Jones Mountain Road Reopened

News

JASPER, Ga. – Pickens County Citizens are breathing an extra sigh of relief today as news is spreading that the major construction and repairs of Jones Mountain Road are officially complete.

Pictured is Jones Mountain Road shortly after the landslide, left, and after completion of repairs, right.

Citizens have been avoiding the road at first, and later dealing with only one open lane, since February 22, 2019, when a landslide took out a portion of the road and undermined the stability of the remainder. As county commissioners declared a local emergency in the situation, recovery began within that same week when inspectors came to assess the damage.

According to Pickens County Public Information Officer Tucker Green, the project has seen delays with one paving company backing out of the project, weather delays, and smaller issues popping up. The county has appreciated citizen’s patience with the project as Green said, “We sympathize for the inconvenience.”

According to an official release from the county, “GSI (contractors) and EXP Services Inc. (project engineers) completed the project and final inspections have been approved. This project which was caused by a natural disaster – landslide earlier in the year was declared a local emergency by the Board of Commissioners.”

Jones Mountain Road has officially reopened after inspections were completed on August 13, 2019.

Jones Mountain Road has officially reopened after inspections were completed on August 13, 2019.

It went on to add,”The work required was substantial and included: installation of a 380’ long Soil Nail Wall and a 20’ tall Geosynthetically Confined Soil Wall in the most severe portion of the landslide. Additionally, a guardrail and fencing were installed for safety precautions and both lanes of the road were resurfaced.

County Commission Chairman Rob Jones called the incident “A pretty good hit for a small county like Pickens,” back in March. But said this week, “With the amount of work and meeting state requirements along with the financial assistance from the Governor’s Office and the D.O.T., that area should be good for many years to come.”

Green also pointed to the assistance as a major boon to the project. The grant came in April with an expectation to quickly open one lane quickly and another two months to fully repair the road.

Green estimated that project to have a completed total just over $2 million, but exact expenses will come through financial reports with the county.

Author

County finds funding for Jones Mountain Road slide

News

JASPER, Ga. – The citizens of Pickens County breathe a sigh of relief today as County Commission Chairman Rob Jones shares information on funding for repairs of the damage that has shut down Jones Mountain Road close to two months ago.

Citizens have been avoiding the area since February 22, 2019, when the county closed the road after major storms washed out the ridge under the road and caused part of the pavement to crumble away. The road is still closed today, but Jones says this will change soon as the funding will allow them to move forward with a proposal from GeoStabilization International to reopen the road.

The county has secured $1.3 million in funding from the Georgia Transportation Infrastructure Bank with the SRTA (State Road and Tollway Authority as well as an additional $500,000 from the state’s emergency LMIG (Local Maintenance Improvement Grant) to cover the estimated $1.8 million project. These estimations came when Chairman Jones called the event a “major disaster” in early March.

Jones says that additional companies have spoken with the county about their own proposals for the repairs. But utilizing these funds requires the project to meet and adhere to DOT guidelines. Additionally, operating under the emergency status for the county, they will not wait for a bid process that could take up another two months before any repairs begin. Instead, the county is moving forward under the proposal with GeoStabilization International.

While the road will take upwards of two months to fully repair, Jones reiterated his intentions, as he explained in the March Commissioners’ Meeting, to get the road open for use of a single lane within the next two weeks. As part of the proposal, this quick turnaround will address the extra 4.7 miles that both citizens and emergency services must travel to go around the slide area.

While some points of the project are still up for negotiations in the upcoming pre-construction meetings, Jones asserts that the funding will cover the entirety of the project. However, he did note that the county could reach into the $100,000 contingency funds should the need actually arise.

Jones noted that receiving the state funding would not have been possible without a major concerted effort. Pickens County Finance Director Faye Harvey in conjunction with state representatives Steve Gooch, Rick Jasperse, andChuck Payne worked alongside Emily Dunn on the State Board to make a last-minute push for state involvement to bring funds to relieve the citizens from such a major financial impact from this emergency.

Citizens of Pickens should begin seeing the repairs and construction beginning soon and in a matter of weeks, access through the entirety of Jones Mountain Road should be returned, if only a limited one lane access.

Author

BOIL WATER ADVISORY for parts of Jasper

News

JASPER, Ga. – The City of Jasper is issuing a boil water advisory for citizens as they have experienced a water line rupture.

According to authorities, the rupture has occurred in the area of Talking Rock Road. With the city responding to the issue, they are working quickly to fix the issue.

However, even with the water line fixed, they are issuing a BOIL WATER ADVISORY for the next 48 hours. The advisory is in effect for the area of Chastain Place to 5015 Talking Rock Road.

Author

Jones Mountain Road a “major disaster”

News

JASPER, Ga. – “A pretty good hit for a small county like Pickens,” that is how Pickens County Commission Chairman Rob Jones referred to the Jones Mountain Road incident that lost an entire lane and part of the bank as well as ripping out a water line.

The incident occurred on February 22, 2019, after the massive rains the area had suffered in recent weeks. Chairman Jones had confirmed the road closure that is still in effect today. Original plans were that the road was to be reopened in the following week. However, the damage is larger than originally thought.

Jones confirmed with FYN today that rough estimates indicate the repair project could end up costing close to $1.8 million in total. There is a proposal before the BOC for repairs using GSI (GeoStabilization International), a company commonly used to the Georgia Department of Transportation.

Jones said the proposal, if approved, would make a priority to reopen the section as a single lane for traffic within seven days which could include some gravel over the back shoulder in an effort to alleviate the single lane squeeze. He wants the lane open as he asserted it will be at least a month before this proposal would have Jones Mountain Road fully repaired.

The $1.8 million project also represents a titanic hit to the county’s budget this year. To respond to this, Jones told FYN he is actively seeking aid from both State and Federal agencies as the county starts looking at a long-term recovery process that could easily drift into late spring.

Author

Jones Mountain Road shutdown

News

(Photo courtesy of the Pickens County Sheriff’s Department)

TALKING ROCK, Ga. – Avoid Jones Mountain Road near the Gilmer county line this weekend as major damage has come from this week’s storms.

Pickens County Commission Chairman Rob Jones has confirmed with FYN that the road has washed out approximately two miles from the Pickens-Gilmer county line. Further, authorities are completely shutting down this area to all traffic except those living in the immediate vicinity.

Due to the massive amount of rainfall and runoff, Jones said that numerous trees have fallen. One incident arose around 11 a.m. today, February 22, when a water line was pulled out of the ground.

The National Weather Service has issued warnings in North Georgia about the excessive rain softening the ground and causing an increase in major damage and washouts in affected counties. This is one such incident as Jones reports county authorities are already on scene attempting to fix the problem.

However, this is not a simple task to be completed in one day as Jones suspects they will need to continue working today and likely tomorrow. Additionally, he did admit a chance that the damage could cause the road to remain shutdown over the entire weekend.

Jones confirmed nobody was injured during the incident and partial washout, but has closed the road to traffic to prevent further threat. Emergency authorities across North Georgia are greatly stressing the dangers of drivers traveling through submerged parts of roads. They continue to tell citizens NOT to attempt this as any number of hidden dangers or holes could be under the water.

Again, citizens are to avoid the Jones Mountain Road area two miles from the county line and should assume this to remain in effect for the weekend.

Author

Sharktop Ridge land annexed into Jasper

News

JASPER, Ga. – The second part of the development of Sharktop Ridge Road has reached its conclusion with a city approval to annex the land into the city.

Originally meeting last month to discuss the topic, the council had agreed to table the item to allow for a more detailed study on Burnt Mountain Road as feasible alternatives to access the land being developed.

The annexation is a part of a Planning and Zoning issue revolving around Paul King looking to have a residential development in the area connecting to Sharktop Ridge. The development would host around 23 homes, according to King. While he would utilize city water for the project, the sewage would be dealt with in septic tanks.

Three new points of detail were offered in favor of keeping the entrance at Sharktop Ridge Road including a survey from Chastain & Associates, P.C., a cost estimate on building the road from Burnt Mountain Road, and an accident report on the intersection of Cove Road and Sharktop Ridge Road.

Mark Chastain of Chastain & Associates, P.C., speaks with the city council on his study of accessing the development from Burnt Mountain Road.

Mark Chastain of Chastain & Associates, P.C., speaks with the city council on his study of accessing the development from Burnt Mountain Road.

Mark Chastain was on hand from Chastain & Associates, P.C. to discuss what it would take to build the entrance down from Burnt Mountain Road. Speaking mostly on the grade, or slope, the road would have to take and how long it would need to be to not exceed the maximum grade. Chastain did say that an entrance from Burnt Mountain Road could be possible, but it would need to be close to a quarter mile at maximum grade on the road. He went on to say that he had originally recommended to those looking to develop the property because “it’s a safety aspect of having to climb or descend at maximum grade for that long to achieve the difference in elevation from highway to the road.”

He explained later that fire code preference is a 12% grade, meaning you rise 12 feet for every 100 feet you travel. Chastain continued saying that in his time in engineering and surveying experience, traveling at maximum grade for that long could cause extra stress to vehicles. Without some way to level out or alleviate stress on the vehicles, you could approach an increased risk to situations “where clutches fail.”

However, this suggested that if added points of leveling for vehicle stress relief or other extra steps were taken, it could be possible. Chastain noted however that, in his opinion, Sharktop Ridge Road provides a better, more pleasant, grade to make it a safer entrance relative to Burnt Mountain Road.

Paul King, of Sharktop Ridge LLC., offers his costs estimate of changing entrances to the development, calling it a "deal killer."

Paul King, of Sharktop Ridge LLC., offers his costs estimate of changing entrances to the development, calling it a “deal killer.”

The second point came when Paul King, the representative of Sharktop Ridge, LLC., presented a quote he received on accomplishing the Burnt Mountain Road entrance, he noted an extra $200,000 in costs on top of the current costs of developing the property. King called the extra costs a “deal killer” for the project.

King noted the original plan from Chastain saying he didn’t want to spend the extra money on a “marginal, somewhat unsafe road to come into the development.” He went on to say that the road would also take out one of the planned lots for the development representing a loss to the usable residences in addition to the road costs.

Finally, King asked Jasper Police Chief Greg Lovell to comment on the accidents at the intersection of Cove Road and Sharktop Ridge Road regarding a comment from the June meeting indicating an already bad intersection due to a high number of accidents.

Chief Lovell reported there were no wrecks there in two years. Though two accidents were noted, one in 2007 and another in 2009. However, citizens present at this meeting still noted numerous instances where they had to quickly slam on their breaks or nearly missed other vehicles at the location. They also commented saying that the council should take into account all the extra traffic they would be bringing to location as well.

Though the council did ultimately approve the annexation, this is not the end of the discussion of Sharktop Ridge. The council noted several times that they would revisit the issue. They discussed options such as if the city could place certain restrictions on the development. Mayor John Weaver noted that the city had an option of a planned unit development. He noted that the council could approve the planned development before the council and any change made would have to come before the council. However, all these ideas will come later.

City Manager Jim Looney stated, “There will be opportunities for the developer to work with the mayor and council, and city manager,  on what it looks like if it is annexed in and developed.”

Author

Jasper City Council discusses Sharktop Ridge annexation

News

Jasper, Ga. – The Jasper City Council dealt with an option to annex into the city limits a section of property on Sharktop Ridge Road.

The annexation is a part of a Planning and Zoning issue revolving around Paul King looking to have a residential development in the area connecting to Sharktop Ridge. The development would host around 23 homes, according to King. While he would utilize city water for the project, the sewage would be dealt with in septic tanks.

However, King and his development project have been met with resistance on the project at the Planning and Zoning level as well as at the council meeting. While none in opposition directly opposed the project itself, several citizens spoke in opposition to the project connecting to Sharktop Ridge. Almost an hour of discussion was spent at the council’s June 4 meeting delving into the heart of the citizens’ concerns. Ultimately, the viable complaints focused on the safety of the road with increased traffic along a treacherous left turn onto the road as well as the wear and tear on the road with an extended period of heavy construction equipment traveling the road as the only access point to the development.

While options were discussed such as moving the access to another point, possibly Old Burnt Mountain Road, or at least having the construction traffic access the development in an alternate route, no official action was taken. This is because the opposition to the project asked for additional study and options to prevent the “undue stress” on residents.

While there is no point where the city can officially block what is allowed under a residential zoning, this issue arises as the land is being considered to be taken into the city as an R1 zone to allow the project to move forward. King mentioned and later agreed to bring in an engineer to analyze the viability of accessing the land from Old Burnt Mountain Road despite the extra costs. However, King did note that he already had the engineer glance at the area and offer a preliminary estimation that the slope and grade of the road would make accessing the land there far too costly for the project.

The council will be looking at the agenda item again next month along with requested documents like the engineer’s official report and an accident report on the road and intersection with Cove Road. One citizen also requested they provide an additional independent engineer’s opinion on the access viability.

As discussion heated after 35 minutes, Councilmember Tony Fountain commented saying, “We’re sitting here tonight to discuss and vote on the annexation of that property … The last time I checked, we still live in a free country where if you have the good fortune to take your retirement and buy a piece of property. And you wanted to develop it and [sic] make you a little money. Who is it for us to say, ‘No, you can’t do that because you might disturb some of your neighbors.'”

He was not the only council member to comment as new member Kirk Raffield also spoke up. One of the first council members of the night to mention tabling the issue to further investigate, Raffield questioned King on his willingness to access a different road. While King suggested an increased cost would make him unwilling to go that route, he had previously agreed to look into it and said he would be willing to investigate, putting off the item until next month.

Raffield also commented on the item as a whole thanking both parties for attending the meeting. He went on to say, “As frustrating as it may be on both sides, thank you for sticking with it. Please do not lose your temper, remain professional at all times, that’s why we’re here. I know it’s frustrating … I understand your concerns, and I understand your right. So, please remain patient with us.”

With the official motion to table the annexation of the property in an effort to look for better information, citizens are already considering returning July 2 to see the further information provided and continue the discussion there.

Author

Road Median Flowers

Outdoors

Before the cold turned them brown, I was getting questions about the flowers planted in the road median between Blue Ridge and Ellijay.  As it turns out the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) is teaching all of us about an old floral favorite that needs to be brought back to the garden: cosmos. This year they were planted in medians and roadsides all across the state.

 

If you have ever wondered, “Do those specialty license plates pay off?” The answer is yes, and of course, on display. What is even more exciting is that the future is bright for these types of floral plantings. GDOT is revved up on planting pollinators along the highway system, and this should have everyone doing the happy dance.

 

But let’s go back to the cosmos. This is not the orange cosmos, instead it is the Cosmos bipinnatus. This cosmos is native to Mexico and is related to coreopsis and rudbeckias. It is the quintessential cottage garden flower and brings in the pollinators.  It is so good that the University of Georgia has put them in their promotional seed packs labeled the “Pollinator Blend.” The pack states that pollinators will make a beeline to your garden when you plant this beautiful flower mix.

 

These cosmos have daisy-like flowers 2 to 4 inches wide in shades of burgundy, pink, lilac and white with orange centers, and they are borne on stems of airy, fern-like foliage for weeks on end during the growing season. As GDOT and UGA would testify, these are easy to grow from seed. In fact, they are so easy to grow from seed, you can sow successive plantings to have blooms the entire growing season, especially if you want to have a bounty of flowers for the vase too.  You might get lucky and find nursery plants, but seeds seem to be readily available.

 

Plant your seeds or nursery-grown transplants into loose, well-drained soil once the soil temperature reaches 60 degrees.  Fertility need not be high for this Mexico native. Seeds germinate in five to seven days with blooms, bees and butterflies in eight to 10 weeks. Thin the seedlings or space transplants 12 to 36 inches apart depending on your variety.

 

Yes, there are varieties like the 1936 All-America Selections Award Winner ‘Sensation’ that tops out in the 4- to 5-foot range.  But if you are into the more diminutive cosmos, then you might want to try the 2-foot-tall ‘Sonata,’ which was a Fleuroselect Award Winner. There are plenty of others to try as well.

 

Although considered an annual, the cosmos gives a perennial-like performance by reseeding, which is perfect for the highway system and your pollinator garden too. These are tough plants, so water sparingly but when you do, water deeply, training those roots to go deep. Your volunteer seedlings may look a little different than what you originally planted when it comes to height, but they will nonetheless be dazzling.

 

If GDOT can have success with cosmos, you can too. I hope you’ll give them a try next spring.

 

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