Cove Road will remain closed while rockslide area made safe for drivers
By Larry Cavender
Less than five weeks after Pickens County officials found themselves dealing with a landslide resulting in the indefinite closure of Jones Mountain Road, the city of Jasper now faces a similar issue on Cove Road. Although well down the list of items on the agenda, the rockslide, which struck the evening of Tuesday, March 26th, proved to be foremost on the minds of the mayor and council during Monday’s council meeting.
It was obvious the rockslide was also on the minds of those members of the public who attended the council meeting when Mayor John Weaver asked for a show of hands of those who showed up because of their concerns over the rockslide, almost everyone in the council chambers raised their hands.
"There are a lot of issues involved, most importantly, the issue of funding for the repairs,” Mayor Weaver said. He stated the city has appealed to the state for emergency funds and he was optimistic emergency financial help would be granted.
Meanwhile, Cove Road will remain closed indefinitely.
However, the city has already moved forward to remedy the situation. City Manager Brandon Douglas reported that he had contacted Geostabilization International Company, headquartered in Colorado, about a preliminary contract for rock removal, scaling, and stabilization. According to Douglas, the cost of the operation was quoted as approximately $95,000.
City Attorney Bill Pickett expressed some concerns that according to wording of the preliminary contract, the work of Geostabilization International is governed only by the laws of Colorado and not of Georgia. The city manager replied he would address those concerns with the company before proceeding with the contract.
Because the price quoted doesn't include the resolution of other problems that might arise in the recovery process, Douglas asked the council to approve funding of up to $120,000 if additional work is needed. By a vote of four yea’s and one abstention, the council approved the funding and gave the city manager permission to proceed further. Council member John Foust abstained from the vote, citing his employment with Georgia Power and their work there.
Weaver also said, "We are so fortunate," because the rockslide could have been tragic. Council member Tony Fountain concurred with those sentiments as he related a story of motorists who arrived just moments before the rockslide happened. Becoming very emotional in the recounting, Fountain said the travelers, after spying a large boulder in the road and stopping to consider the situation, decided to drive around the fallen boulder. Just then, tons of other rocks crashed onto the road in a cloud of dust. Had the rockslide happened just seconds later, tragedy might have ensued.
Weaver also expressed his sympathy to those residents who are inconvenienced by having to detour the rockslide area via Grandview Road, but he asked the public to be patient.
"We've got to get this right," he said, in order to avoid future occurrences and also to avert a possible tragic event.
City officials also expressed their appreciation for those who have offered their help including some local contractors who have volunteered their services including the use of heavy equipment. Utility Development Director Lonnie Waters added, "We're very appreciative of the county's efforts to help. They have been very cooperative." This is despite the county's own problems with the Jones Mountain mudslide.
This is not the first time Jasper has had to deal with a rockslide problem. In April of 2011, almost eight years ago, another rockslide occurred at the same spot on Cove Road.
“We are ready to have it fixed,” said Council member Kirk Raffield on Tuesday afternoon. “As soon as it is safe and ready to go it will be opened.”
There were a number of other items of city business also addressed in what was a fairly lengthy agenda.
In what proved to be a very popular move, Lonnie Waters announced the name of the city's new dog park located at the Jasper City Park. Because of his "dedication to and love of animals," the park will be designated the Kyle Brock Dog Park, and the council voted unanimously to fund a marble marker for the dog park in honor of Brock.
The council also voted to approve the issuance of a proclamation in recognition of the annual Fishing Rodeo which will be held this year on May 8th through the 11th. According to Walt Cagle, who appeared on behalf of the Pickens County Sportsman Club, he believed this event has been held for the enjoyment of kids and seniors, including special needs kids, for approximately 25 years.
In other new business, the council approved the purchase of a new lawnmower for the street department, a new vehicle for the police department, and the rebuilding of sewer lift stations on Highway 108 and at the hospital.
Among the old business items addressed were two issues dealing with alcohol. The council was given an update by the city manager on the status of the Sunday early alcohol sales amendment which would move the alcohol serving time for local businesses on the Sabbath from 12:30 p.m. to 11 a.m. Mayor Weaver declared, "The ordinance should be ready next month." The council also approved an alcohol license request for Smokin' Mo's Barbeque.