2011
10.28

People tend to take photos of rare sights or unusual events, things like a lunar eclipse, graduation, a family vacation. Bigfoot. That’s why we’ve dedicated this week’s Friday Photo to one of the rarest sights of all – fresh asphalt on the west side of LaFayette.

It’s been decades since the city did any road projects with its own funds, and jobs this year are no exception. One segment of repairs this year and two in 2010 were related to 2009 floods, and two this year were done with state money. But the city can at least get credit for electing to use its state money for residential streets on the side of town most in need of road work. Last year road funding went to Duke Street in front of City Hall and Gasque Drive at the golf course where nobody lives and hardly anyone drives.

After 2009’s record-setting rains, LaFayette requested FEMA funding to repair culverts under several flood-prone streets in West LaFayette and Linwood. Despite minimal visible damage (all due to the city’s refusal to keep ditches and drains maintained) FEMA accepted the claims and gave the LaFayette a 75% match for $350,000 of street repairs. Georgia threw in an additional 10% match, leaving the city responsible for only $52,500 – most of which came from paying employees to do the work.

Last year a portion of that funding was used to install larger custom concrete culverts beneath West Indiana Street at the railroad crossing and on Enloe Street in Linwood. Culvert replacement required new asphalt over the dig sites, resulting in a few yards of fresh pavement on both streets, the first in that section of town in many years. Funding didn’t provide for widening or improvements, so Enloe is still barely one vehicle wide – but about a quarter of that winding, weird, former one-way street is now paved smooth.

The project’s biggest portion was replacing culverts on Magnolia Street. Magnolia was in no better or worse shape than any other street in West LaFayette, but for whatever reason it was proclaimed to need $180,000 worth of culvert replacement. (One neighbor says the membership of Ridgeview Baptist played a role in the decision to pick Magnolia over some other thoroughfare.) Pavement was removed in April and May of 2011, new culverts were installed over the summer, and after months of waiting finally new asphalt was laid around the end of August.

Repaving wasn’t the goal of this project, it was about replacing culverts – so the new asphalt only covers areas where drains were replaced. Magnolia, between West Main and Spencer Street, now has a patchwork of new pavement mixed with old, a repeating pattern of smooth solid blacktop followed a few yards later by rough older pavement. It’s definitely an improvement, and several of the worst potholes on Magnolia happened to be in places that needed new culverts – but it’s not the miles of unbroken pavement we’d like to see there.

In June LaFayette cut the old pavement on Probasco Street and installed several new culverts, then filled them with gravel that washed away on a regular basis. After two months of people beating their vehicles to death on ruts cut into the already horrible road, LaFayette finally repaved Probasco between Chattanooga Street and Bradley Avenue. The city also repaved the full length of King Street at the same time. Neither of those had been significantly repaired since they were part of the now-defunct City of Linwood over twenty years ago.

That project was completely funded through Georgia’s Local Assistance Paving Program (LARP), a small amount of money the city gets every year for resurfacing streets. City Council candidates Judy Meeks and Melvin Bridges are both taking credit for starting this project years ago when they served on the council before; credit for getting road work done in Linwood and West LaFayette actually goes to sitting councilor Wayne Swanson, who’s mentioned the shape of King Street multiple times during the last year.

LaFayette Public Works made a minimal effort to repair and upgrade culverts and drains on Probasco and King before paving began, but most of that effort was wasted. More an attempt to look like something had been done than an actual attempt to accomplish a specific goal – as evidenced by the poorly engineered drain pictured above. Water tends to flow downhill, not up, but this new drain is a good inch higher than the surface of King Street. Water will flow into the ditch opposite before getting deep enough to make this grid useful. New drains on Probasco aren’t likely to work much better.

We’re still unsure if that shows stupidity or brilliance from the city. None of these drains will do a thing to avoid flooding or keep the roads passable in a heavy rain, but LaFayette might qualify for more FEMA pavement money in the future when streets buckle in a flood. It’s likely not intentional, just sloppiness and incompetence, because designing something to fail on purpose would require more skill than the city currently possesses.

Speaking of sloppiness and incompetence…

Public Works didn’t wait three weeks before chopping through the freshly laid pavement. Probasco Street now features at least three ugly six- to eight-inch-wide gashes like the one above: fresh asphalt cut through and patched with loose tar and gravel. The city either didn’t plan to need access to its gas lines again, or purposefully decided to pave over the openings and dig them up later instead of building up the openings and paving around them. We’ve now replaced ruts and chuckholes with intentionally-made gas-access potholes guaranteed to grow after a few winter freezes or a couple dozen passes from Plowzilla.

This kind of poor planning is why we can’t have nice things. The new pavement is great and the effort required to have it is appreciated – but if it doesn’t hold up long any investment into repaving roads is just a waste. Stupidity from LaFayette Public Works will result in Probasco and King soon looking as bad as they did last spring, which means we’re likely to be stuck with a rutted mess on the West side of town for the next twenty years.

PHOTOS: LU Contributors.

We’d like to make the Friday Photo a regular weekly or bi-weekly feature of the site, but in order to do that we need your help in getting historical local photos not available elsewhere. If you have an interesting photo from LaFayette’s past (or present) please e-mail it to photo@cityoflafayettega.com.

NEXT WEEK: Downtown Fire

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12 comments so far

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  1. i wasnt raised in walker county but i was born in lafayette ga and ive been living here since 2003 lets get it togeather for the county i love and choose to come home to the people here are better than any where else you will ever find

  2. also as bad as i hate to admit a vendor where i work played golf on our golf course and he said it was one of the most beautiful courses he had seen in the south

  3. when you come into town on highway 27 from south to north its beautiful for the most part but there are several eyesores that if corrected would make our town one of the most attractive in georgia i hope the new city manager will jump on our areas that need improvement

  4. Driving the streets of LaFayette (which I do a lot) is like driving an obstacle course, as you have to dodge potholes and rough spots. I wish the money spent on that ridiculous light show at the park (which nobody attends) could have been spent on a few truckloads of asphalt. Priorities are out of whack in this town, and where the heart leads the money will follow.

  5. Must not be very many golf courses in the south…

  6. 1- LaFayette does have one of the best course around. 2- One reason Bluebird came to LaFayette was because LaFayette HAD a course. 3 – Really there are NOT that many potholes, I seen road a whole lot worst than these. Seem like most of the roads problems are where it’s been dug up for repairs not fill in properly. If it wasn’t the roads, it would be something else to whine about.

  7. I hate to disagree, but I drive these streets every day, including the back ones. These streets are horrible, and it’s a shame to see the waste in this govt while the utility rates rise and the town falls apart.

  8. Im sure it was the course that brought Blue Bird…LOL…. NOT the rail lines or non-union labor… good grief!

  9. The course WAS one of the reason, are you that slow? Guess so.

  10. Big business does not open a multi-million dollar plant such as Bluebird for any other reason than the bottom line. It’s all about the money, and I still don’t understand how the golf course fits in to this?

    When Bluebird moved into LaFayette, the golf course was a mess, and not a selling point by no means. After all the new course/clubhouse was built, Bluebird left town. Seems kinda’ backwards, doesn’t it?

  11. The golf course didn’t make the difference, Fred Henry did. He was responsible for the course being expanded, but he also courted businesses and sold the town in a way that made them want to come here. He gets credit for BlueBird AND Roper being here, he was a big deal back when LaFayette had its own Chamber of Commerce instead of the bloated government-run county chamber we have today.

    It’s not the amenities, it’s having people who care. When we had them, we grew and had pride. Today we have nobody of any influence who cares about anything beyond their own pocketbook, and that’s why there are no businesses coming here and few of the old ones left standing. If you live here and YOU don’t care, why should businesses owned by people who live somewhere else care?

    — LU

  12. I can see the low cost of land, tax breaks, good non-union hard working labor, great access to rail lines, Gorgeous setting, and the airport could all be a draw BUT Im pretty sure that course was 9 hole when Blue Bird first committed to LaFayette and NOT a big draw by any means…Also, the High School had good vocational classes that turned out labor that would fit in well with that type of business. Bluebird also looked at the safety records of the surrounding manufacturing labor and saw it was good.
    Here’s an idea: sell the golf course and take the $40,000 per year that has to supplement the course and give it to businesses like bluebird to keep them here….Now that would be the golf course helping LaFayette to obtain/maintain Jobs. Even it the city GAVE it away, they would be way ahead!