Road projects focus of Lee town hall meeting

Lee County Administrator Tony Massey, left, talks with Commissioner Bill Williams during Thursday night’s town hall meeting at the Redbone Fire Station on Philema and Graves Springs Road.

Lee County Administrator Tony Massey, left, talks with Commissioner Bill Williams during Thursday night’s town hall meeting at the Redbone Fire Station on Philema and Graves Springs Road.

LEESBURG, Ga. — Lee County Commission Chairman Ed Duffy didn’t mince words as he addressed the 50 or so east Lee County residents gathered for a town hall meeting at the Redbone Fire Station Thursday night.

“We’re going to pave these roads,” Duffy said. “Yes, they should have been paved before now, but I’m telling you this Board of Commissioners is dedicated to seeing that this project is completed.

“I believe by the time all’s said and done, this commission will end up paving more roads than any other commission before.”

When Lee County voters overwhelmingly passed continuation of a special-purpose local-option sales tax referendum in March, they OK’d more than $10 million in sales tax funds for road projects. But the commission decided not to wait until the latest SPLOST starts in October 2013 to get the ball rolling. It approved a measure calling for advance funding to start the work.

“We didn’t feel that we could wait until 2014 to pave these roads,” Commissioner Bill Williams, who represents the Redbone District, said. “We’ve received a number of letters and calls from the sheriff’s office, from the school system, from the post office and from citizens in the Lane Acres area about the condition of the roads in that area.

“We didn’t feel that we could wait (until SPLOST VI kicks in) to make these badly needed improvements.”

The county, utilizing advance preparation work from its Public Works Department, completed the first step of an aggressive roads project last month when it trumpeted the completion of the paving of Crotwell Road. Public Works started prep work this week on Flowing Well Road, and it will follow suit on Palmyra, Donald and David roads; Lane Drive, and Ragan and Thomas streets in the Lane Acres area.

All of these projects will utilize $1.8 million of tax anticipation and previously collected SPLOST funds. Flowing Well is expected to be completed in February and the other roads in June or July.

Citizens who own property adjacent to the roads were invited to attend the town hall meeting to ask questions and to sign right-of-way releases needed for work to begin.

“We’ve got rights-of-way taken care of on Flowing Well, for the most part,” Lee Planning and Engineering Director Bob Alexander said. “In fact, Public Works has already begun preparation of that road. But tonight is the beginning for these other roads in your neighborhood.

“We wanted to answer any questions you might have and let you see the faces of the people who will be coming to you soon as we move forward with the process.”

Melvin Parr, who moved to Albany in 1949 and lived there for 50 years before buying a parcel on David Road in 1999, came to the meeting to ask about taxes.

“In Dougherty County, when they paved your road, your taxes would go up,” Parr said. “I wanted to see if that would happen here.”

Parr got the answer he was looking for.

“This is not something we’re doing to raise tax money,” Williams said. “The citizens have paid for these projects with the SPLOST funds collected. We’re just excited to finally be doing for them what they’d been promised several years ago.”

The projects that are part of the aggressive road paving plan were approved by Lee voters in SPLOST referendums as far back as 12 years ago.

“We’re not going to stop here,” Duffy said. “When SPLOST VI kicks in, we’ll still have more than $9 million left to pave roads with. This board is committed to getting these roads paved.”

Don Fenten, who was Lee County’s first representative with the Dougherty Area Regional Transportation Study Commission, said residents have been trying to get the roads in the Lane Acres area paved since 1972.

“There are other roads in this geographic region that should be looked at so they can be addressed at the same time,” he said. “We really need to get the roads in this area upgraded as soon as we can.”