In the political arena, sometimes too much is made of flimsy links between people and events; we feed on intrigue, looking for skeletons hidden in some government closet.
With the proposal to reroute and widen North Belair Road, it may turn out that there are more hidden skeletons than in the backyard of the Tri-State Crematory. And county commissioners inclined to support the unpopular project are just fooling themselves if they think voters arent paying attention.
Last week, Columbia County commissioners traveled to Atlanta to seek help from Tom Coleman, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Transportation. Coleman oversees the spending of millions in state gas-tax money for road improvements.
Local officials presented Coleman with a list of requests. But the biggest issue on the countys list didnt get discussed.
There are several theories on why the controversial North Belair project was yanked from the agenda at the last minute. County Administrator Steve Szablewski says the county is waiting on the DOTs completed study of the project, which includes consideration of two other routes. Without the final report, he contends, discussion is premature.
State Rep. Ben Harbin, an opponent of the North Belair project, suspects otherwise. If North Belair stayed on the agenda, some commissioners would have backed the project while Harbin and County Commissioner Jim Whitehead voiced opposition. Afraid of giving Coleman mixed signals, county officials skipped the issue.
That may have backfired. Harbin, privately speaking to Coleman after the meeting, let him know emphatically that most residents along North Belair want the highway left alone.
Another skeleton is that the proposed route of the North Belair expansion would take it directly through property owned by the Marshall family near the Evans government complex. The road would significantly raise the visibility - and the value - of that land.
The Marshalls attorney is Bill Coleman, who helped in the election of County Commissioner Frank Spears. Well-known for assuming a pivotal role in Evans issues, Spears has remained uncharacteristically quiet on North Belair.
Another skeleton - though certainly not the last - is more of a red herring. Some county officials have begun floating the notion that North Belairs expansion is needed to alleviate traffic problems from the new courthouse and library.
Thats baloney. The DOT is likely to come to the rescue with Washington Road improvements to help ease traffic in the area, especially from Wal-Mart. North Belair isnt part of the problem - nor is it part of the solution.
What happens next? Szablewski says when the DOT report arrives, there will be a public meeting so residents can again offer input. Harbin and Whitehead, shrugging off ignorant attempts to paint them as obstructionists, will continue to champion citizens clear opposition to the North Belair project.
As for other commissioners? Their pursuit of DOT money may just get them buried by angry voters.
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