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Leesburg Council OKs road, meter projects

LEESBURG, Ga. -- The Leesburg City Council approved two measures Tuesday evening that its members say will bring needed changes to downtown.

At its August meeting, the council agreed to work with Carter & Sloope Engineering on a meter replacement project that will improve efficiency in water delivery and OK'd funding for a proposal presented by county Planning and Engineering Director Bob Alexander that will help further alleviate traffic congestion downtown.

Carter & Sloope Project Engineer Chad Griffin presented a proposal to the council whereby it could use State Revolving Funds and a partial forgiveness grant from the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority to replace faulty water meters throughout the city.

"Each year there are SRF funds for projects like this, but there is not always principal forgiveness," Griffin said. "I had a conversation with city personnel, and they said the city was interested in a meter change out. We went ahead and did a lot of work on your behalf in preparing an application for the project.

"Of 102 applicants, only 10 were granted principal forgiveness, and the city of Leesburg was No. 2 on the list. Where your staff has taken two weeks to read meters before, they'll be able to read them in hours once the new meters are in. You're also losing water to leaks, so it's my professional opinion that you're at the point where the efficiency in new meters will make up for the cost of replacing the old ones."

Water and Sewer Committee Chairwoman Debra Long offered a motion to move forward with the project, and it was unanimously approved.

"The city will have to finish the second part of the application process, but right after that we'll put the project out for bid," Griffin said. "This project should move quickly; once a bid has been approved the meters can be changed out in as little as three months."

Alexander told the council he'd located funding to complete an intersection improvement project at U.S. Highway 19 and State Highways 32 and 195 that will improve traffic flow in the downtown area.

The project, which is expected to cost $120,000, would provide dual left-hand turn lanes for westbound traffic turning south onto 19, thus lessening the bottleneck at that intersection.

"This will do an awful lot to help with westbound traffic," Alexander said. "This, the improvements already made at Robert B. Lee (Drive), and the North Bypass (which is set for construction in 2013) are going to improve our traffic flow considerably.

"The state Department of Transportation has agreed to pay half of the cost -- $60,000 for signal work -- and the other $60,000 could be divided between the city and county. The city funding is available through our Local Maintenance Improvement Grant, and the county can use $30,000 of its SPLOST V funding."

Councilwoman Judy Powell said the project would be the first step in downtown improvement efforts the city has endorsed.

"This could be the first step of our downtown development plan," she said, and Alexander added, "that's how you do this kind of thing. You chip away at things as funds become available."

Alexander said he expects to move forward with the project next summer if the county agrees to take part in funding.

In other action at the meeting, the council agreed to meet with Rural Development Commission officials on Sept. 1 to work on a mission statement, vision and five-year comprehensive plan for the city.