It turns out there's a silver lining for Columbia County taxpayers after the headaches caused by the failed Wildwood Park boat ramp extensions at Clarks Hill Lake, county officials say.
The combined expense of last year's failed extension project, and a fix approved Tuesday by county commissioners, will end up costing less than a proposed 2003 project to extend the ramps, county engineering services director J. Scott Herring said.
The Wildwood Park boat ramps have been rendered unusable due to the failed extensions and low lake levels caused by extreme drought. The ramps were inoperable during a recent amateur tournament in September.
The six-lane "mega" ramps stop several feet short of the lake's current water level, and concrete "mat" extensions added last year sank into the soft silt at the end of the ramps.
During a Tuesday meeting at the Appling courthouse, county commissioners approved up to $416,396 for two projects to extend the "mega" boat ramps at the park to a depth of 314 feet above sea level.
Those funds, combined with the cost of all prior extension projects, will actually have a price tag of about $83,000 less than a $1.27 million bid the county received for a similar project three years ago. The county instead went with a shorter and less costly extension.
The newly reconstructed ramps will also be longer than the 2003 proposal, meaning taxpayers will get more bang for their buck.
Commission Chairman Ron Cross, responding to comments from the public and media in recent weeks about cost to fix the ramps, said that despite the "inconvenience along the way," taxpayers will actually save money compared to the 2003 proposal.
The "mega" boat ramps at the Appling park have helped the county secure national Bassmaster Elite Series fishing tournaments during the past several years. A men's tournament next May and a women's event in September are among those scheduled for next year.
Herring said some work is already under way at the park and a second phase will likely begin within the next few weeks.
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