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Leesburg OKs intersection improvement bid

LEESBURG, Ga. -- Work will begin soon on improvements at U.S. Highway 19 and State Highway 32 in Leesburg, and parents who deliver and pick up their children at school in the city each day will no doubt celebrate the news.

The Leesburg City Council on Tuesday approved Hatcher Tractor Services Inc.'s $59,256.90 bid on improvements at the intersection that will, among other things, pave the way for a left-hand turn signal that will impact southbound traffic. That, according to Lee County Planning and Engineering Director Bob Alexander, will help alleviate morning and afternoon school traffic congestion at the intersection.

"This is one more step we're taking to help with traffic congestion in the city," Alexander said after the meeting. "This project has been approved and is being financed jointly by the city, the county and the state Department of Transportation."

City Clerk Casey Moore noted that the project should be completed before the 2012-13 school year starts in the fall.

The council also approved a number of measures that will allow for a smooth transition at the city's wastewtaer treatment plant after the firing of plant manager/interim Public Works Director Bill Mitchell, which was first reported in The Herald Tuesday.

Stevenson & Palmer Engineering Vice President Ronny Dudley said his company will provide technical assistance to city employee Jimmy Eubanks at the facility until the council decides on a long-term replacement for Mitchell. Dudley also asked the council to approve $6,525 in funding for chemicals needed to address higher-than-allowed phosphorus levels at the plant, one of the issues that led to Mitchell's ouster.

"As everyone knows by now, we have phosphorus problems at the plant," Dudley said. "What (Mitchell) was doing was buying small quantities of the chemical needed to address the problem, and the cost was 46 cents a pound. By buying a larger amount, we can cut the cost considerably. And we're going to need a lot to stay in compliance (with EPD standards).

"I talked with a salesman today, and he said if we bought a half-truckload of the chemical we could get it for 29 cents a pound. That's almost half the cost. I recommend we do that."

Police Chief Charles Moore informed the council that Main Street would be closed around noon today for the funeral procession of fallen Marine Lance Cpl. Steven Sutton. He said that as soon as the procession leaves, barricades blocking the street would be removed.

The council also approved a requested variance that will allow Gayle and Thomas Kersey to add onto their residence so that a handicapped individual can live at their Calloway Street home. Troy Golden with the Planning and Engineering board said that, in recommending approval of the variance, there were unique circumstances.

"This is an unusually designed lot, so the variance does not negatively impact the neighborhood," Golden said. "Plus the two neighbors on either side sent letters in favor of the variance. Additionally, the setback will be only 24 feet,9 inches, while city code calls for 30 feet."

The council approved Library Director Claire Leavy's request that Debbie Booker be reappointed to the county's Library Board for a three-year term and agreed to changes in an intergovernmental agreement with Lee County that will clear up what City Attorney Bert Gregory called "housecleaning" measures associated with special-purpose local-option sales tax allocations.

The city also set June 19 and 26 dates for meetings to respectively discuss and approve the city's budget.