Barrow County plans to seek federal funding for a State Route 316/U.S. 29 corridor study and preliminary engineering for a project to widen a 7.2-mile stretch of Highway 211.

The county board of commissioners voted 6-0 — commissioner Billy Parks was absent — at its Tuesday, Sept. 10 meeting to apply for grant funding from the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC), which is currently soliciting project proposals for its 2019 Transportation Improvement Plan program. The federally-designated metropolitan planning organization (MPO) will distribute funds for approved projects across the 20-county region, which includes Barrow.

The application window opened Aug. 12 and closes Oct. 11. Entities applying for grant money must also provide a funding-match commitment and the resolutions passed by commissioners Tuesday pledged a 20-percent match for each project. Commissioners previously discussed the proposed projects at an Aug. 27 work session. The corridor study resolution was passed as part of the board’s consent agenda, and the board also approved the resolution for Highway 211 widening pre-engineering after a brief discussion.

The corridor study would identify future access issues that will be brought about by the construction of graded interchanges along Highway 316 at its intersections with highways 81, 11 and 53 and explore possible solutions to those issues. County public works director Autron Hayes told the board at its work session that the study would likely cost about $250,000 to complete.

The preliminary engineering would be for a project to widen 7.2 miles of Highway 211 between the future West Winder Bypass terminus and Highway 124, near Interstate 85. The highway widening is listed in the Georgia Department of Transportation’s long-term plan to be completed by Fiscal Year 2051. But county officials want to try to expedite that, particularly because the bypass is expected to be completed in 2021 or 2022, which Hayes said would create a “bottleneck” with the bypass emptying onto a two-lane road.

BOC chairman Pat Graham noted at the board’s work session that a bulk of the money the ARC dishes out for projects would likely be in the immediate metro area, and the county also is not currently eligible for grant monies because it has not reached an updated service-delivery strategy agreement with its municipalities.

The local governments are currently assigned to an Athens-based judge, who will soon appoint a mediator to help the parties resolve the outstanding areas of water service and road maintenance. County attorney Angie Davis said Tuesday she was hopeful the mediation could be completed by November.

Davis said the county hopes to get a consent order request before the judge with all of the municipalities to request the sanctions be stayed while mediation continues. County officials hope that stay will be granted before Oct. 11 so the county can apply for the ARC funds.

OTHER BUSINESS

In other business Tuesday, commissioners:

•approved a $21,500 proposal for engineering services by BM&K Construction of Braselton for an 11-acre portion of Park 53 South. The board also authorized county manager Mike Renshaw to accept an alternate proposal from the company for grading of a 20-acre pad after Graham and commissioner Joe Goodman said at the work session that they would like to see more of the property graded. Renshaw said he did not anticipate a significant cost difference between the two.

•approved a required public hearing for a citizen's request to amend the county’s future land-use map. Chris Maddox is seeking to change the future land-use map for a 96-acre tract he owns at 627 Hwy. 211 in Winder. A rezoning request for the property in order to build a master planned development is currently before the county, and the planning commission is set to hear a revised request at its Sept. 19 meeting. The public hearing on the land-use map change is set for the board’s Oct. 8 voting session.

•approved a new work order system agreement for the county to keep more advanced digital records of its work orders. The service will cost $24,900 per year under the proposed three-year agreement with a one-time implementation fee of $17,000.

•approved an amendment to the county’s board of ethics governance that would require all members to be appointed by elected officials. The amendment comes in the aftermath of state legislation that addressed the validity of appointees on the DeKalb County Board of Ethics, which cited a state Supreme Court case — Delay v. Sutton — that ruled it unconstitutional for board of ethics members to be appointed by non-elected officials. Three of the current five members on Barrow County’s ethics board — Susan Litchford, Paul Rice and Lynn Hammond — were appointed by non-elected officials, and the board of commissioners will now have to make appointments to those seats. Graham said all three of those ethics board members effected are interested in continuing to serve on the board.

•approved the purchase of 23 SWAT vests for the Barrow County Sheriff’s Office in the amount of $65,336.

•approved the purchase of two computer servers for the sheriff’s office and detention center in the amount of $63,414.

•approved the surplus of five sheriff’s office patrol vehicles, two of which will be donated to Sims Academy of Innovation and Technology for its automotive program.

•approved the purchase of three administrative vehicles for Barrow County Emergency Services in the amount of $84,108.

•approved the purchase of a compact excavator for the stormwater department in the amount of $67,924.

•approved a proclamation designating September as Attendance Awareness Month. The proclamation supports Barrow County Family Connection’s goal of decreasing absenteeism within the Barrow County School System.

•met in closed session for over an hour to discuss pending and potential litigation. No action was taken.

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