Despite the Federal Highway Administration awarding reimbursement grants for renovations,
no progress has been made at the Tate Depot off Hwy. 53 East.
If you’ve driven by the old Tate Depot in the last seven years, you’ve likely noticed a banner touting a Transportation Enhancement grant received in 2007 to fund its relocation and renovation.
The banner is gone now, but the Tate Depot still sits with busted windows, rotting wood and dislodged shingles like it has for years.
“It’s like rowing a boat with a rope,” Pickens County Commission Chair Rob Jones said of the project, which has frustrated local leaders by derailing time and time again.
The setbacks come despite the Tate Depot project being awarded a total of $800,000 in reimbursement grant money from the Federal Highway Administration, one $400,000 grant in 2005 and one $400,000 grant in 2007.
Plans for the historic depot have been to move the building to the other side of Highway 53, renovate it, and open it as a welcome/community center that honored the marble and railroad industries.
Original plans included storing and displaying historical Georgia Marble documents at the building, but those documents have recently been transported to Kennesaw State University’s museum to be archived.
The Georgia Department of Transportation's (GDOT) Office of Program Delivery originally managed the TE program in Georgia, but shifts in leadership put the breaks on the program.
“There were a few years there where the DOT just stopped,” Jones said at the April commissioners’ work session on Thursday, April 4.
Eventually, GDOT regrouped and contracted with engineering firm Moreland and Altobelli out of Norcross, Ga. to manage the grants, but again progress has stalled.
The problem, Pickens County Planning & Development Director Joey Low explained, is that key players at Moreland have changed and the county is now starting over with a new set of faces.
“Every time you get something working with a group of people, for whatever reason the people change and it’s almost like starting at square one again,” Low said. “It’s Moreland, but it’s a new set of people so we’re trying to get a meeting together in the next week or so with Moreland, the DOT, [the county], [and] our civil designer Cleve Boutwell.”
Low said under the old contract, the county submitted project plans that were sent to both Moreland and the DOT for comments.
“We got back two pages of comments,” Low said. “[The civil designer] addressed those comments and we sent them back in and now it’s like their the whole program has changed. They’re like, yes you’ve addressed those but they basically want the whole thing redesigned again. I want to get everybody in one room where it can’t be “he said she said” and get this thing hammered out so we know the path to go to get this thing going again.”
District commissioner Becky Denney said she would like to see the Tate Depot renovation project get some traction because of the potential impact she says it has for enhancing tourism in the county.