A delayed road project in Flowery Branch is forcing school buses to cross crowded roads “daredevil-style,” Mayor Mike Miller said at a City Council meeting Thursday night.
Members of the City Council grilled Hall County Public Works Director Ken Rearden on the McEver Road turn lane project at their meeting on Thursday, saying the existing intersection of McEver and Jim Crow roads was dangerous and the project pricey.
The $1.4 million joint project between Flowery Branch and Hall County would add left- and right-turn lanes and turn signals on the stop lights on all four sides of the intersection. The official project has been delayed for years, and Flowery Branch officials have said they've aimed to improve the intersection for decades.
Rearden, who appeared on Thursday at the request of the Flowery Branch City Council, said the relocation of utilities — a major stumbling block on the project thus far — would conclude at the end of May and the project itself would be finished in September.
Council members were clearly frustrated by the pace of the project.
“We have people cutting through parking lots trying to make right turns rather than wait for the traffic that’s through there,” said Councilman Fred Richards, adding that he’s surprised no one has been hurt in the intersection.
The heavily used intersection sits near downtown Flowery Branch, schools and neighborhoods. School buses are forced to make left turns at the intersection in the face of oncoming traffic, which Miller said was “putting students in jeopardy.”
Rearden said the project had been delayed by a few different issues.
“We have lots of obstacles with this project, with getting the right of way to having the utilities relocated,” he said. “I think we’re basically on track now.”
Property owners adjacent to the road project have dragged their feet selling land to the county for the needed rights of way, Rearden said, so much that the county had to threaten to condemn the property.
“They didn’t want to see this project happen,” the public works director said.
Meanwhile, the utility companies involved — Georgia Power, a subsidiary of the Southern Company, and a slew of other utility services with lines above and below the road surface — wouldn’t begin their work on relocation utilities until the rights of way had been acquired by the county.
Up until that had been settled, Rearden said several of the utility companies were being unhelpful with the work.
Miller told Rearden he wanted the project, which has been batted between the council and the Hall County Board of Commissioners since 2009 and has a price tag that’s grown by hundreds of thousands of dollars, done “last week.”
“I don’t buy this crap about this person didn't talk to this person,” Miller said, noting that he would get Southern Company CEO Thomas Fanning on the phone in the morning if need be. “If you talk to the right person, it’ll get done.”