planning Commission To Review Another Continuing Care Facility Proposal On Virgil Langford Road

Near Thrive

Eco Development Group of Athens is asking the Oconee County Planning Commission to recommend rezone of a mothballed residential subdivision off Virgil Langford Road so is can build what it calls a “seniors continuum of care retirement community.”

The request parallels in significant ways the 2012 request by Presbyterian Homes of Georgia to rezone an unbuilt subdivision on Rocky Branch Road for a continuing care retirement community, the official classification that also would apply to the Eco Development Group project.

Oconee County Public Works Director Criticizes State Transportation Project Agreements Now Under Review

At Citizen Meeting

The Oconee County Board of Commissioners should not approve three pending project agreements with the Georgia Department of Transportation without a clearer understanding of project details, the county’s Public Works director told a citizen group last Tuesday night.

The agreements call for one project on Jimmy Daniell Road and two projects on Daniells Bridge Road, but Public Works Director Emil Beshara said the county should not allow GDOT planners “who may or may not have been influenced by other forces, dictate to us what our projects are.”

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Watkinsville Tables Discussion Of Liquor Referendum Pending Clarification Of Oconee County Vote

Attorneys To Confer

Watkinsville City Council tonight tabled discussion of a possible liquor-by-the-drink referendum in the city until it can get clarification on the legal implications of a county-wide referendum already on the November ballot.

While the Oconee County Board of Commissioners and County Attorney Daniel Haygood have discussed the November referendum entirely in terms of its impact on the unincorporated parts of the county, Watkinsville City Attorney Joe Reitman said the county referendum could affect the city as well.