Bibb County taxpayers are supposed to front about $10 million for several years to start rebuilding Jeffersonville Road -- and may not get more than $1 million reimbursed even then, county officials said Thursday night.
Commissioners said the Georgia Department of Transportations demands are tied to fights over a widening of Forest Hill Road. In a May letter, state Transportation Commissioner Keith Golden said the department wouldnt pay to buy land for the Jeffersonville Road widening. He wrote, The decision not to take this internally is primarily related to the ongoing litigation on a recent local road transportation improvement, the potential impacts related to this local community and limitations with our own resource availability.
Road activist and dentist Lindsay Doc Holliday sued the Georgia Department of Transportation late last year, saying the department arbitrarily rejected safer, less-destructive designs for a widened Forest Hill Road. The lawsuit is scheduled for a week-long court hearing starting Oct. 21.
Bibb County Commissioner Lonzy Edwards, who represents East Bibb County, said the states moves are a blow to a suffering area. The road is so bad, he said, When it rains, you almost need a boat to get down it.
The states decision not to fund costs up front means a great deal of difficulty, disappointment, dismay by elected officials who have been pleading for action on this project for over 20 years or thereabouts. It means it has a rotten smell to it. It makes people suspicious of whats going on, and wondering why this section of Bibb COunty is beign treated the way its treated, Edwards said.
He referred to the states handling of Forest Hill Road: They are bound and determined to spend money in a neighborhood where people dont want a project, but refuse to spend money in a neighborhood where people want a project. Go figure.
County officials said Thursday they understand the states still willing to spend $48 million to widen Jeffersonville Road. But the county would have to buy the right-of-way, the actual property to do so. Those costs likely wouldnt be reimbursed for two to two and a half years, said County Engineer David Fortson, and would run about $7.6 million, state estimates show.
But the county would also have to pay professional soft costs, such as the legal help to condemn property of owners who didnt want to sell. Those soft costs are estimated to range from about $930,000 to as much as $2.7 million for all phases of the road projects.
Commissioners plan to meet with Georgia Department of Transportation officials to discuss how to proceed.
Holliday, reached by The Telegraph, said he struggled to understand the connection between his lawsuit over Forest Hill Road in North Macon, and Jeffersonville Road, on the other side of the county.
Three words: Arbitrary and capricious, Holliday ultimately said. Those are the words hes using in the lawsuit to describe the states actions.
To contact writer Mike Stucka, call 744-4251.