Major road-widening projects in Houston expected to start soon

wcrenshaw@macon.comFebruary 6, 2013 

WARNER ROBINS -- Work on three major, long-delayed road projects in Houston County is expected to get started within the next few months.

The Houston County Board of Commissioners on Wednesday voted to condemn a piece of property on Feagin Mill Road that it needs for right-of-way in the widening of the road. Chairman Tommy Stalnaker said the county expects at its next meeting on Feb. 19 to award a contract for the widening. It is the last major road project left from the 2001 special purpose local option sales tax.

Only one other piece of property is left to acquire, and Stalnaker said he expects either an agreement will be reached with the owner or commissioners will vote to condemn it at the next meeting, so they can award the contract.

Also, he added after the vote, he has been in contact with the state about two long-awaited projects managed by the state but partly funded with 2006 SPLOST dollars.

Stalnaker said the state expects to award a contract on the widening of U.S. 41 in March and in May will award a contract on a section of the widening of Ga. 96, with the two other sections to follow within a year.

The U.S. 41 project has been delayed largely by issues with acquiring the needed right of way. County Attorney Tom Hall said he expects at the next meeting to present six condemnations for properties related to the U.S. 41 project, unless an agreement can be reached with the owners before then.

The county has rarely used condemnations in numerous other road projects, but Hall said the U.S. 41 project is different because many of the properties in question are commercial and owned by people from out of town.

After the meeting, Stalnaker said the county has acquired about 1,000 properties related to SPLOST road projects, and only six of those had to be condemned. Only one of those actually went to court.

“Our track record is really good,” he said. “That is a very last resort of us. We do not take pleasure in doing that.”

He said most of the disputed U.S. 41 properties are either in bankruptcy or foreclosure, which has complicated the acquisition.

To contact writer Wayne Crenshaw, call 256-9725.

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