Officials from LaFayette on Tuesday visited Georgia Department of Transportation, or GDOT, Commissioner Harold Linnenkohl, who said he is working to develop a statewide policy to help small towns move utilities in situations like this one, LaFayette City Manager Johnnie Arnold said.
“We didn’t get approval for any funding, but we got a promise that they’re going to look at a plan to help us out,” LaFayette Mayor Neal Florence said.
LaFayette, Trion and Chattooga County must all do their part to move utilities along U.S. 27 so the GDOT do its job, Arnold said. Engineers hired by LaFayette said the city’s portion of contract labor to move its utilities would be about $1.8 million.
“They (state and local officials) are trying to establish a policy whereby they will do some cost sharing,” he said.
LaFayette City Council could not ask taxpayers to shoulder the all of the financial burden associated with moving its utilities, Arnold said. The council must find a combination of taxes, revenues, special-purpose local-option sales tax, or SPLOST, dollars and state assistance to drive the project forward.
“They’ll share in the cost of moving the utilities (under the proposed policy),” Arnold said. “They’re not just going to come in and pay for everything, but they will help.
“They’re going to have to look at numbers and look at what it’s going to cost them statewide on an annual basis before they can come up with a number.”
LaFayette City Councilman Bryan Hall Jackson said state Rep. Mike Snow, D-Chickamauga, arranged the Tuesday meeting with Linnenkohl.
“He’s going to try to get some money for us, but he won’t be able to swing it all,” Jackson said. “It was a more positive meeting than we’ve ever had down there (in Atlanta).”
“Commissioner Linnenkohl told us he and the board were very concerned about certain projects that are just not moving because of this very problem with utilities,” Snow said. “He understood that it would be impossible for a community the size of LaFayette to come up with a couple of million dollars.”
Snow said GDOT Chief Engineer Paul Mullins on Wednesday said the policy should be complete soon after the New Year.
Arnold said the city employees could do some of that work and absorb some of that cost. More complicated tasks will required contracted professionals.
Snow said the $34 million project would be funded through the Governor’s Road Improvement Program, or GRIP.
Arnold said the project remains in the state’s 2005 budget year budget, but must be approved the Georgia General Assembly in January