The parking lot of the new shopping center at the corner of Columbia and Lewiston roads has looked like an eerily modernized ghost town lately.
It's been weeks since there was any construction activity at the site, which the signs around the property tell us will be anchored by a new Food Lion grocery store. (And, by county ordinance, it also will contain a nail salon. At least I think that's a county ordinance).
The lack of any activity at the site, naturally, has raised a frequent question: Is the center dead before it even opens? Has Food Lion pulled out?
The emphatic answer, according to one of the developers, is no.
Matt Mills, with Blanchard and Calhoun's commercial division, says the construction at the center stalled during negotiations with the Georgia Department of Transportation regarding the Columbia Road entrance to the site.
But approval for the final plans should be in place any day now, Mills says. Good thing, too; he's heard those same rumors about the center's demise and wants them put to rest.
Construction should restart soon, and Food Lion will finish up its interior. The grocery store should be open in about 10 weeks, Mills said - just in time for Thanksgiving.
Speaking of the Department of Transportation, we spent a lot of time this past weekend on one of the highways the state agency maintains: U.S. 221 between here and Valdosta.
Yep; it was time for middle-daughter Ellie to return to Valdosta State University.
The trip was a powerful reminder of just how budget cuts are starting to have a visible and ugly effect on the state. The DOT has cut back significantly on roadside mowing, and it really shows - especially in the poorer, more rural counties of south Georgia.
Some of the roadsides are starting to look like jungles within inches of the asphalt, and it was impossible not to worry about the safety of anyone - including a certain 19-year-old girl - being stalled or stranded on one of those overgrown shoulders.
Thankfully, Columbia County is doing a better job keeping up county-maintained roads, but we have a few DOT roads getting a little grassy, too.
F&M to open soon
No grass is growing under the feet of the workers finishing up the newest entry in Columbia County's banking community: Farmers and Merchants Bank.
The name itself is just as quaint as it can be, considering the number of farms in Columbia County has steadily dwindled. The use of the name hasn't, though; one of the county's more opulent subdivisions, just down Evans-to-Locks Road from the new bank, is called Rhodes Hill Farm.
Running our local branch of F&M is Lee Clark, formerly with Queensborough National Bank. They're expected to open in less than two weeks.
Yet another Food Lion will be opening soon in the center behind the new bank at Furys Ferry and Evans-to-Locks roads, by the way. (And probably a nail salon, too.)
Augsburg is serving
While we're talking business, the Augsburg Haus restaurant is now open in Evans - and it's just as awesome as it was before it relocated from Augusta.
We managed to get in just before closing time on opening day last Thursday, and owners Adolf and Hazel Hermann said their first day in Columbia County was much busier than they'd expected. (Imagine that.)
I continue to be overwhelmed at reader response to my request for donations for the Lincoln County Library. I'm taking the books to them Aug. 19, and I'll list the names of all the generous donors that day.
Until then, please keep the books and donations coming; you can just drop them off at our office, and we'll keep finding nooks and crannies to stack them.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail barry.paschal@newstimes online.com.)
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