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7-24-08 Oconee GA DOT Projects (Mars Hill and Oconee Connector) results of efforts of many folks besides Melvin Davis and Bob Smith

Locally, we have been fed some real baloney in recent press releases about the GA 53- Mars Hill Road widening project and the Oconee Connector-Jennings Mill Parkway Projects. To read those claims one would think that Melvin Davis and Bob Smith have extraordinary influence and standing with GA DOT. BULL! . Senator Paul Broun and DOT Board Member Steve Reynolds got approval of the Oconee Mars Hill Road and Oconee Connector Projects.

AVOC

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July 24, 2008

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Oconee GA DOT Projects (Mars Hill and Oconee Connector) results of efforts of many folks besides Melvin Davis and Bob Smith

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By Wendell Dawson, Editor, AVOC, Inc

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As a 11year old boy, I remember being told by Mama Hassie (my paternal grandmother) to “be yourself” and “don’t put on airs”.    I grew up eating at a table with Rayford Dawson, my father, who often talked politics.   His dislike of hypocrisy and two-faced people made a lasting impression on me.

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It is repulsive to me to see folks make false claims about their accomplishments.   Folks knowing some history can see through the phoniness of the claims.  We are often treated to phony claims of accomplishments on the national level.

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Locally, we have been fed some real baloney in recent press releases about the GA 53- Mars Hill Road widening project and the Oconee Connector-Jennings Mill Parkway Projects.   To read those claims one would think that Melvin Davis and Bob Smith have extraordinary influence and standing with GA DOT.    BULL!

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Exaggerated Claims of influence and failure to credit others are well-known traits of Melvin Davis

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Rep. Bob Smith

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Not everyone thinks Bob Smith is really effective for Oconee County on many matters- examples are US 441 and GA 15 lack of progress for many years.

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Both of these projects were approved by DOT Commissioner Wayne Shackelford in the late 90’s while I was Chairman and our Representative was Frank Stancil and our Senator was Paul Broun.   Both of those gentlemen had tremendous influence and accompanied me on numerous occasions to the GA DOT.   They, along with DOT Board Member Steve Reynolds, helped us with the award of those projects.   Both projects were well under way when Davis and Smith took office.

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Senator Paul Broun

Steve Reynolds, GA DOT Board Member

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Senator Paul Broun and DOT Board Member Steve Reynolds got approval of the Oconee Mars Hill Road and Oconee Connector Projects.

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The true facts are that the projects have been delayed and re-prioritized by the current incumbents.   These two projects were ready because of efforts of several of us before Bob Smith and Melvin Davis came into office.

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ROW acquisition was included.   However, since Melvin Davis has been in office rezones have driven ROW costs into the multi-millions.    Some of Davis’ “friends” (remember where his political signs were) have tracts along the Mars Hill Corridor that will allow them to recoup some costs during these “slow real estate times”.   Bob Smith himself has a tract diagonally across from Oconee County Middle School.


9-20-07 “Senator” Steve Reynolds of Commerce and Gwinnett County was friend to Oconee and NEGA


Oconee.Connector.Jennings.Mill.Pkwy.Project.3.08.pdfx

Mars Hill and Oconee Connector Comparison

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09/17/00 - Comment on University Parkway - GA 316

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09/17/00 - Comment on University Parkway - GA 316

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  An example of a Federal project in Oconee County is the four-lane project for GA 53 to GA 316, a multi-million dollar state and federal aid project. We have worked on this project for at least 3 years. Oconee has committed approximately a million dollars to the engineering and design of this large project. ROW should be acquired in the next 18 to 24 months with construction in about 3 to 4 years. The state and federal government will pay for ROW acquisition, construction costs and utility relocation expense.  Oconee will pay 20% of the utility relocation cost. 

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12/26/00 - My last newsletter as Chairman of the Board of Commissioners

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TRANSPORTATION AND ROADS:  There are many projects in various stages of progression and they are funded and scheduled in many different ways:

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Federal & State Projects

1.        U S 441 widening between Watkinsville and the Athens Loop is nearing completion, hopefully by the first of 2001;

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2.        Widening of U S 441 between Watkinsville and Madison (Interstate 20) is still in the environmental assessment stage and because of limited state funding for GRIP projects keeps getting pushed further and further into the future.    It needs completion for safety purposes (the ‘30’s design curves have been involved in fatal accidents for decades) and the need to improve access to Interstate 20 for the entire region.  Morgan and Oconee Counties need to continue to press for this project to be given higher priority because U S 441 is the route used by much of the state to come to Northeast GA.

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State and Local Projects:

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1.  GA 53-Mars Hill Widening from Watkinsville to GA 316 is in the engineering stage.  ROW acquisition is currently scheduled for State FY 01-02, meaning after July 1. Oconee County is engineering this project at a cost of approximately 1 million dollars and the county will be responsible for 20% of the cost of utility relocation.   The State and Federal funding will pay the cost of ROW and construction, to be in the millions.  It will take several years to complete this project which is the main north-south corridor in Oconee County.  It was designed for rural, farm type traffic as opposed to the more urban traffic it will handle now and even more over the next several years.    This project has some local ROW issues to be worked out but has good support from DOT personnel in the district and state planning offices though there have been rumors that some funding may be redirected to make up for the imbalance of funding among Districts.  It is committed in the state and federal programs and local and state officials need to be vigilant to keeping it on schedule to avoid gridlock in a few years.

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2.  Jennings Mill Parkway-Oconee Connector Linking: The county has done some preliminary engineering and the State has contracted with the county to build this project with State and Federal funds (total cost estimated at 8-9 million dollars).   This is part of the county’s master transportation plan to facilitate the flow of local traffic and avoid gridlock at the 316 intersection.   The DOT district and state planning offices support this plan.   The county and state have executed a project contract for this project that will take several years.  It is a vital link in Oconee’s transportation plan in the area and also will allow safe and facilitated traffic flow for local residents and customers of the commercial activities in the area.

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3.    Improvements to Simonton Bridge Road: This road needs widening, lowering of hills, and lessening of curves for safety and traffic load reasons.   It is scheduled in the long-range tier of State/Federal projects.  Meanwhile, some areas can be improved, in phases, with local funding and the use of county road department personnel and equipment and local contractors.

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4.   GA 15- U S 441 Connector - south of Watkinsville: This project is in the long-range plan of ACORTS and will take years to be funded.  At some point the county will have to start the engineering to get it going before development happens in its path.   It will allow more through traffic to go around downtown Watkinsville.

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5.  Bogart-GA 316 Interchange: This project is long range although the county has done some preliminary engineering and the Development Authority has acquired much of the ROW.   It has been approved by DOT for a future interchange for the upgrade of 316.   The county, and commercial developers will need to help do parts in phases - similar to the Oconee Connector.  It is vital to access to Bogart and the Recreation Complex in the area.

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4-7-08 Oconee Connector $ 26 million Project is more than a Name Change

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Oconee.Connector.Jennings.Mill.Pkwy.Project.3.08.pdfx

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As Oconee Chairman and as an active participant in ACORTS, now MACORTS, I worked with both projects.   The Four-Lane Parkway between Watkinsville and the Athens Loop was the lead project.  Engineering had been in the works at least two years before Melvin Davis took office.

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Over the last several years, I have followed the progress of these projects and how the Mars Hill Corridor project was “pushed into”  Long Range Status.   At the same time, the Oconee Connector Interchange has turned into a $ 25-30 Million project and is scheduled to start this year.

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Both projects have merit.   However, more traffic in the Epps Bridge Area can turn into a situation like the Atlanta Highway “Mall Mess”.     More traffic (gridlock) resulting from increasing construction of commercial venues feeding into two lane roads will spell trouble for Oconee County Citizens in a few short years.

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7-21-08 Oconee County and DOT Projects

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The Athens Banner-Herald

http://onlineathens.com/stories/072108/news_2008072100168.shtml

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July 21, 2008

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Oconee right on the DOT money

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By Adam Thompson

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State Department of Transportation officials will route nearly $ 11 million more to Oconee County over the next few years to make way for a major road project between Watkinsville and Georgia Highway 316.

DOT's pledge to reimburse the county for buying land to widen Mars Hill Road marks the second time in the past month the DOT has pushed forward and aimed more money at a large, highly anticipated Oconee road project.

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The progress has come amid a financial crunch at DOT, during which state officials have frozen or dropped road plans statewide while they restructure and reprioritize projects.

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But local officials say there are simple reasons why the transportation stars aligned recently for Oconee County, even while DOT's financial fate seemed grim: Good planning and strong representation.

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"(Oconee County's legislative) delegation has been very successful with DOT as they're going through a time of austerity," said Emil Beshara, a former Jackson County commissioner who's now Oconee's Public Works director.

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County officials have had the influence to show DOT that their projects are needed and ready to go, Beshara said.

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The projects include widening congested Mars Hill Road and Georgia Highway 53, estimated to cost at least $ 78 million in all; and the $ 26 million Oconee Connector extension expected to move toward construction later this year.

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