Leesburg Council OKs school utilities project

LEESBURG -- The Leesburg City Council agreed in principle Tuesday night to a memorandum of understanding with the Lee County School System that would assure the extension of water and sewer lines out Robert B. Lee Drive to a new elementary school that is being planned in the city.

Under the agreement, the school system would secure bonds to pay for the project, which would be completed by the city's Public Works department. The city would, in turn, repay 50 percent of the cost through Special-Purpose Local-Option Sales Tax VI collections as those funds become available.

"I see this as a win-win," Councilman Bob Wilson said of the proposal. "The school system will finance the entire project, and we'll start paying back through the next SPLOST (which doesn't kick in until 2013)."

Councilwoman Judy Powell said she thought the city and county, which would be responsible for necessary road improvements near the school, had already agreed to the proposal presented to the board Tuesday.

"We have agreed, but the bond company needs official word that we're in agreement on this memorandum," Mayor Jim Quinn said.

City Attorney Burt Gregory said he and the school system's and county's attorneys would work with the bonding agent to draw up an official memorandum that the city would vote on at its October meeting.

Lee County Planning and Engineering Director Bob Alexander discussed for the first time at a council meeting the road projects that would impact Leesburg, Lee County and portions of Dougherty County near the Lee-Dougherty line under the Transportation Investment Act if that legislation is approved in July.

The 1 percent Transportation-SPLOST, if approved by voters in the 14 counties of the Southwest Georgia region, would provide funding for bicycle and pedestrian paths along State Highway 32/Main Street and State Highway 195, $1 million for a streetscape project on Starksville Avenue and sidewalks along Main Street.

"If the regional roundtable approves the projects list, the voters will decide in July whether to approve the T-SPLOST," Alexander said. "Other projects that will impact the city are the Forrester Parkway, Kinchafoonee Creek Road and Westover Boulevard extensions in Lee County and the widening and underpass projects on Ledo Road in Dougherty County.

"Personally, I hope this passes. It will be great for the city and for our region."

Quinn, who is part of the executive committee that will participate in the roundtable conference, said Leesburg and Lee County fared well in the projects list.

"Some projects in the region did not meet the minimum criteria and were not approved for funding," the mayor said. "We actually did quite well."

In other action, the council voted to abandon property along First Street in exchange for an equal amount of right-of-way with a property owner in that area to clear up a disagreement that Gregory said has existed since 1994 and gave Alexander permission to ask for an easement on property adjacent to Robert B. Lee at Peach Street that would allow the city to clear an area and improve the vision line of drivers at that intersection.

Powell also introduced Alicia Arnold as the new director of the Lee YMCA branch. Arnold will replace Powell in that position.