GDOT and Commissioners Reach Agreement on Shallowford Bridge

News, Police & Government
Shallowford

BLUE RIDGE, GA – Commissioners signed a memorandum with GDOT agreeing to keep the existing Shallowford Bridge while GDOT constructs a new two-lane structure.

Scheduled to begin construction in spring 2021, the new two-lane bridge will take around a year to complete. Until then, the existing truss bridge will remain in place. GDOT will bear the total cost of the new bridge.

In the memorandum, the county takes over the liability and maintenance of the original Shallowford Bridge once GDOT completes the new structure.

The two-lane bridge will provide additional safety benefits for the county with an increased weight limit for larger trucks, safety vehicles, and school buses to use. Currently, a 7-ton limit exists on Shallowford Bridge.

“If we do not agree or sign this memorandum, then GDOT will demo the bridge, and this old 101-year-old bridge that is part of Fannin County history would be lost forever,” explained Chairman Stan Helton.
Shallowford Bridge would permanently close to car traffic, and the county will decide on future use, either leave it open to pedestrians or close it altogether.

Fannin County, Georgia, Iron Bridge, Shallowford Bridge, Iron Bridge General Store and Café, Kimberly Wolfe, Toccoa River, Pratt Truss Bridge, 100 years, GDOT, Georgia Department of Transportation, State Transportation Board, LMIG, Local Maintenance and Improvement Grant, Historic Register, Library of Congress, U.S. Forest Service, Emily Dunn, Felton Stephens, Ron Grace

Previous concepts of the new bridge from GDOT.

Citizens of Fannin County expressed their desire to save Shallowford Bridge, and professional engineers will determine the best way to go about the project.

“Certainly sometime in the future, money will have to be spent on this bridge. How much will be determined on what kind of use we have,” stated Helton.

Post one Commissioner Earl Johnson agreed saving Shallowford Bridge is the best route to go for the county, “It’s part of a long line of history for the county. It’s going to cost money to maintain it, but I think it’s money well spent. I can’t remember a time people didn’t refer to Shallowford Bridge as Shallowford Bridge.”

Additionally, Johnson asked if GDOT could provide an update on Madola Rd. Bridge in the next meeting.

GDOT Pleads for Safe Back to School Driving in Northwest Georgia 

Announcements
Safe Driving for Back-to-School Season…
GDOT Pleads for Safe Back to School Driving in Northwest Georgia 

WHITE, Ga. – Students heading back to school means more traffic, increased congestion and the need for extra safety precautions. From school buses loading and unloading, to kids walking and biking, to parents dropping off and picking up – dangers abound.

As back-to-school gets into full swing, Georgia DOT urges drivers to put safety first – especially in and around school zones, buses and children.

  • Pay attention to school zone flashing beacons and obey school zone speed limits.
  • Obey school bus laws.
    • Stop behind/do not pass a school bus that is stopped to load or unload children.
    • If the lights are flashing and the stop arm is extended, opposing traffic must stop unless it is on a divided highway with a grass or concrete median.
  • Watch for students gathering near bus stops, and for kids arriving late, who may dart into the street. Children often are unpredictable, and they tend to ignore hazards and take risks.

According to the National Safety Council, most children who lose their lives in school bus-related incidents are four to seven years old, walking and they are hit by the bus, or by a motorist illegally passing a stopped bus.

“It’s never more important for drivers to slow down and pay attention than when kids are present – especially in the peak traffic hours before and after school,” said Grant Waldrop, district engineer at the DOT office in White.

Research by the National Safe Routes to School program found that more children are hit by cars near schools than at any location. Georgia DOT implores drivers to watch out for children walking or bicycling (both on the road and the sidewalk) in area near a school.

“If you’re driving behind a school bus, increase your following distance to allow more time to stop once the lights start to flash. The area 10 feet around a school bus is the most dangerous for children; stop far enough back to give them space to safely enter and exit the bus,” Waldrop explained.

Whenever you drive – be alert and expect the unexpected. By exercising a little extra care and caution, drivers and pedestrians can co-exist safely in and around school zones. Let’s make this new school year safer for our children. 

# # #

Road Construction Beginning in June

News

Blue Ridge, Ga – GDOT (Georgia Department of Transportation) grants determine county road projects for the year and construction will begin soon.

Director of Public Works Zack Ratcliff approached the Fannin County Board of Commissioners with updated grant money estimates from GDOT for road improvements.

New asphalt construction will begin around June.

GDOT’s Local Maintenance and Improvement Grant (LMIG) goes toward improving roads and bridges in the county. The organization gave Fannin County $664,195.59 to lay new asphalt. The amount increased by $4,000 from 2018.

The estimated total for the paving project is $1.5M, which includes the grant with a 30 percent match required from the county. It would be paid out of the roads and bridges SPLOST.

The project is now out to bid according to Georgia’s guidelines. The acceptance of bids will run for a couple of weeks, and the paving should start around the first of June.

Commissioner Earl Johnson said, “He is glad of the amount that we’re receiving from the state.”

Next, GDOT’s Safety Assistance Program, part of LMIG, is providing funds for striping of county roads. The grant is for $69,000 with the county providing a 30 percent match for a total of $89,700.

Thermal Plastic will be used for the restriping in the county.

Chairman Stan Helton added, “We have to do this according to their standards, which is pretty exacting and pretty expensive, but it’s still worth it since they’re giving us this kind of money.”

Helton also commended Ratcliff for going to GDOT’s district office to lobby for more funds to update the county’s road striping project.

“This comes out to $8,800 per mile, and we’re looking at ten miles,” Post Two Commissioner Glenn Patterson contributed.

This restriping will be eight miles of Aska Road and two miles of Old 76. These roads were chosen by GDOT. The material used will be thermal plastic. It’s heated up to 400 degrees and sits on top of the pavement. The plastic’s more durable than water-based paint typically used by the county and can last up to three times as long as paint.

Post One Commissioner Earl Johnson clarified that striping season only lasts for five months out of the year, and weather will wear striping off the road. Ratcliff added that striping can’t be laid in unfavorable conditions.

“You can go on some state roads right now and it’s hard to see the yellow line. It’s just the nature of the business, and the only way to take care of that is restriping every year. And no one can afford that. At all times, some of our road striping is going better than others and that’s why. It’s just not cost effective to restripe every road every year,” said Johnson.

GDOT Budget for Madola Bridge Project Approved

Community, Fannin County EMA/EMS, News

Blue Ridge, Ga – The Fannin County Board of Commissioners approved a memorandum of agreement (MOA) with Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) for Madola Road bridge construction during the Tuesday, April 23 board meeting.

The commissioners and GDOT must agree on the proposed budget before construction or improvements can proceed. Costs for the project will be split between the state of Georgia and Fannin County with the county expected to pay 50%. The shared cost includes not only bridge work but right of way acquisitions and expenses during the construction process.

GDOT recently recalculated the initial estimate of $327,000 and lowered the proposed expenses to $150,000 total with Fannin paying $75,000 instead of $163,500.

“I like that quite a bit compared to what we had,” said Fannin County Chairman Stan Helton.

“It’s an important bridge to the community. The state’s going to be taking a majority of the cost. I think $75,000 is a very good number for Fannin County,” stated Post One Commissioner Earl Johnson.

Madola road bridge

The Madola Road bridge over Fightingtown Creek is scheduled to be replaced starting in 2022.

Construction will not begin until July 1, 2022, or later. The state still needs to approve the proposed project budget. Only once the budget receives the sign-off from the state will the county have to pay $75,000. Also, the expected amount could still change between now and the start of construction.

Madola Road Bridge built in 1956 was downgraded to a 5-ton weight limit in 2017 by GDOT. The department marked the bridge for replacement during that same inspection. Due to the limited usage, these improvements will open the road back up to motorists with larger hauls.

The Commissioners voted unanimously to approve the MOA and go forward with the project.

Next, Robert Graham, Fannin County EMA Director, announced that the county received a $26,000 federal grant to update the hazard mitigation plan.

A hazard mitigation plan is in place to help lessen the impact of disasters through identifying risks and vulnerabilities and developing long-term strategies to protect people and property. Fannin County’s current plan is updated every five years with November 2016 being the most recent plan approval.

Graham added, “These grants are only available after there has been a disaster in Georgia, then the federal government makes this hazard mitigation money available.”

The grant amount broke down as follows:
• Federal Share: $19,500
• State Share: $2,600
• Local share: $3,900

According to Graham, previously the county portion was paid via in-kind labor, and he expects the same this time, meaning the local portion will be minimal if anything at all.

If approved, Graham will have a new plan in place in 2020.

McCaysville City Council agrees to maintenance on GDOT’s new lighting

Community, News

The McCaysville City Council met for its monthly meeting on Feb. 12, 2019 in City Hall. On the agenda was Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) asking the City to consider maintenance on the upcoming Hwy 5 roundabout.

GDOT will begin construction on Highway 5, also known as Blue Ridge Highway, scheduled for 2020.

There is a proposed truck route with two roundabouts – one in McCaysville beginning near School Street and the other across the river toward Copperhill, TN. These roundabouts will ease traffic flows in both towns by relieving congestion at Blue Ridge Drive and TN 68/GA 60 intersection.

The Council agreed to the following resolution:

                                                              The proposed roundabout in McCaysville GA

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New bridge to be built on the busiest stretch of Aska Road- Are families now at risk?

Community, News

Shallowford Bridge noted for its’ historical significance in Fannin County is eligible to be recognized in The National Registry of Historic Places. Its current fate is at the center of a growing divide between GDOT, businesses, and residents on Aska and Shallowford Bridge roads.

Imagine peak tourist season, bridge construction, road changes, businesses and local residents all converging around Shallowford Bridge and Aska Roads. Those who live in this area can not imagine how this became the pending scenerio. A new bridge is supported, it is the location causing concern for current safety and for the area as it continues to grow in the future.

Earlier this month, GDOT held a Public Open House in Blue Ridge to explain their plans for the replacement of Shallowford Bridge. Concerned citizens were encouraged to ask questions and complete a questionnaire.

Representatives from Michael Baker International, a provider of engineering and consulting services were on hand to offer reasons why this project is imperative. GDOT must repair, replace, or move the current bridge. The bridge does not meet engineering criteria and has many issues, mainly steel related. It is not in safety compliance with federal regulations regarding bridge standards. Considering all available information, it is urgent to address the bridge issues now.

GDOT District Engineer (Cartersville) Grant Waldrop said Shallowford Bridge project will start about September 2020. It is expected to be completed in a 12-month time period.

Waldrop affirmed. “Fannin County has requested we leave the old bridge up. The existing bridge will be open during construction so there won’t be any detours which are about 10 miles down the road.”

While he added residences and businesses along Aska Road and Shallowford Bridge Road will be minimally affected, the residents and business owners expressed a much different opinion.

During the Open House, Kimberly and Charlie Wolfe, owners of Iron Bridge General Store and Cafe, located directly across from the current Shallowford Bridge and expected construction area, voiced their fears of how damaging GDOT’s current plan is for the safety of locals, tourists, and their business. Current plans could also destroy the businesses in the construction area having limited to no customer access for 12 months.

A highly congested area in the summer, and consistently busy in the offseason, they are concerned what it means in regard to safety for everyone. In addition to increased traffic, designated parking spaces, vehicles parked on both sides of Aska Road is increased foot traffic which often includes young children excitedly dashing about. The bridge is set to intersect with Aska Road in the middle of this busy public area.

Plans include a new trussed, concrete bridge to be constructed with two nine-foot lanes and a 10-foot walking path across the Benton-McKaye Trail relocation.

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Where will the new Iron Bridge be? Citizens voice their opinion over placement.

Community, News

Blue Ridge, Ga. – Citizens united to express concerns over the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) initial plans to replace the Shallowford Bridge or “Iron Bridge” located off of Aska Road, and now they unite once again to present solutions rather than complaints to GDOT about the future of the Aska Adventure Area.


Originally the fate of the Shallowford Bridge came into question when plans emerged for a replacement bridge in the area.

GDOT Proposal of replacement site for the Shallowford Bridge.


Constructed from a steel truss frame and having a wooden deck to allow for traffic, the 100 year old Shallowford Bridge spans 175 feet crossing the Toccoa River. The bridge also forms part of the Benton MacKaye Trail.


These concerns were relieved when GDOT announced that they would not be demolishing the Shallowford Bridge, but rather would be constructing a new bridge nearby. GDOT also expressed that they would be willing to “hand over” the bridge to become property of Fannin County leaving the county responsible for maintenance.


The new location of an upgraded bridge has many residents and business owners in the area concerned. Set almost directly beside the Shallowford Bridge, citizens feel that this could cause more congestion and more safety issues in the area.


“The majority of us, we’re not against the bridge,” Kimberly Wolfe co-owner of the Iron Bridge General Store and Cafe said explaining the purpose of the meeting. “We feel like we do need a new bridge. That’s not an issue. The placement of the new bridge is a huge issue.”


“This one (Shallowford Bridge) has been on the radar for a long time. Out of 100 it scores 13 on sufficiency,” Emil Dunn a member of the State Transportation Board elaborated on the need to build a replacement bridge.


Ron Grace, a resident of the Aska Adventure Area, proposed a different site for the replacement bridge. This site located beyond the Shallowford Bridge, traveling in the direction of Newport Road, would utilize a small portion of land currently owned by the U.S. Forest Service.

Design options shown by GDOT. One similar to these designs will be constructed for the replacement bridge.


Having spoke with the GDOT project manager for the Shallowford Bridge replacement, Grace said of the interaction, “They had not considered the US Forest Service property. They say they are going to look at it.”


According to Grace, GDOT had only considered the proposed site which they presented to the public and a site upstream closer to the Toccoa River Restaurant, but that the second site would have required the purchase of a home.


“Not knowing anything, they put it there because they thought it would look the best and have the least amount of impact,” Dunn spoke of GDOT’s reasoning for the placement saying that it came from an engineer’s perspective and that the proposed site would have the least environmental impact.


Another resident present at the meeting added, “When they (GDOT) picked that site it was because the bank was already high and you didn’t have to build up the bank.”


Area business owner Felton Stephens spoke of the group’s proposal to move the bridge further from the site recommended by GDOT: “It’s a win win situation, it takes most of the traffic off of the home owners, and they could also, if the county wanted to, put in a little more public parking out there. A little bit more access.”


Stephens spoke of adding additional parking near the bridge if it were to be moved to U.S. Forest Service land and an area where kayakers and tubers of the Toccoa would have a place to get in and out of the river.


While citizens seemed agreeable to approaching GDOT with the new proposal site up river, questions still came about regarding the upkeep of the original Shallowford Bridge.


Beyond Fannin County’s already budgeted roads and bridges line item, Dunn also pointed out that there is the possibility of extra funding from the state through the use of a Local Maintenance and Improvement Grant (LMIG).

Historical photo of the Shallowford Bridge courtesy of the Library of Congress.


If a typical LMIG is applied for by the county and accepted by the state, it allows for a certain amount of money to be designated toward a county project with the county being responsible for a percentage of the cost.


Another option for restoration and maintenance of the Shallowford Bridge was presented by a resident saying that it might be possible to have the bridge put on the Historic Register which would allow for extra funding to be received for its preservation and care.


According to the Library of Congress the “Iron Bridge” is one of 50 Pratt truss bridges recorded in the state of Georgia. Three of of the 50 bridges on record reside in Fannin County.


The fate of the new Shallowford Bridge is yet to be determined, but citizens hope that their voices will be heard before a final decision is made.

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GDOT: Edge pavement repair begins in Fannin County 

News

BLUE RIDGE, Ga–  A Georgia DOT Maintenance crew begins today its work on repairing the deteriorating edges of pavement on State Route (SR) 5 in Fannin County.  Work will proceed daily Tuesday through Friday between the hours of 7:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m., weather permitting.

Edge repair is a maintenance activity that is intended to guard against pavement failure along the edges due to the action of traffic and the loss of edge support that occurs due to the presence of water, aggressive-growth vegetation, and wind from either traffic or the atmosphere.  Georgia DOT’s edge repairs are designed to minimize the effects of shoulder drop-offs and maximize the safety of the roadway for the traveling public.

You know that construction work zones are dangerous, but do you know that they are not always stationary? Moving work zones that conduct maintenance activities like litter pickup, asphalt repair, mowing, edge pavement repair, pavement marking and sweeping may move slowly and stop intermittently. Treat moving work zones like any other – Pay Attention – Slow Down – Watch for Workers.  And always, expect the unexpected. Work zone safety is in your hands.

GDOT proposed plans for a new McCaysville-Copperhill truck route

News, Press Release

Public encouraged to attend the meeting.

Blue Ridge, Ga–  A public information open house to view the proposed project to improve State Route (SR) 5 and construct a new location truck route in Fannin County, Georgia and in Polk County, Tennessee is scheduled for Tuesday, September 11, 2018, from 4 to 7 p.m. The meeting will be held at the McCaysville Church of God, located at 1477 Blue Ridge Drive in the city of Blue Ridge, Georgia.

Residents interested in learning more about the proposed project are encouraged to attend the meeting and to visit the website at www.dot.ga.gov.

The proposed project will improve State Route 5 from Old Flowers Road to Colton Avenue by resurfacing the existing two lanes on this portion and constructing 10-foot wide shoulders with 16-inch rumble strips for driver notification of roadway departure. The proposed project will transition to two lanes with curb and gutter with 5-foot sidewalks on both sides. At the intersection of SR 5 and School Street, the project proposes the installation of a roundabout. To learn more about the benefits of roundabouts, visit http://www.dot.ga.gov/DS/SafetyOperation/Roundabouts. The proposed improvements continue northeast along the existing SR 5/Blue Ridge Drive alignment for approximately 0.4 miles to the Toccoa Avenue.

The project also proposes to construct a two-lane truck route along a new location alignment approximately 1.1 miles in length beginning at the proposed roundabout on existing SR 5 at School Street. The roadway continues northwest crossing into Tennessee, then turns to the northeast and bridges over W Tennessee Ave, the Ocoee River, the existing railroad and Tennessee SR 68/Ocoee Street. The roadway then loops around toward the southeast and ties into Tennessee SR 68/Ocoee Street near Colonial Avenue where a second roundabout is proposed.

Grant Waldrop, district engineer at the Georgia DOT office in Cartersville explains, “This meeting will provide the public with an opportunity to review the proposed project and see how the improvements will accommodate taking truck movements out of downtown McCaysville/Copperhill as well as enhance economic development opportunities within Fannin and Polk Counties and the Appalachian region by providing operational improvements along the corridor which may lessen crash frequency and severity.”

The Open House will be informal and the public is invited to attend anytime between 4 and 7 p.m.  The meeting site is accessible to persons with disabilities.  Accommodations for people with disabilities can be arranged with advance notice by calling Joseph Ciavarro at 678-721-5164.

Written statements will be accepted concerning this project until Tuesday, September 25, 2018. Written statements may be submitted to:

Mr. Eric Duff, State Environmental Administrator
Georgia Department of Transportation
Office of Environmental Services
600 West Peachtree Street, NW – 16th Floor
Atlanta, Georgia 30308

Georgia Department of Transportation plans, constructs and maintains Georgia’s state and federal highways. We’re involved in bridge, waterway, public transit, rail, general aviation, bike, and pedestrian programs. And we help local governments maintain their roads. Georgia DOT is committed to providing a safe, seamless and sustainable transportation system that supports Georgia’s economy and is sensitive to its citizens and its environment.

GDOT: Edge pavement repairs begins on GA in Fannin County

News, Press Release

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – A Georgia DOT Maintenance crew begins today its work on repairing the deteriorating edges of pavement on State Route (SR) 5 in Fannin County.  Work will proceed daily Tuesday through Friday between the hours of 7:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m., weather permitting.

Edge repair is a maintenance activity that is intended to guard against pavement failure along the edges due to the action of traffic and the loss of edge support that occurs due to the presence of water, aggressive-growth vegetation, and wind from either traffic or the atmosphere.  Georgia DOT’s edge repairs are designed to minimize the effects of shoulder drop-offs and maximize the safety of the roadway for the traveling public.

You know that construction work zones are dangerous, but do you know that they are not always stationary? Moving work zones that conduct maintenance activities like litter pickup, asphalt repair, mowing, edge pavement repair, pavement marking and sweeping may move slowly and stop intermittently. Treat moving work zones like any other – Pay Attention – Slow Down – Watch for Workers.  And always, expect the unexpected. Work zone safety is in your hands.

Put your phone away and just drive: Hands-Free cell phone use is now the law drivers in Georgia

Press Release

Hands-Free cell phone use is law

Drive Alert Arrive Alive, Georgia!

CARTERSVILLE, Ga.—Just put down the phone and DRIVE! Hands-free cell phone use is now the law for drivers in Georgia. The Hands-Free Law (House Bill 673; Hands-Free Georgia Act), which went into effect on July 1, requires hands-free technology when drivers use cell phones and other electronic devices. Among other things, it is illegal for a driver to hold a phone in their hand or to use their body to support a phone. Penalties range from $50 and one point on a license for the first conviction to $150 and three points for the third and subsequent convictions.

Read Georgia Department of Transportation’s (GDOT) The EXTRA MILE blog post – Hands-Free Means Big Changes for the Better in Georgia – by guest author Robert Hydrick of the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety (GOHS). For additional information on the many facets of the law, visit http://www.headsupgeorgia.com/handsfree-law/.

“I am optimistic that Georgia’s new Hands-Free law will save lives,” GDOT Commissioner Russell R. McMurry. P.E. said. “I also want to emphasize how crucial it is for drivers and passengers to buckle up. Seatbelts truly save lives.”

Through its Drive Alert Arrive Alive campaign, GDOT has, for several years, called attention to an alarming surge in fatalities on Georgia’s roads after a decade of reductions. Many of these deaths are preventable. The campaign implores motorists to focus on driving, to not drive distracted and to wear a seatbelt to reduce the chance of serious injury or death if there is a crash. Visitwww.dot.ga.gov/DAAA.

While GDOT reports that, as of June 28, 2018, overall roadway fatalities are down 10 percent in Georgia from the same time last year, pedestrian deaths are up 22 percent. GDOT’s See & Be Seen campaign, the pedestrian component of Drive Alert Arrive Alive, emphasizes that pedestrian safety is a shared responsibility between motorists and pedestrians. Visit www.dot.ga.gov/SBS.

Summer construction roadwork is underway across Georgia. Before you get on the road, call 511 or visit www.511ga.org for real-time information about active construction, incidents and road conditions.Pay extra attention in work zones – slow down and watch for workers.  Work zone safety is everybody’s responsibility. 

Discussions continue over Board of Education $250,000 land purchase

News, Rebel's Corner

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – After news spread of the Fannin County Board of Education’s recent approval to purchase one acre of land on Highway 515 for a price tag of $250,000, citizens questioned the necessity of this purchase and inquired about the legalities of its use.

Fannin County School Superintendent Dr. Michael Gwatney, along with Fannin County Attorney Lynn Doss and Fannin County School System’s Director of Facilities and Maintenance Danny Shinpaugh, sat down with FetchYourNews to answer questions and address concerns over this purchase.

This one-acre plot of land, which will serve as a connector to the school system’s new agricultural development positioned off of Ada Street, is located along Highway 515 between Windy Ridge Road and Josh Hall Road.

Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, Fannin County School System, Board of Education, Superintendent, Dr. Michael Gwatney, Fannin County Attorney, Lynn Doss, Director of Facilities and Maintenance, Danny Shinpaugh, Agricultural Department, Ada Street, Highway 515, Windy Ridge Road, Property Purchase, $250,000, Georgia Department of Transportation, GDOT

Main entrance to agricultural campus will be shared with Fannin County’s new fire station and E-911 center.

Doss explained that the 31 acres off of Ada Street has been under the ownership of the Fannin County School System for many years: “The school system has owned that property for about 15 years.”

According to Doss, the Ada Street land was originally purchased in 2006 with plans to build a new school if the need arose. The land itself was centrally enough located and met state requirements at that time for a new school.

Since the need for a new school never came to pass, the school system, over the years, have looked at a number of ways in which to utilize this property and, in recent years, decided that it would be ideal for an agricultural facility.

The property currently has an entrance/exit along Ada Street, but Gwatney pointed out that it would be used very minimally and primarily in the event of an emergency.

The property’s main point of access is along the Windy Ridge Connector, where the school system has partnered with Fannin County, and a roadway will be shared with the new fire station and allow access to the agricultural facility.

Questions arose about the need for the acre of land located on Highway 515 and the logistics of its use after Gwatney released a statement explaining the purchase.

In the statement, Gwatney said, “If you hear that our school system paid $250,000 for an acre of property, it is true; however, there is more that you need to know about this purchase, and I want you to have the facts.”

Gwatney also pointed out in the same statement that district personnel, including himself, has already met with the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT), and it has been determined that a deceleration lane may be placed ahead of the existing entrance to the property on Hwy. 515.

No official approval has been granted to the school system to make changes to the property in the GDOT right of way, but a GDOT representative did confirm with school officials that these changes were possible.

Gwatney clarified about circumstances of the possible deceleration lane: “We just wanted to make sure whether it was feasible, and that’s what we talked to GDOT about.”

In order for any improvements to be made to the entrance of the property, including a deceleration or an acceleration lane, permission would have to be granted from GDOT and special permits would need to be obtained by the Fannin County School System.

Fannin County School System’s Director of Facilities and Maintenance Danny Shinpaugh confirmed that any of these improvements would have to be carried out by GDOT-approved contractors and engineers and meet GDOT-approved standards and plans.

According to the GDOT Regulations for Driveway and Encroachment Control, a right turn lane may be required of the school system in order to use this property as an entrance: “Right turn deceleration lane must be constructed at no cost to the Department if the daily site generated Right Turn Volumes (RTV) based on ITE Trip Generation (assuming a reasonable distribution of entry volumes) meet or exceed” 50 right turns into the property daily.

Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, Fannin County School System, Board of Education, Superintendent, Dr. Michael Gwatney, Fannin County Attorney, Lynn Doss, Director of Facilities and Maintenance, Danny Shinpaugh, Agricultural Department, Ada Street, Highway 515, Windy Ridge Road, Property Purchase, $250,000, Georgia Department of Transportation, GDOT

Ownership and maintaining of a deceleration lane after completion is also described in the GDOT regulations as: “The R/W for accel/decel lanes may be dedicated in fee simple to the Department for the Department to maintain or the applicant must sign an agreement with the Department to maintain the lane to the Department’s standards and to hold harmless the Department in the event that section of roadway is identified in any liability action.”

While the addition of the deceleration lane could be an expensive venture for the school system, Gwatney stated that there are currently no plans to implement the right turn lane, and the main reason for the purchase of the property was for direct Hwy. 515 access and to allow for a variety of options in traffic control onto and off of the land.

“We would have acquired this property without that (deceleration lane),” Gwatney said, explaining the school system’s stance on the purchase. “It wouldn’t be near the worth if we couldn’t do that.”

Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, Fannin County School System, Board of Education, Superintendent, Dr. Michael Gwatney, Fannin County Attorney, Lynn Doss, Director of Facilities and Maintenance, Danny Shinpaugh, Agricultural Department, Ada Street, Highway 515, Windy Ridge Road, Property Purchase, $250,000, Georgia Department of Transportation, GDOT

Site where possible future deceleration/acceleration lanes would be placed.

A question also arose pertaining to whether the property’s existing entrance was already zoned for commercial use, as getting a commercial entrance onto Hwy. 515 could be difficult and costly.

According to the GDOT regulations, in the case of Non-commercial Driveways “a driveway serving a school, government building, church, hospital or other non-commercial organization inviting public use. Design guidelines relating to commercial driveways will be applicable to driveways serving these land uses.”

However, Fannin County Attorney Lynn Doss said that this is not a concern for this project: “It’s not a thing where we are because we’re outside of the city limits. In the county, we don’t have zoning, so we have no commercial, residential or industrial.”

While the plans for the one-acre tract are yet to be determined, Gwatney suggested some possible uses. The land could serve as an exit from the facility for southbound traffic turning right onto Hwy. 515, and the main entrance off of Windy Ridge Connector would serve as an exit for northbound traffic allowing this traffic access to a traffic light in order to turn left onto Hwy. 515.

Another plus noted by both Gwatney and Shinpaugh in relation to purchasing this land is the use of the existing buildings on the property.

“The school system is always hurting for storage,” Shinpaugh noted.

The property currently has 18 storage units, all of which have the space to house large equipment. These buildings will be put to use by the school system.

As for the purchase of this tract, Gwatney explained that it was not needed for the land’s original purpose in 2006, but as the purpose of the land changed, so did the needs to accommodate the facility: “It makes our existing project better.”

The new agricultural facility is expected to be completed by June 30 of this year.

[Featured Image: Entrance onto recently purchased property from Highway 515. According to Doss, this entrance will not require a commercial zoning permit.]

 

 

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that attracts more than 300,000 page views and 3.5 million impressions per month in Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. FYNTV attracts approximately 15,000 viewers per week and reaches between 15,000 to 60,000 per week on our Facebook page. For the most effective, least expensive local advertising, call 706-276-6397 or email us at advertise@FetchYourNews.com

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Natalie Kissel

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Parsons back as zoning administrator of Blue Ridge

News

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – After a one hour and three minute executive session, the Blue Ridge City Council reconvened its special called meeting Thursday, Jan. 25, and announced three city personnel issues were discussed during the closed session.

Following this, the council approved the rehire of Roy Parsons to the temporary position of administrator of Land Development and Zoning. Parsons unexpectedly resigned the same position last year. Councilman Nathan Fitts abstained from voting citing he was undecided. “I’m not opposed. I just haven’t made my mind up since it’s a temporary position,” Fitts explained to Mayor Donna Whitener.

According to City Clerk Kelsey Ledford, Parson’s position is temporary as the city seeks to find a permanent administrator of Land Development and Zoning, and Parsons is expected to assist with that search.

Next, the council voted to proceed with advertising and conducting subsequent interviews for an additional full-time officer for the Blue Ridge City Police Department. “The police officer was requested by (Chief) Johnny Scearce and (Capt.) Rob Stuart. We have a shift that is not filled,” Whitener explained.

The council also promoted Kim Keenan from assistant supervisor of the city park to supervisor of Parks and Recreation Department.

Earlier in the meeting, the council held a first reading of an amendment to the city’s alcohol ordinance. Councilwoman Rhonda Thomas-Haight explained the three changes that the amendment proposes will address employee permits, ownership conflicts and pouring regulations.

The amendment would establish that employee permits will be valid for one year from the date of issue and renewal of the permit will occur upon submission of the renewal application and payment of the appropriate renewal fee, which will be no less than $30, provided that the person remains qualified for renewal. The amendment also would prohibit any city council member holding any beneficial interests in an establishment that has obtained an alcohol license from the city from voting on any matter involving the given establishment. Lastly, the amendment allows for establishments to have specials, such as happy hour specials, on poured alcoholic beverages.

The council approved the first reading of the amendment with Fitts abstaining citing a potential conflict of interest.

A change order for a previously approved shoulder erosion repair project on Trackside Lane was also approved in the public session of the meeting. The project will now also widen the roadbed of Trackside Lane in an area that Whitener described as “dangerous,” being only 16.5 feet wide and not wide enough for two vehicles to pass.

The cost of the additional widening work will be $15,580 and the cost of the original erosion repair project is $8,800. Whitener explained that funding for the original project will come from Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) while the additional widening work will be paid through Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) funds. Whitener also told council members the shoulder work had been delayed as the city awaited final approval to proceed with the project from the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT). “We finally got approval to move forward,” Whitener stated.

Johnson Paving has been awarded the bid for both projects.

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that attracts more than 300,000 page views and 3.5 million impressions per month in Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. FYNTV attracts approximately 15,000 viewers per week and reaches between 15,000 to 60,000 per week on our Facebook page. For the most effective, least expensive local advertising, call 706-276-6397 or email us at advertise@FetchYourNews.com

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Jason Beck

Born in Merrillville, Indiana, raised in Cleveland, Tennessee, and currently resides in Copperhill, Tennessee. Graduated from Bradley Central High School in 1996 and attended the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, eventually earning a B.A. and M.A. in English. Hobbies include hiking, camping and fly-fishing. Interests include baseball, hockey and cliff jumping.

Gooch: Senate Gets Down to Business

State & National

Senate Gets Down to Business

By: Sen. Steve Gooch (R – Dahlonega)

Although the Senate was in session for only two days this week, my colleagues and I were very busy under the Gold Dome addressing budget proposals and a key piece of legislation on the Senate Floor.

The week started with Joint Senate and House Appropriations hearings on the Amended FY18 and General FY19 budgets. Governor Deal kicked off the hearings which included several different agencies presenting their budget proposals. I am happy to say that the state’s budget continues to be in good shape, with the General FY19 budget topping $26 billion for the first time. The General FY19 budget proposals were drafted with an estimated 2.9 percent state fund growth and around 3.8 percent tax revenue growth over the Amended FY18 revenue estimates. Included in the General FY19 budget are increases in funding for education and transportation.

The General FY19 budget addresses the needs for the state to meet determined employer contributions within the Teachers Retirement System with a proposed increase of around $364 million. Additionally, around $120 million would be appropriated for enrollment growth and training. Along with these positive changes in the General FY19 budget, an important proposal in the Amended FY18 budget is adding $15 million to purchase 194 school buses statewide. This will positively impact our students by ensuring that buses are not overcrowded.

The state’s growing need to address transportation infrastructure is also addressed in the General FY19 budget. An additional $31.6 million in projected revenues resulting from House Bill 170 – passed during the 2015 Legislation Session – will be added to the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) budget. I am very happy to see that a piece of legislation we passed a couple of years ago is still making positive impacts for GDOT.

Along with attending the budget hearings and carefully reviewing the proposals for the Amended FY18 and General FY19 budgets, my colleagues and I took up a very important piece of legislation in Senate Chamber. On Thursday, the Senate passed the Supporting and Strengthening Families Act, also known as the Adoption Bill, or HB 159. This bill passed with bipartisan support and is now headed over to the House of Representatives for their review. Final passage of this legislation and a signature into law by the Governor would allow our state to update our adoption system which has been the same for nearly 30 years.

The Senate’s version of HB 159 clarifies many of the laws regarding who can adopt, who can act as a legal guardian and the rights held by the biological parents before and after giving their child up for adoption. Additionally, the version the Senate passed on Thursday states that if an agency is not involved in a private adoptive process, living expenses cannot be paid. The only expenses that can be paid in a private adoption are medical and counseling. These are just some of the highlights of the Senate version of HB 159. As this legislation moves through the legislative process, my colleagues and I will work with the Governor and House of Representatives to ensure there is cooperation to address concerns anyone may have. It is imperative that we pass this legislation so that we can assist the large number of children who are in foster care and need a loving and stable home.

The pace of the session is going to pick up quickly with standing committees beginning to hold meetings next week to vet legislation pending from last year along with new bills introduced this year. As we move forward in the session, please do not hesitate to reach out with questions, concerns and feedback. It is always great to hear from my constituents and our door is always open.

Madola Road bridge over Fightingtown sees decreased weight restrictions

News

The Madola Road bridge over Fightingtown Creek recently experienced a reduction in load capacity limits.

EPWORTH, Ga. – Fannin County Director of Public Works Zack Ratcliff announced Thursday that the weight load capacity for the Madola Road (county road 159) bridge over Fightingtown Creek has been reduced from a 10-ton limit to a five-ton limit.

According to Ratcliff, the changes came after the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) completed a recent inspection of the bridge located near Epworth in early December and found deficiencies in it, leading to the state-mandated change in load capacity. Ratcliff added that signs informing drivers of the new capacity have already been posted at the bridge and the public works department also plans to post signs in the near future at either end of Madola Road telling motorists off the change.

Ratcliff asks all applicable drivers to abide by the new limits to the bridge, which was built in 1956. At present, no short and convenient detour route is available for drivers of vehicles that exceed the limit. However, detours are available by way of Mobile Road through Copperhill, Tennessee, and McCaysville or via Mobile Road to Colwell Road to old state Route 2. Both Mobile, which eventually becomes West Tennessee Avenue in the twin cities, and old state Route 2 cross Fightingtown Creek and connect with state Route 5.

The old state Route 2 bridge at McKinney Crossing is an option for vehicles over five tons unable to travel Madola Road.

While Ratcliff conceded the new change creates an inconvenience for some drivers, the state mandate required the county public works department to comply with the GDOT’s determination for the bridge by changing the load capacity or possibly face a withdrawal of federal funding.

“The option is not there,” Ratcliff said. “(The county) has to be in compliance with the state.”

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that attracts more than 300,000 page views and 3.5 million impressions per month in Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. FYNTV attracts approximately 15,000 viewers per week and reaches between 15,000 to 60,000 per week on our Facebook page. For the most effective, least expensive local advertising, call 706-276-6397 or email us at advertise@FetchYourNews.com

Author

Jason Beck

Born in Merrillville, Indiana, raised in Cleveland, Tennessee, and currently resides in Copperhill, Tennessee. Graduated from Bradley Central High School in 1996 and attended the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, eventually earning a B.A. and M.A. in English. Hobbies include hiking, camping and fly-fishing. Interests include baseball, hockey and cliff jumping.

Georgia DOT Contracts Awarded for Senate District 51

Press Release

 

Press Release

 

Contact:           Ines Owens, Acting Director

ines.owens@senate.ga.gov
404.656.0028

 

Georgia DOT Contracts Awarded for Senate District 51GDOT

 

ATLANTA (January 25, 2017) | The Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) awarded approximately $8.6 million for road projects in Senate District 51 as part of a $54 million statewide construction and maintenance upgrade. Projects for Senate District 51 were announced as part of the 2016 November and December awards.

 

“Maintenance and upgrades for existing roads continue to be a critical issue for our local communities,” said Senator Steve Gooch(R – Dahlonega). “I commend GDOT for acknowledging the needs within our community and awarding projects to Senate District 51. These projects will increase safety, decrease congestion and ensure that existing infrastructure needs are met.”

 

Dawson County was awarded a project totaling around $3.8 million. This funding will go toward construction of a roundabout on State Route 53 at State Route 183. The anticipated completion date for this project is May 31, 2018.

 

A project totaling around $4.5 million was awarded to address approximately 53 miles of plant mix resurfacing and surface treatment paving at five locations across Fannin and Pickens Counties. These upgrades will be completed by November 30, 2017. Along with this award, Pickens County was awarded an additional project totaling $292,243. This project will increase safety throughout the county by funding signing and pavement marking upgrades at railroad crossing location throughout the county. The anticipated completion date for these projects is May 31, 2018.

 

Information on schedules, lane closures and detours will be made available on the Georgia DOT Website in advance of construction activities.

 

Details on all projects awarded can be found through the Award Announcement Downloads link at https://www.bidx.com/ga/letting?lettingid=16052001. Click on Award Announcement on the right.

 

# # # #

Sen. Steve Gooch serves as Majority Whip of the Senate Majority Caucus. He represents the 51st Senate District which includes Dawson, Fannin, Gilmer, Lumpkin, Union and White counties and portions of Forsyth and Pickens counties.  He may be reached at 404.656.9221 or via email at steve.gooch@senate.ga.gov.

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