Political Notes – A bigger workload for DOT’s engineer

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If this trend continues, state highway engineer Gerald Ross may collapse from the workload.

Ross, the chief engineer for the Department of Transportation, had also been serving as deputy commissioner of DOT in recent months. Now he’s added another important responsibility to his work load.

With the retirement this week of Sandra Burgess, who had been managing DOT’s P3 program for the construction of public-private road projects, Ross has been placed in charge of that function as well by DOT Commissioner Vance Smith.

According to the official agency announcement, Ross at least will be allowd to vacate the deputy commissioner’s job when he takes over Burgess’ duties overseeing the P3 program.

There are currently three projects underway as part of the P3 program, including the “West by Northwest” managed lanes projects and the development of a multi-modal terminal in downtown Atlanta.

“All of them are moving into technical phases of development that will mesh perfectly with and benefit from Gerald’s outstanding engineering skills,” Smith said.

Sonny’s road proceeds

In other DOT news, the department has begun acquiring the right-of-way for a road widening project in Houston County that drew media attention last year because it will benefit former governor Sonny Perdue.

From a report by Wayne Crenshaw in the Macon Telegraph:

The configuration has generated allegations that former Gov. Sonny Perdue, while he was still in office, exerted undue influence to change the route because of property he owns. His spokesman has denied that allegation, stating Perdue would have benefited the same regardless of the configuration. State and county officials also have said Perdue did nothing wrong.

At least one property owner disagrees.

Rachel Crumley said she has hired an attorney to fight the route selection, which she said comes through her front yard. She and her husband have lived there since 1968, and she said Perdue owns 10 acres across from her. “I just think it’s all political because of Mr. Perdue,” she said. “He wants it to come across here.”

The section of the project is part of a total $100 million plan to widen Ga. 96 through Houston County. County taxpayers are contributing $19.5 million through a special purpose local option sales tax.


Millsaps moves to new firm

Patrick Millsaps, the Camilla attorney who currently serves as chairman of the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission (also known as the state ethics commission), is merging his law firm with Hall Booth Smith & Slover. Millsaps will work from the HBSS offices in Albany and Atlanta.

Millsaps announced recently he will step down from the ethics commission position after Gov. Nathan Deal has appointed a replacement for him. His colleagues at HBSS will include Michael Meyer von Bremen, a member of the Georgia Senate for 10 years before retiring from the Legislature in 2008, and Brad Carver, the firm’s senior managing director of government affairs.

The drought is everywhere

With the exception of the northernmost layer of counties, extreme drought conditions have now spread across most of Georgia, according to the latest report from state climatologist David Stooksbury.

Those conditions probably will not ease up anytime soon, Stooksbury said.

“Computer models and historical climate analysis are indicating the return of the La Niña ocean-atmosphere pattern,” Stooksbury said. “Typically a La Niña winter and spring means below normal rainfall and above normal temperatures.

He added: “While a typical La Niña winter is very nice in Georgia, it also means that the much needed moisture recharge during the winter and spring will not typically be large enough to get the state through the next summer without drought conditions continuing.”

Funding for GEFA projects

The board of directors of the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority (GEFA) has approved loans totaling nearly $9 million to finance water-sewer projects in the cities of Dillard, Donalsonville, Pooler and Winder.

Donalsonville is borrowing $6 million to expand its water pollution control plant from 400,000 gallons per day to 1 million gallons per day; Winder will be loaned $1.2 million to extend a water main; Dillard will get a $750,000 loan to install water lines connecting the city’s sewer customers to its new water system; and Pooler will get a $992,000 loan for a well and a water main extension.

Stephens is the new Stone Mountain director

Former state senator Bill Stephens has been named executive director of the Stone Mountain Memorial Association, the state authority that manages Stone Mountain park in DeKalb County. He replaced Curtis Branscome, who recently retired as executive director.

Stephens was a press aide to former governor Zell Miller before being elected to the Georgia Senate in 1998. He served four terms in the Senate before running unsuccessfully for secretary of state in 2006.

© 2011 by The Georgia Report

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Tags: Bill Stephens , DOT , GEFA , Gerald Ross , Patrick Millsaps , State Ethics Commission , Stone Mountain Memorial Association , Vance Smith