Roads around an Evans intersection should be a little easier to navigate before a new elementary school opens this fall.
Columbia County commissioners, during the Public Works Services Committee meeting Tuesday, agreed to spend up to $474,997 for Georgia Power to relocate utility poles on Gibbs and Hereford Farm roads as part of road improvements related in part to the larger new Evans Elementary School.
Moving the poles will make room for the $3.8 million project to widen the road and add sidewalks along Hereford Farm Road from Gibbs Road to Evans Middle School, and widen Gibbs Road and add a bike path from Hereford Farm Road to the county’s fire station, said Columbia County Construction and Maintenance Division Director Matt Schlachter.
Part of the project, funded by the school system, also will widen Gibbs Road and create an entrance in front of Evans Elementary, Schlachter said.
While the sections on Gibbs won’t meet until the full length of the road is widened, they are being built now to avoid having to tear out the new school’s entrance and start over when all of Gibbs is widened in a later project, Schlachter said.
“We’ve got it designed. We just don’t have the money to do it,” he said. “When we do have the funds to build Gibbs Road the rest of the way, we don’t have to impact that same property again.”
That project won’t be funded until the next sales tax is approved in a couple of years, Schlachter added.
Reeves Construction Co. has been hired for the current project and is expected to start next week, said Hope Marshall, with the county’s Road Construction Department.
The new Evans Elementary, a larger replacement for the existing school on the same road, is expected to open this fall. The current school could become the county’s alternative school, and a hearing on that proposal is set for Thursday, Jan. 17, at 6 p.m. at Evans Elementary.
Commissioners on Tuesday also awarded a $549,135 bid to Fortis Engineering of Eaton, Ga., for construction of a water line along Ray Owens Road in Appling from White Oak Road to Yelton Road.
Previously Tuesday, at the county’s Management and Financial Services Committee meeting, commissioners approved a lump-sum buyout totalling just more than $38,000 for the two remaining county retirees qualified for pensions under the county’s old defined-benefits plan.
The county transitioned in the late 1990s to a defined contribution, or 401(k), plan, said County Administrator Scott Johnson, and employees at that time moved out of the pension plan. The two employees had vested in the old plan but had not yet reached retirement age at that time.
“This payout is based on an actuarial of what their money would be worth today and takes away any future liability from the county,” Johnson said.
Commissioners also agreed to kick in the remaining funds to help the city of Harlem set up a clock in a proposed new town square.
The $6,000 in county funding will come from the sales tax, and will help pay for the $60,000 clock.
Most of the expense – $40,000 – is being paid by the Clary Family Foundation, with $10,000 from the city of Harlem and $4,000 in other private donations.
The clock will be the centerpiece of a square that includes recognition of the city’s past mayors, including the late Edgar Clary, for whom the foundation is named.
“I think it will be a nice gathering place for the citizens of Harlem and Columbia County,” said District 4 Commissioner Bill Morris.
Final approval on all items discussed by the committees is expected at Tuesday’s full commission meeting at 6 p.m. at the Evans Government Center auditorium..