A Houston County official said Tuesday he doesn’t believe Gov. Sonny Perdue improperly used his position to influence a road project that runs through Bonaire.
A Monday report from Atlanta’s WAGA-TV, a Fox affiliate, called into question Perdue’s role in deciding where and when the widened Ga. 96 would be constructed. Perdue owns property in Bonaire, near the proposed $100 million road project, according to the television broadcast. He will complete his second term as governor in January 2011.
“I don’t believe Sonny Perdue had any direct influence,” said Tommy Stalnaker, director of operations for Houston County.
A Perdue spokesman has said the governor did nothing to influence the timing or alignment of the project, according to media reports.
Traffic in and out of Robins Air Force Base frequently congests Ga. 96. The project to widen the road has been on the table for several years as the area grew and developed.
Houston County voters approved a special purpose local option sales tax in 2006, in part to widen Ga. 96. Construction on the road will include $19.5 million from Houston County coffers, collected in the 2006 SPLOST.
“We have not given (the money) to the state, and we will not until we sign a contract for the road,” Stalnaker said.
The county government is now holding $180 million for similar development projects, he said.
A spokesman for the state Department of Transportation confirmed Perdue was involved in funding the project but said he did not act illegally or immorally in doing so.
“Was the governor interested in finishing the project? Absolutely,” said David Spear, state DOT spokesman. “That’s to be expected. It’s his home county. ... It’s not that unusual.”
As proposed, the project would widen Ga. 96 to four lanes from just east of Interstate 75 to Old Hawkinsville Road/Thompson Mill Road to relieve traffic congestion. The plan shifts the intersection of Ga. 96 and Ga. 247 north of the existing Ga. 96, according to plans presented at a public hearing in November. Bike lanes and sidewalks also would be added to the road.
The project would be complete within two years after construction is started.
“None of the construction would begin until 2012” at the earliest, Spear said.
Nearly 300 parcels of property need to be acquired — some through eminent domain — before road construction can begin, Spear added.
Information from Telegraph archives was used in this report.
To contact writer Thomas L. Day, call 744-4489.