After speaking at last week’s board of commission meeting, Kyle Fletcher, Executive Director for the T-U Industrial Development Authority, gained the county’s support on a LMIG (Local Maintenance Improvement Grant) application for a turn lane on Highway 36 at Ben Hill Road. Fletcher told the board the proposed turn lane is needed at the entrance to Interfor (formerly Keadle Lumber) due to the forthcoming increase in truck traffic with the expansion of the plant and citing safety issues as a main concern.
“I have logistic numbers that show in 2013, 21,500 trucks came in and out of Interfor and that is a lot,” said Fletcher noting she believes Quad Graphics had around 19,000 to put it in perspective. “That is a significant amount of truck traffic with these trucks are carrying those huge logs and with the expansion that is going to be greatly increased. Also, they are going to be coming in at night and according to Mr. Ramsey (Project Manager for Interfor) they have not had a lot of night time traffic.”
Fletcher continued noting that Highway 36 is a well traveled road and the property owners in the area recognize a turn lane is needed for safety reasons. She stated all who she spoke with were very cooperative and understanding of the project.
Another good thing Fletcher told the board is she has already obtained the original plans from the Georgia Department of Transportation from when the idea of a turn lane was proposed years ago.
“The wonderful thing about this project is knowing there was work done years ago…so you don’t have to go through all the motions to get the plans done. They are here and they are ready.”
This LMIG funding is different from the usual type that the county deals with and Fletcher stated GDOT has money set aside for projects that are considered an economic development opportunity and could help create jobs. The funding for this project, should the application be selected will come from that reserve. The entire project is estimated to cost $300,000, with hopefully $240,000 coming from the LMIG. Upson County would then have a 30 percent match of the $240,000 which equals roughly $72,000 and Fletcher stated that money could come from the county and the TUIDA together or from the funding that was set for the TUIDA last year.
Commissioner Ralph Ellington told the board that he feels Interfor has taken an interest in the community and he would like to help them out.
“I would like to add that Interfor, ever since they came here they have been very good corporate citizens. They are taking a big interest in our county and I’d like to see us do anything we can to try to help them.”
The rest of the commissioners agreed and passed a motion to allow Chairman Rusty Blackston to complete the application for the grant.
In other business, County Manager Jim Wheeless told the commissioners everything is in place to move forward with the work at Eddie Collier Park for the expansion of the building. Wheeless stated the additional section for the building has been ordered and should be in within the next 4-6 weeks. A concrete slab for the foundation of the structure is also being constructed. He also noted the HVAC for the Monroe G. Worthy Community Center in Lincoln Park will be installed soon.
The commissioners are also reviewing their policy on helmets at the skate park located at the Civic Center. Wheeless stated a group of skateboarders recently approached the Thomaston City Council about waiving the rule that helmet and protective pads must be worn while using the park. He noted that currently, Recreation Director Mindy Daniel and her staff have been monitoring the park and if there are any who will not comply with the rule, then they are asked to leave. Chairman Blackston stated it was his opinion the rule was part of the county’s policy and if the skateboarders did not wish to follow it then they needed to go elsewhere. County Attorney Paschal English told the board he had spoken with City Attorney Joel Bentley and was told the city council was willing to work with whatever the commissioners decide. No other commissioners made a comment on the matter and no action was taken at the meeting.
Finally, the board signed a proclamation designating April as National Donate Life Month for LifeLink of Georgia. The organization deals with organ donation and has a website where individuals can sign up to be organ donors at donatelifega.org.
Ashley Biles can be reached by calling 706-647-5414 or on Twitter @AshleyBiles1