Originally created 02/25/03

Panel votes to fund repairs



After being presented with a petition and a pledge by the city of Hephzibah on Monday, Augusta's Engineering Services Committee recommended spending $500,000 to fix a hole that has come to be known as the Hephzibah Grand Canyon.

The unanimous vote came more than two years after Hephzibah officials first alerted Augusta officials to the hazard created by the water-eroded ravine near Windsor Spring Road, which is now 30 feet deep.

The Augusta Commission will vote on the funding at its meeting March 4.

Augusta's Public Works Department placed concrete barriers around the hole a month ago, shortly after Hephzibah officials put warning tape there, but that hasn't stopped the ravine's growth.

"As of this last rain, there's like a 3 1/2 -foot shoulder (between the ravine and Windsor Spring)," Ulmer Bridges, a committee member and Augusta Commission member representing the Hephzibah area, said Monday.

Mr. Bridges told committee members that two years ago, Windsor Spring - a county-owned road - had a 30-foot shoulder at the ravine.

"It's getting to the point that we can't get out there fast enough," he said.

Before committee members voted in favor of funding the long-term fix, Augusta Administrator George Kolb said that the money would have to come from 1-cent sale tax funds - some of which have been marked for other road projects.

Hephzibah has rented equipment and hauled in free dirt from a nearby chalk mine to fill in the hole, Mr. Bridges said. The temporary fix, he said, was to begin Monday and "may last five years."

"I'm thankful they're able to do it, and do it quickly," Mr. Bridges said.

A petition with 843 signatures, which called for Augusta officials to repair the ravine and not close Windsor Spring Road, also was presented by Mr. Bridges at Monday's meeting.

"We do need to look to a long-term solution for that area out there, and that shouldn't include closing the road," Augusta Mayor Bob Young said.

One proposed solution to the ravine problem called for creating a cul-de-sac in Windsor Spring Road just before the ravine and tying it into Brothersville Road, but many residents said that would create an additional traffic problem.

Teresa Smith, the director of Augusta's Public Works Department, said Monday she thinks the cul-de-sac option would have been best, but she said her department is pursuing a design that would keep the road open, replace a drainage pipe and widen the ravine area to allow a smoother drainage flow.

She said that plan could displace two homeowners and probably could not be submitted to the Engineering Services Committee for approval for a month.

Reach Preston Sparks at (706) 828-3904 or preston.sparks@augustachronicle.com.