Nine months since Columbia County voters agreed to a $43 million tab for county projects, some of the improvements have been completed and many are either under way or about to get started.
Forty-two projects were scheduled for work as part of the capital improvements bond that the county secured after winning voter approval in November. The bond will be paid back by property owners with a 0.60 millage increase in the tax rate over about a 13-year term.
"We think they're moving real well," county commission Chairman Ron Cross said of the progress of bond projects so far.
Already, nearly $6 million has been spent on projects and some improvements are being seen, including renovations to the Winfield and Burks Mountain fire stations and the purchase of some equipment for a Hazardous Material Response Team. Four new Class A fire engines also have been purchased at $991,030 and are in service.
"We are way ahead of schedule on completing the fire service projects ... as well as the progress on those construction projects that we are still working on," said Pam Tucker, the county's emergency services director. "We have worked on these projects every day since the bond passed due to the tremendous public safety need."
Other public safety projects planned with the bond money include a training center for Martinez-Columbia Fire Rescue, a training facility for the sheriff's office and a new aerial fire truck, which is expected to be delivered in November.
Then there are 11 transportation projects. One of the most expensive, at a cost of $4.9 million, is a widening and intersection improvements for Industrial Park Drive from the Washington and Belair roads intersection to Evans to Locks Road. Officials say that work is needed partly because of a new Lowe's in the area but also because of a new North Belair connector road.
"We have already noticed an increase in traffic on the connector," said Scott Herring, the county's construction and maintenance services director. "We plan to have a meeting with the property owners in August and begin acquiring right of way after that."
Construction should begin by spring or summer of next year.
There are four recreation projects receiving bond money. Among those, land negotiations are in process for expanding Blanchard Woods Park at a total of $2.3 million.
There also are 18 water projects set, eight of which are either complete, under construction or soon to have construction started by next year or 2009. A Mullins Pond regional detention facility is being worked on currently, with an estimated finish date of April 2008 at a cost of $1 million. Another project is a water line for G.R. Tucker Road. Work is expected to begin there this month.
One project that has been somewhat delayed, Mr. Cross said, is a Bowen Pond restoration at a cost of $1 million.
"We've been negotiating with the Corps of Engineers to see if we can either drain the pond or keep the dirt on site, and that's going to take a little more time," Mr. Cross said. "But overall it's gone really well."
Reach Preston Sparks at (706) 868-1222, ext. 115, or firstname.lastname@example.org
A list of updates for Columbia County's bond projects:
- William Few Extension right of way and design: Right of way acquisition in early 2008, $546,120 budgeted
- Industrial Park Drive widening and intersection improvements: Right of way acquisition to start this fall, $4.9 million budgeted
- Owens, Cox and Gibbs Road widening: Design to start this fall, $712,404 budgeted
- Hereford Farm Road design for widening: design to start this fall, $21,706 budgeted
- Blanchard Woods Park: negotiations for more land in process, $2.3 million budgeted
- Blackstone Camp Road Park: land negotiations in process, $250,000 budgeted
- Wildwood Park: design underway for improvements to park entrance, $1.5 million budgeted
- Leah Fire Station: land acquisition and station design in process, $930,000 budgeted, $68,721 spent to date
- Hazardous Material Response Team equipment: 98 percent purchased and ordered, $400,000 budgeted, $52,846 spent to date
- Ladder truck purchase: new truck to be delivered in November, $750,000 budgeted
- Four new Class A fire engines: received and in service, $1,004,765 budgeted, $991,030 spent to date
- Petersburg Station stream restoration: under construction in 2008, $600,000 budgeted
- Wynngate stream restoration: under construction in 2008, $700,000 budgeted
- Halifax stream restoration: Corps of Engineers permit complete, awaiting state permit, $300,000 budgeted
- La Vista Drive drainage pipe: waiting on state permit, $250,000 budgeted
- Mullins Pond regional detention facility: under construction, finish date estimated for April, $1 million budgeted, $2,848 spent to date
- Water line to serve G.R. Tucker Road: Work to begin this month, $122,000 budgeted
- Water storage tank to serve cities: under engineering design, $700,000 budgeted
Source: Marilyn Heuer, Columbia County's public relations manager