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Overdue depot project back on track at Tate

By Jeff Warren, staff writer

A long-awaited happening, relocation of the Tate railroad depot for renovation and preservation on county land at Tate south of State Highway 53 may soon be back on track after long delays. County leaders, Georgia Department of Transportation officials and Howard Bach of transportation consultants Moreland Altobelli met Friday afternoon, March 18, at the County Admin Building to begin ironing out details preliminary to the depot move.

Bach serves as go-between, connecting grant recipient Pickens County to Georgia DOT, which has awarded two transportation enhancement grants totaling $800,000 for the depot project. The money is federal, administered through the state transportation department and comes with many requirements that must be met before the money can be received.


Pickens County government will fund the depot project from a designated pot of nearly a million dollars, relying on transportation grant money to reimburse the county for most of the total project cost by the time of project completion. Bach's job is to ensure the county hops the proper hoops to remain qualified for grant reimbursement, given the abundance of red tape involved.

Near the start of the meeting, County Commissioner Robert Jones said the county signed a document in December 2006, committing to a budget for the depot project. The $800,000 promised through DOT plus a required 20 percent match from the county (in funds or services) amounted to a total $960,000 dedicated to the project.

As initially conceived, the project was priced at $1.4 million with much of the cost beyond a million invested in earth fill to build up a parking area. The county plans to proceed now with moving and restoring the depot within its $960,000 budget, leaving the parking fill for later.

Jasper engineer Cleve Boutwell previously designed a preliminary site plan for preparing the land that will receive the moved depot. Though now subject to revision without the parking, the site work must still include enough of an earth fill plateau to accommodate the pull truck set to swing the depot into place once the building is raised onto wheels.

Bach asked what kind of turning radius would be necessary for swinging the depot into place. Depot project manager for the county, Tom Eubanks said the turn may be wide, as the plan is to move the long depot in one piece.

Where a depot waiting room was built atop a slab terrazzo floor, holes will be knocked through the walls to insert beams across the building base for lifting the structure, Eubanks said. Overhead utility wires must be moved before the depot can roll across the highway, he added.

How long to roll from the old spot to the new? Bach asked. Eubanks said the rolling move could take from eight to 12 hours, potentially blocking State Highway 53 for the duration.

"Surely it won't take all that just to get it across the road," said Sam Wheeler of Georgia DOT's Ellijay office.

County officials suggested a temporary closing of the highway near the depot with traffic rerouted over a detour.

"DOT won't allow rerouting onto a local road," Wheeler told them. He asked if the time the highway is blocked might be minimized by swinging the building over the road with a crane or pushing the building on wheels instead of pulling it. The depot sits so close to Highway 53 that when a truck is hitched in front for pulling the structure, the truck will block the highway.

The truck must pull not push, Eubanks said. The truck pulls and steers while a bulldozer pushes from the back, he explained.

"That does complicate things," Wheeler said.

"It's a slow process," Bach said.

County Public Information Officer Norman Pope suggested a temporary detour might be routed across the same land parcel slated to receive the depot. Such a detour might satisfy DOT while the highway stands blocked.

"I'll have to get back to y'all about shutting it down," Wheeler said. A highway close would require permission from DOT's district engineer, Wheeler indicated.

Before the depot rolls, a basement foundation must be built on the spot that will receive the building. Eubanks said that construction is expected to cost $103,225. Moving the depot will cost $68,000 he said.

Commissioner Jones said the county's next standing meeting with DOT is scheduled for Monday, April 4. He suggested county officials and DOT men visit the depot move site that same morning. Engineer Boutwell would also be present to "spot the building," to designate where it will sit on the new site.

Jones asked Boutwell to locate the building's footprint so test borings can be done. A motel once stood on the same land parcel, Jones said. Test borings should ensure the depot's new basement foundation does not cross up with any part of the old motel foundation, Jones said.

Boutwell said much soil testing will be required both during site preparation and actual construction.

"Sometimes DOT will do that and save the county some money," Bach said.

"I will see if that can be done out of the Cartersville [DOT] office," Wheeler offered. "That shouldn't be a problem."

Eubanks said he would consult with a building mover before the depot committee's next meeting on Friday, April 15, at 10 a.m. "I'll get some input and see if we're as bad off as we think we are [on the time needed to roll the depot]," he said.

"It would be nice to meet there [at the depot location] with a professional who knows what has to happen," Wheeler said. Bach asked if they might arrange to meet with the building-move consultant on the same Monday (April 4) when other principals will be present on site.

"That would be good," Wheeler said.

The moving consultant would be engaged to consult only. The county cannot hire the depot mover directly. Grant requirements demand that the county hire one overall general contractor responsible for the whole project. That general contractor will hire the mover who actually rolls the building, it was explained.

The general contractor carries a payment and performance bond and stands as the single entity responsible and liable for project outcomes, Bach said.

Commissioner Jones expressed concern that Ben Carter, the architect engaged to design the depot move, sent no representative to the meeting then in progress. Eubanks assured that someone from Carter's firm would participate at the next depot committee meeting.

"Somebody better be here, or we'll put it out for bids again," Jones said.

After the meeting, Eubanks said that in the near future the county will open the bidding process to engage one general contractor to oversee the whole project. He expects a general contractor to be chosen and a contract signed by September, Eubanks said. Actual rolling of the depot is tentatively scheduled for October or November, he said.

"Remember this was a project originally scheduled for a finish by February of o-eleven," he added.

"The desired end result," Bach stated earlier in the meeting, "is to have this thing open and functioning and communicating the history of Tate and the local impact of the railroad."

As a sort of preview of that ultimate outcome, Tate Depot Days is scheduled for Saturday and Sunday, April 16 and 17 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day. "It is the first time in 62 years that the public has been invited into the [depot] building," Eubanks said.

The event will include historical displays and debut of a 7 x 21 foot model railroad layout under construction by members of the National Railway Historical Society Marble Valley Chapter. Chapter president, Steve Austin, present at the depot committee meeting, said the model railroad layout depicts the Marble Valley quarry district from Tate to Marble Hill "with some modeler's license," he added.

Public input is hoped for in making the finished depot project a reality, Eubanks said. Landscaping is not included in the project budget, he said. "The county is committing almost a million dollars," Eubanks said. "From individuals and service organizations we're looking for $119,000 to do the embellishments."

Jeff Warren can be contacted at

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