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Leesburg to close R.B. Lee for work

LEESBURG, Ga. -- Drivers here who typically utilize Robert B. Lee Drive will have to find alternate routes next week, as the Leesburg City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to allow Oxford Construction Co. to close the busy thoroughfare to work on a widening project.

Oxford's Bill Gahring told Council members his company was making the request as a safety measure and to help it meet its proposed deadline of completing the widening project, which is part of a truck route designed to help alleviate downtown traffic congestion, by the time the 2010-11 school session starts.

"In order to get the work done in a safe and efficient manner, we need to close the road to traffic," Gahring said. "That will give us a much safer operation for the traveling public and our company as well as make for quicker work on the project."

Lee Planning and Engineering Director Bob Alexander gave the request his vote of approval.

"I've looked at the plans, and this really is a safety issue," he said before the Council took its vote. "They're doing work with those (drainage) pipes so close to the intersection (of Robert B. Lee and U.S. 19) that it would be really dangerous to allow traffic through there.

"It is my recommendation that you vote to close the road."

Gahring said after the vote that signage would be in place Monday morning warning drivers that the thoroughfare was closed to all but neighborhood traffic.

"We won't be putting the signage up Monday morning," he said. "It will already be in place at that time."

Council members voted 3-2, with Commissioner Sidney Johnson abstaining, to approve a citywide rezoning map that had been recommended by a commission that included Mayor Jim Quinn and other city officials. Commissioner Bobby Wilson asked that the map be amended to allow a small section of the city from State Highway 195 to Smithville Avenue to Third Street currently zoned commercial be rezoned to allow for mixed-use residential applications.

Wilson and Councilman Richard Bush voted for that measure, while Councilwomen Judy Powell and Debra Long voted that the area in question be rezoned R-1, for single-family residential designation. Quinn broke the vote by siding with Wilson and Bush.

The Council also voted to extend the sign moratorium in the city for 75 days until a countywide sign ordinance had been adopted. Alexander had recommended that the city wait to take a vote on the sign ordinance, but Wilson said the Board should go ahead and take action.

"My feeling is that we need to go ahead and put something in motion," Wilson said. "If we wait until August (when the county is expected to vote on the ordinance), the whole summer will be gone."

City Attorney Bert Gregory suggested the city wait to take a vote for financial reasons.

"You have in your budget funding for recodification," Gregory said. "And while I might normally agree with Mr. Wilson that you could move forward with your vote, I wouldn't want to see you have the added expense of printing the new codes and then changing it a short while later.

"The majority of your ordinances will overlap those of the county, so I'd really rather see you make this decision after the county has taken its vote."

The Council also voted 4-0, with Powell abstaining, to become the fiscal agent for the Lee County Family Connections youth development agency.

Family Connections Director Patsy Shirley told the Board, "Our focus is on youth development in the community, on programs like the ones designed to increase the graduation rate and decrease teen pregnancy. We need someone to write the checks for us; we write maybe four or five checks a month."

Powell advocated for Shirley's request.

"I sit on the board of Family Connections, and I'd like to see it continue in Lee County," she said.

Stevenson & Palmer Engineering Vice President Ronny Dudley submitted a proposal to the Council for his company to provide Class I- and Class III-certified personnel to run the city's new wastewater treatment plant when it goes online in a couple of months.

"This is just an option for y'all, but we propose to do the work for the county at about the cost it would take for the city to hire personnel (to run the plant)," Dudley said.

The Council also voted to forego business license costs for nonprofit organizations and voted to approve a June 14 work session and a June 30 budget adoption meeting.