ELLIJAY, Ga. – Public Works Director Jim Smith offered comments at the Board of Commissioners November Meeting with optimism as he said he was “amazed” at the amount of work the road department has accomplished in October.
These comments come as the department is still recovering from two major hits during the month. This most recent and obvious being the damage and debris left behind by Tropical Storm Zeta. According to Smith, the other major hit came as the Road Department Offices and the maintenance shop were shut down for two weeks of the month in quarantine due to a COVID-19 positive test and hospitalization of an employee.
Amid the fallout of Zeta, Smith said the Road Department has focused on clearing the roads and getting them open for traffic as soon as possible. However, in doing this, they have left a lot of debris alongside the roads. Both Public Safety Director Keith Kucera and Public Works Director Jim Smith are set to attend webinars today as FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) is delivering information on the storm and the decision of declaring Gilmer a disaster area.
Smith said that all indications point to the declaration coming, but he wouldn’t know for sure until the webinar. That webinar will also set plans in motion for disposing of the debris left from the storm. The plan could include options for contracting the work as well. Smith said that the county have cleaned over 350 trees that were six inches or larger in diameter.
Public Safety does have recovery plans set and has been operating on these plans until now. But as the county looks ahead to the next steps, they will be adjusting these to follow these plans that could see financial aid as well as more closely following state and federal regulations.
With Public Works still recovering from the storm, they finished wrapping up their Amnesty Tire Month in October with 2,362 tires collected and hauled away. This was planned for October as a make-up since the program was cancelled earlier in the year due to the virus. The storm and quarantine delays also didn’t stop the department from paving Pleasant Gap Circle and Sherri Leigh Estates and early preparations as the Road Department is now moving to Turniptown Road. Paving originally had nine roads planned for 2020, but Smith gave an early warning to the Commissioner this month that it may be that they request two roads be extended into 2021.