Houston & Peach

Houston County is buzzing with projects from roads to fire halls to a court building

Top projects include new State Court building in Perry

Houston County Commission Chairman Tommy Stalnaker goes over some of the projects he highlighted at the Robins Regional Chamber of Commerce Eggs & Issues breakfast Thursday.
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Houston County Commission Chairman Tommy Stalnaker goes over some of the projects he highlighted at the Robins Regional Chamber of Commerce Eggs & Issues breakfast Thursday.

Two months into 2019, Houston County is buzzing with several projects from roads to fire stations to a new State Court building.

Commission chairman Tommy Stalnaker highlighted those projects at the Robins Regional Chamber of Commerce Eggs & Issues breakfast Thursday.

He also lauded the penny sales-tax option, known as the special purpose local option sales tax (SPLOST), that funded the projects:

“It’s one of the best things that’s happened in this community to have access to SPLOST funds,” Stalnaker said.

Otherwise, those projects just wouldn’t get done, he said.

Here are some of the current projects as outlined by Stalnaker:

State Court building

The construction of a new $10 million Houston County State Court building was approved by voters in the 2018 SPLOST. The new building will be built as part of the Houston County Judicial Complex in Perry.

JMA Architecture has been chosen for the design phase of the the project, which is expected to take about 12 months. Construction is expected to take about a year-and-a-half.

State Court is now located in the Houston County Annex in Warner Robins. The move is expected to happen over a two to two-and-a-half year period.

“You will have Superior Court and State Court in one location,” Stalnaker said. “There’s a lot of confusion at times where people may have a jury summons and they’ll go to the wrong court and they’ll have to be turned around and sent vise versa from Perry to Warner Robins.”

About $2 million is set aside from the penny tax funds to renovate the current State Court building after the transition. The renovated building will provide much-needed space for the tax commissioner’s office and for the sheriff’s office.

Fire stations

Groundbreaking is expected within about three weeks for a new fire station on Lake Joy Road. Another fire station is planned in Bonaire.

Both replace existing, older structures and are expected to cost about $1.5 million each. The stations will include housing for Houston Healthcare Emergency Medical Services, the hospital system’s ambulance services, which will include living quarters for medical personnel enabling them to answer calls 24/7.

Roads

About a mile of the four-mile Thompson Mill Road is being widened to accommodate additional traffic expected from a planned new Houston County elementary school in the 500 block of Thompson Mill Road.

“The reason this is being fast-tracked is because of a new school … so the road will be … widened in time for that school to open in the next two years,” Stalnaker said.

Also underway is widening of Lake Joy Road to three-lanes from Sandefur Road south about 2.4 miles. The second phase includes 1.6 miles from Langston Road to Ga. 127. It includes three lanes with curb, gutters and a sidewalk. A center turn lane is expected to ease traffic flow along the roadway that has multiple residences along it.

Lake Joy Road will go from five lanes to three at Sanderfur Road.

“If we’d carried the five lanes all the way down to (Ga.) 127, we would have a huge impact on the dam at Lake Joy,” Stalnaker said.

The county would have had to widen and change the dam structure, which would have been costly, he said.

Widening Church Street in Centerville from Houston Lake Road to Collins Avenue is on the horizon. The project is expected to be let for bidding in the spring or summer. It also includes three lanes with curb, gutters and a sidewalk. It runs in front of Centerville City Hall.

Widening of Ga. 127, also known as Houston Lake Road, is planned to a maximum of three lanes from the Publix Shopping Center in Perry to Kings Chapel Road near the former location of the old Houston County Board of Education bus barn. An engineer is on board to start design on the project, which requires approval from the Georgia Department of Transportation because it’s a state roadway.

Widening Elberta Road is a project that’s been on the board for awhile. The first phase begins at Carl Vinson Parkway and ends at North Houston Road. That project is about 70 percent complete on design.

Once the design is complete, plans will be turned over to the city of Warner Robins to acquire rights of way for that section of roadway. Once that’s done, bids will be let. Companies will be invited to submit bids for the second phase of the project probably six to eight months later.

The average cost on most county road projects is $1 million to $1.8 million a mile, Stalnaker said. The Thompson Mill Road project, for example, is expected to cost at least $1 million-plus.

Much of the 2012 and 2018 special purpose local option sales tax monies were earmarked for road improvements.

Houston County Tax Commissioner Mark Kushinka gave The Telegraph a tour of the Warner Robins office to show why it needs more space. A proposed sales tax would fix the problem.

Becky Purser covers breaking and Houston County news. She previously covered crime and courts for Houston and Peach counties for The Telegraph. A graduate of the University of Tennessee-Knoxville with a bachelor’s degree in communications/news-editorial sequence, Becky also has covered city and county government for Georgia, Tennessee and Virginia newspapers.
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