This is the kind of cooperation we’d like to hear happen much more often.
Columbia County’s school system is building a new school on Gibbs Road to replace Evans Elementary. Site prep has already started, and part of the construction will include adding turn lanes along Gibbs Road.
At the same time, Columbia County government is in the final stages of plans to upgrade the nearby intersection of Gibbs Road and Hereford Farm Road. That project, in addition to better aligning the roads, also is scheduled to improve Hereford Farm Road all the way to the school board office and Evans Middle School, and to widen Gibbs Road as far as the new elementary school.
The school system is further along in its project, especially since the county doesn’t expect to start taking bids on the work for another three months or so. The danger was that the school system would complete its work first, and the county contractor would then redo, or undo, parts of the same work.
It sounds simple, but what happened next often has been lacking around here:
The result? The school system doesn’t build roads; it builds and operates schools. So rather than risking duplication, school officials agreed to give the money set aside for its entrance improvements to the county. The county will combine that money with its existing sales-tax funding for the project, and the design work will encompass everything from the school entrance to the nearby intersection’s design.
Now, the folks outside government would think such cooperation is second-nature, but all too often there has been a lack of communication between government officials.
And there certainly are other places it needs to improve. For example, the school board normally holds a meeting before the start of the state legislative session to discuss the system’s needs with local lawmakers.
This year they didn’t even bother. After several years of taking beatings in the budget, school officials felt their needs had been ignored anyway, so they didn’t even see a point in trying.
That’s understandable, but it’s still lamentable. No good can come from letting the lines of communication get rusty, especially this year when it actually looks like the governor might be loosening up the state’s purse strings.
That dialogue can, and should, be reopened. The county governments’ cooperation on a single road construction project is a great example why – and a good start to the process. More, please.