“We’ve been begging for it for years” because of safety concerns, county engineer James Emery said Tuesday.
The Georgia Department of Transportation informed the county last week that it will pay $750,000 of the estimated $1.3 million cost of a traffic signal and right- and left-turn lanes at all four approaches.
The rest of the money will come from the county’s special-purpose local-option sales tax.
Emery said the work may get started before the end of the year depending on how fast the DOT moves.
“I’m just elated to get it done,” County Commission Chairman Ricky Wolfe said after Tuesday’s commission meeting. “At my first meeting three years ago, it came up as a significant safety issue, and unfortunately it took this long.”
Emery said traffic studies showed a definite need for a traffic signal because of numerous accidents.
It wasn’t a bad intersection when there was less traffic on South Davis Road, Emery said. But now motorists having to wait a long time at a stop sign to get onto the highway become impatient and take chances they wouldn’t ordinarily take.
County officials gave funding credit to state Rep. Carl Von Epps of LaGrange and DOT Commissioner Vance Smith of Pine Mountain, who district included southern Troup County when he served in the state House of Representatives.
Wolfe also praised county voters for approving the special tax, much of which is dedicated to transportation improvements. Without the 1 percent tax, he said, “we’d be pretty much dead in the water as a lot of counties are.”
In other matters Tuesday, the commission approved Emery’s recommendations for safety improvements at the angled intersection of Swanson Drive and Gordon Road.
Thirty-two residents of Swanson Drive signed a petition asking for reduced speeds on Gordon Road, suggesting speed bumps or a three-way stop at Gordon Road and North Kight Drive. They complained about poor sight distance at the intersection of Swanson and Gordon because of an embankment, and that motorists must drive past the stop sign before they can see both ways.
“They definitely have a problem and we want to address it,” Emery said.
He said brush will be cut from the embankment to improve sight distance, a stop bar will be painted on the road showing motorists where to stop, and the center line will be painted to direct traffic to a more perpendicular angle with Gordon. Asphalt patching also is needed at the intersection, he said.
It’s best not to stop traffic on Gordon because it has the most volume, Emery said.
“Stop signs should not be used for speed control, which is a mistake that’s sometimes made,” he said.
County Manager Mike Dobbs said the county may be able to acquire property to make Swanson come into Gordon at more of a 90-degree angle.
Also Tuesday, the commission:
— Released a report that compares property taxes paid on the 2,200-acre Kia Motors site in West Point between 2006 and 2009.
The property generated $45,57.11 in property taxes when nine of the 46 parcels were in the conservation use program.
Kia’s taxes were $226,200 in 2008 and $1,752,836.20 in 2009, when the training center was completed and the plant was 70 percent complete.
In addition, three onsite Kia suppliers began paying property taxes in 2009, including Mobis ($18,043.21), Glovis ($16,661.51) and Powertech ($9,325.31).
Under an incentive agreement, Kia pays no property taxes to the state, county or West Point for 15 years. It pays 50 percent of its school taxes for nine years and 75 percent for six years.
Mobis and Glovis have 12-year tax abatements that require 5 percent of its tax obligation for the first three years and 50 percent for the balance.
Powertech has a 14-year abatement that requires 5 percent for three years, 50 percent for nine years and 75 percent for two years.
— Endorsed a resolution by the National Association of Counties that asks Congress to adopt health-care reform legislation.
The resolution “says we’re elected to promote health and welfare and asks Congress to take up the health car problem,” Wolfe said.
He said the resolution doesn’t endorse any particular plan, but “asks Congress to deal with this issue because Americans need you to.”
— Approved manufactured-home placements for Shirley Gaddy at 1611 Blue Creek Road and Chris and Amber Greathouse at 563 Sticher Road near Hogansville.
— Approved a proclamation designating Friday as Arbor Day and urging residents to “support efforts to protect our trees and woodlands and to support our county’s forestry program.”
Joel Martin can be reached at jmartin@ lagrangenews.com or (706) 884-7311, Ext. 235.