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Change in designation for driveway may lead to repairs
Drive leading to Sardis Sports Complex could be fixed with SPLOST money if changed to public road
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Hall County officials have come up with a new way to fund repairs to a driveway that leads to the Sardis Sports Complex.

The board of commissioners will decide whether to make the 560-foot driveway a public road at its meeting Thursday. The designation will allow county officials to use money collected through the special purpose local option sales tax to cover the costs of repaving the road.

Estimated costs for the project range between $26,000 and $37,000, depending on county officials' decision to use inmate labor or a private contractor to perform the repairs.

In a normal budget year, Public Works Director Ken Rearden said the department would have paid for the driveway's repairs out of its road maintenance budget.

"But that got cut severely with the layoffs and the cuts in the operating budgets," Rearden said.

Commissioners approved a budget late last month that eliminated 41 positions from Rearden's department, most of which were responsible for road maintenance, in an effort to shore up a projected $11.5 million shortfall in revenues countywide without raising taxes.

The move forced commissioners to think creatively when residents raised concerns a couple of weeks ago about the driveway, which the county owns.

Originally, county officials asked the Hall County Board of Education to help pay for the repairs since the driveway is heavily trafficked by parents of students at Sardis Enrichment School.

But when the school board rejected the proposal last week, commissioners began to consider making the driveway an official county road, with the name Bobcat Trail, to make it eligible to benefit from sales tax dollars.

School officials voted Monday to deed a 50-foot barrier around the driveway to the county, pending the results of a survey taken of the property Tuesday. The barrier would allow the driveway to meet the county's standards for road maintenance.

School Superintendent Will Schofield could not be reached for comment Tuesday, but Rearden said county and school officials are working out the details of the survey.

"It's a heavily used driveway that should probably be considered a road because of the amount of traffic on it," Commissioner Billy Powell said.

The Sardis Sports Complex is in Powell's district.

Powell took the issue to the rest of the board after the president of the Sardis Enrichment School's parent-teacher organization contacted him about the problems with it.

"They were describing the road, the condition, the amount of traffic it received and the deplorable condition it was in," Powell said.

Corinne White, the president of the Sardis parent-teacher organization, estimates that about 200 vehicles come up and down the driveway twice a day as parents drop off and pick up their students.

She says that's enough to be considered a road.

"I don't know why it wouldn't be (considered) an official road," White said. If designated as such, the road to the sports complex is likely comparable to the size of some cul-de-sacs under the purview of the county's road maintenance program, Rearden said. Rearden said once the county spends the money on the repairs, it likely won't need any more repairs for another 20 years.

"Once we get this road up to a good standard, it will last a long time," he said.

But Commissioner Craig Lutz says the idea of turning the driveway into an official road gives him heartburn, though he's not sure yet where he stands on the issue.

Lutz said he has concerns about using SPLOST funds to repair the road, especially if it's mostly used by the school system.

"We have real roads that have to be fixed (with SPLOST money)," Lutz said. "That's really a driveway."

Lutz has asked that the issue be discussed at Thursday's commission meeting before any action is taken. Previously, the item was set for the commission's consent agenda as part of a larger group of legislation passed at once without discussion.

"I think we need to know a little bit more about it," he said.