East Reed Rd. bridge in better times. Should it
REALLY cost $90,000 to replace this small crossing?
Last week during its monthly meeting, the Noble Neighborhood Association again brought up the issue of repairs to a bridge on East Reed Rd. that was washed out during September’s flooding. The bridge over Town Creek has been closed since September 21st with traffic rerouted down Center Point Rd. and Loughridge Ln. through a number of residential neighborhoods not used to high levels of traffic.
According to news reports, “Residents were originally told that a large pipe construction could be done in a matter of weeks, then no news except that the county road department was waiting on the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Everyone felt that the wait had already been far too long. Reportedly, the cost of a full bridge construction is about $90,000 which the county government hopes to get FEMA to pay. .. David Boyle shared that he had spoken with the County commissioner’s Office this morning and learned that the bidding for contracts would be open in January and closed in March with a decision on contractors soon after so that actual construction could be in June or July, depending on weather.”
So a project that was originally expected to take several weeks has now ballooned into a job that could take months and probably won’t even begin until next summer (or later) because the county refuses to pay for it out of pocket and FEMA won’t cover the job unless it meets complicated federal standards. Meanwhile people who live on East Reed Rd. are being inconvenienced and residents on Center Point Rd. and Loughridge Ln. are being put in danger by traffic heading down roads not designed to handle it.
Residents are, naturally, asking why the county can’t pay for this project itself. This question has so far not been answered by county administrator David Ashburn, who spoke directly to Doyle, or commissioner Heiskel who has not commented on the situation.
Since they’ve not explained the budget, allow us to do so: property tax dollars in Walker County are split between the schools, which receive a lion’s share, the fire department/emergency services, and the county government. The portion given to the county barely covers budgeted costs, such as the sheriff’s department, the jail, annual road mowing, bicentennial road paving, the commissioner’s private police department, the animal shelter, and buying new office buildings for government officials.
Unbudgeted and additional projects, specifically infrastructure work like bridges, are supposed to be covered by a 1% sales tax the county cutely refers to as SPLOST. SPLOST, as approved by voters in 2008, sets aside $5 million in funding (out of a predicted $38m) over the next five years for county infrastructure including “new bridges, roads, upgrading of equipment, and placing of traffic lights.” Emergency bridge replacement in a heavily trafficked residential area should fall into anyone’s definition of infrastructure – except perhaps for the definitions used by Walker County’s crooked leadership.
In the 18 months since SPLOST campaigning began, the county has invested in crucial projects like buying half of McLemore’s Cove ($2.15 million), helping the city of LaFayette build a new golf course clubhouse ($2.5 million) and buy tacky Christmas lights ($29,000), remodeling the Gordon Lee Mansion and helping Chickamauga with landscaping, giving Fort Oglethorpe a half million dollars for no reason, half building a new community center nobody in Villanow will ever use, and other miscellaneous projects the county commissioner deems necessary to ensure further reelections.
Little to none of the money has been spent to rebuild bridges, improve roads, or install new stop lights where they’re needed most. The few county-funded infrastructure jobs we’ve been able to find are located in the north end of the county, where Bebe Heiskel and Jeff Mullis live – the same part of the county that continually ensures their respective reelections. Even those jobs are few and far between since most infrastructure improvements made during the last year were paid for by the state or through federal bailout money.
Noble residents left their meeting with a petition asking the county to work quicker on the bridge or install a “temporary” bridge and in the meanwhile do something about speeding cars on Loughridge Ln. A petition is all good and well, but it won’t accomplish anything to change the hearts and minds of David Ashburn or Bebe Heiskel, the only people who can make a decision to divert SPLOST money away from their pet projects and into infrastructure, one of the few areas of life our overgrown government actually has an obligation to be involved with.