Expecting another year of slow or next to no growth, South Hall’s city managers said they are planning for the future and a rebound in the economy.
Instead of big commercial or residential projects taking shape, they see more progress in less glamorous efforts, such as road and sewer improvements.
"This is a year that we will be focusing on providing our basic services, as a lot of the cities and counties are having to do," said Stan Brown of Oakwood. "... We are just continuing on with projects that have been under way for the last couple of years."
In Oakwood, that means finishing up the long-awaited Thurmon Tanner Parkway, a four-lane road connecting Atlanta Highway/Ga. 13 to Phil Niekro Boulevard in Flowery Branch.
The road, running parallel to Interstate 985, is intended to spur commercial and industrial growth between the two cities, as well as provide a traffic alternative to congested roads such as McEver Road and I-985.
Construction on the last leg, running between Plainview and Mundy Mill roads in Oakwood, has been beset with weather issues — mainly drenching rains and freezing cold — but is expected to be completed in December.
Oakwood officials have long said the road’s completion, along with improvements on I-985 at Mundy Mill Road and Atlanta Highway, could kick-start new and improved development in the area.
Another big project taking off this year will be Oakwood’s sewer link with Braselton.
Construction was expected to start this month on a $1.1 million pump station off Martin Road near Winder Highway.
The city also is working to collect the parcels of land, or easements, needed for the sewer line that will run along Winder Highway/Ga. 53 between Martin Road and the Braselton sewer system in Jackson County.
Work on the force main could take six to eight months to complete.
The partnership could result in up to 2.5 million gallons in additional sewer capacity for Oakwood.
"Hopefully, by the end of the year, we’ll have that infrastructure in place," Brown said.
He added, "I think everything is coming together at the right time. Our goal is to be prepared and ready as the economy starts to turn to provide what’s needed to get some good development here."
Infrastructure issues also will prove crucial to Flowery Branch this year, said City Manager Bill Andrew.
Over the past several years, the city has spent about $100,000 mapping for sewer and water lines.
"This year, we plan to spend a considerable amount on relining a sewer pipe we found that has had quite a bit of leaks," he said.
The city also is working on a study of downtown roads and transportation needs.
"The trick with all these plans will be the funding," Andrew said.
"With the economy the way it is and growth being so slow, I think a lot of what will happen here is we’ll set up mechanisms and structures for what needs to happen with water, sewer and roads."
The city also plans to move along with plans to build two sewer lift stations, including one replacing an aging sewer plant at the Cinnamon Cove condominium complex at 6500 Gaines Ferry Road, and a force main line.
The project is expected to cost $1.3 million, with funding coming from the city’s special purpose local option sales tax.
One commercial project that could get under way downtown is Old Town Flowery Branch, a $15 million development that could consist of shops, cafes, townhomes and a parking garage.
Work on the project’s first phase is set to begin this year.
Flowery Branch Mayor Diane Hirling is counting on the project to unfold over her second four-year term, which began Jan. 1.
"If that doesn’t happen, I don’t see downtown becoming viable again," she said.