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DOT: Funding for local projects may be restored
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The 9th District member of the State Transportation Board said Friday he is hopeful that funds for county and city road projects across the state could be restored later in the fiscal year.

Steve Farrow disputes the notion that the board, which oversees the Georgia Department of Transportation, voted to abandon the Local Assistance Road Program.

At issue, he said, is the prospect of deauthorizing some right-of-way acquisitions, where the agency has made a commitment to purchase land for road projects. While the funds have not been spent, Farrow said the DOT has to retain funds for the proposals unless they are deauthorized.

"We had three options, and none of them alone would add up to the $59 million we needed to cut," Farrow said. One of the options would have involved the termination of 559 state workers from the DOT payroll. The others involved the LARP program and state aid for local transportation.

The two programs, which combined represent $52 million of the DOT's $2 billion budget, are politically popular for providing road and street repaving funds for local governments.

Farrow said the deferral comes at a time when road projects are winding down and he is hopeful the money could be back in the spring.

The board member said DOT had already made cuts totalling $189 million. Those included elimination of unfilled jobs. Farrow said the agency has reduced its workforce by 5 percent through eliminating vacant positions and attrition. The board was able to avoid a one-day-a-month furlough for DOT workers, which would have saved $6.4 million.

"This was a tough decision and there obviously wasn't enough sentiment among the board to make staff cuts," Farrow said.

Farrow said he is starting to hear from members of the legislature and is preparing a letter to lawmakers that better explains the situation.

The Dalton attorney was elected in May to fill the unexpired term of DOT Chairman Mike Evans, who resigned after announcing he was dating DOT Commissioner Gena Abraham. She married Evans and took his name in September.

Farrow said Gena Evans, who has been on the job for less than a year, is doing an admirable job of trying to reign in the DOT budget. The agency is in the midst of an audit by an outside accounting firm to get a better handle on its financial situation.

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