Commission tries new tack with Whistle Stop Estates

Road woes take a new turn...

After a relatively quiet monthly business meeting, the routine broke down at the end of Monday’s commission session as homebuilder Bob Hoglan spoke from the floor to describe a subdivision road problem and propose a solution. When the dust settled, the agenda had been amended to accommodate the unscheduled item of business, and the commission had committed itself to a course of action not previously pursued in its efforts to control continuing problems with subdivision road maintenance and management.

The problem Hoglan described concerned his Whistle Stop Subdivision located off Deans’ Ferry Road in District 1. The tar and gravel surface installed on Orange Blossom Trail and Depot Court in mid-2006 is coming up completely, exposing long strips of roadway down to the chert base, according to county engineer Richard Spraggins. About a dozen residences are served by the roads, Hoglan said.

“I put out good money for those roads, and I got ripped off,” Hoglan said. “I’m not a road builder. I’d build them myself if I could, but I don’t know how to do that. I build houses. That’s what I know how to do. But know I’m not the only one that got ripped off… (the contractor who built the road) has ripped off everybody in the county,” he said.

An offer they didn’t refuse

Hoglan said he had gotten a bid from Donny Hicks to resurface the two streets for $42,000. “Frankly, I just don’t have the money for that,” Hoglan said. Hoglan then proposed that he write a check to the county for $25,000 and that the county itself then repave the roads. “I’m just trying to take a wrong and make it right,” Hoglan said.

District 1 Commissioner David Cochran agreed that he could probably handle the project for that much money out of his District 1 budget. District 4 Commissioner Waymon Pitts questioned whether the county could accept the work without being considered in competition with private contractors.

County attorney Tom Prickett said that since Hoglan had already declined the bid from Hicks and decided not to contract with him to build the road, the county would not be considered in competition. He added that the agreement for the county to build the road would have to be predicated on the county’s prior acceptance of the roads for county maintenance, and that in turn would be contingent on Hoglan’s paying the $25,000 in advance.

Pitts then commented that in the future the commission should make sure that bond amounts collected to assure completion of subdivision roads should be double the amount estimated to build the road(s) at the time the bond is set.

“I don’t want the county to ever get in this situation again,” Pitts said.

District 3 Commissioner Tom Ryan also sounded a cautionary note. “I’m going to vote in favor of doing this, but I wonder if we’re not moving a little too fast here,” he said. “Are y’all sure we’re doing the right thing?” he asked, looking steadily at Prickett.

Prickett said it was the right thing as long as the county could actually do the paving work for $25,000. The commission then voted to accept the roads for county maintenance based on receiving $25,000 from Hoglan in advance to cover the county’s paving costs. (Hoglan presented the commission with the $25,000 check at the conclusion of the meeting.)

Cochran said potholes will be repaired to give residents immediate relief and the roads will be repaved next spring.

Thanks expressed for thankless job

Ryan thanked other commissioners for the stand they’ve taken on enforcing subdivision regulations.

“We’ve had a lot of people whining about subdivision regulations and complaining that we’re mistreating contractors. But we need to enforce the rules to the fullest, and if we step on some toes, I hate it.”

Ryan said he has a large subdivision in his district – Sugarland Lake – where he could spend his entire budget for the next three years, because road-building regulations were not adequate and were not adequately enforced when the roads were built.

“We’ve still got some subdivisions that are rough, but not nearly as rough as some other counties have. Y’all have taken the heat for it – especially David (Cochran) with all those subdivisions in District 1 – and I’m proud of you for it. We’ve saved the people of Blount County a lot of money.”

“There’s a lot of difference in these subdivisions now compared to 2000 when I first came in,” District 2 Commissioner Robert Bullard agreed.