Regs put burden on contractors, county told

Staff Writer

Regulations on some road and bridge projects funded with state and federal dollars are getting so onerous they border on "ridiculous," an engineer said this week.

Clay County Supervisor Shelton Deanes is trying to figure out a way to get at least one lane opened on a bridge on Lake Grove Road so residents of 51 houses on the road won't have to drive as many as 15 miles around to get to West Point.

The bridge has been closed since late last year after a federally mandated bridge inspection found it to be unsafe.

A contractor is almost finished with repairs, but heavy rains in February and some in early March have thrown him behind.

According to Bob Calvert, who acts as engineer for Clay County, the contractor has expressed concerns about opening even one lane because the liability falls on the contractor.

"He doesn't need much time to finish it, just a few days. But it's got to stop raining," Calvert said, as Supervisor Luke Lummus noted the county received 21 inches of rain in February.

Calvert said inspectors already have warned the contractor and may fine him about silt and related runoff from the project into the creek below the bridge.

"That's just not fair. They are just taking it overboard to the point that it's ridiculous," Calvert told supervisors during their meeting Thursday.

Supervisors also learned they likely wouldn't be able to come up with a project to submit for up to $600,000 in CDBG grant funds but could have an outside chance of getting CDBG money for economic development if some local employers are going to expand.

For the last six weeks, Phyllis Benson, a grant coordinator with the Golden Triangle Planning and Development District, has updated the board on CDBG grant guidelines and deadlines, including one deadline in May.

After Sun Creek Water Association put off its expansion plans for a year, the board turned its attention to improving more than eight miles of Lake Grove Road which runs through two different districts.

The entire project would cost more than $2 million and help about 51 homes. The cost, obtaining rights-of-way, the few beneficiaries, and building the road to state aid standards added up to a "difficult process," Benson warned.

"That's just not going to work," admitted Deanes, who raised the project as a possibility.

Supervisor Luke Lummus suggested improvements to Prestage Farms Road on the southern edge of West Point as a possible option. Benson noted it might better fall under the CDBG's economic development category if Prestage Farms, West Point Scrap Metals or Falcon Construction, all of which are located on the road, have plans to expand and add jobs.

"It all depends on the job creation," Benson told supervisors, adding economic development projects didn't have to meet the May deadline that applies to other types of grants.