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Commissioners nix intersection measure
Funds would have been used for work on Hwy. 53 in front of proposed hardware store
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County commissioners last week voted down a measure that would offset some of the costs to intersection improvements at Hwy. 53 at Stephens Road where a Dahlonega businessman plans to open a True Value hardware store.

The measure failed following a 3-1 vote. Commissioner James Swafford was the lone vote in favor of accepting the agreement.

District 4 Commissioner Jimmy Hamby said he was not comfortable moving forward with an agreement for the county to serve as the fiscal agent for state transportation funds to make improvements to the intersection, despite claims that approving a memorandum of understanding would be of no cost to the county.

"That money should be used to benefit the whole county. We have a lot of potholes in the roads. This is going to benefit one place and one business," he said.

Stephens Road is a private cut-through that connects Hwy. 53 and Lumpkin Campground Road, another issue that concerned Hamby.

"This is not a county road. The families that live on it maintain the road, not the county," he said.

According to the proposed memorandum of understanding, there are funds through the state's local maintenance and improvement grants program available that could be used to make $150,000 in changes to the intersection for the store.

Wyman Walden purchased the lot east of Dawsonville Gun and Pawn in 2015.

The plan stalled when it was determined that major turn lane improvements would be required at the intersection.

"This is a setback. We're still kind of regrouping, but we're still moving forward with our project," Walden said. "We're still hoping to break ground within the next 45 days."

The proposed agreement showed $105,000 available through the state if Walden's WLW Investments supplied a required match of $45,000 and the county agreed to serve as the fiscal agent.

The agreement also said WLW would be required to pay the $7,500 to the county in administrative expenses if the building was not completed and 14 full time employees were not hired within two years of completing the road improvements.

The state DOT funds would have been in addition to the annual dollars Dawson County receives through the state's improvement program, according to Commission Chairman Mike Berg.

"The money that is associated with this special LMIG is not money that the county could use. If we use this money, it goes away. It doesn't stay in the county. This LMIG is for a specific project, so we couldn't use this money for anything other than it's identified for," he said.

Hamby, who made the motion to deny the measure, said he's been told that denying the funding could lead to repercussions for the county.

"I've also been told that DOT probably wouldn't submit any more funds to us, too. We'll have to see about that," he said. "I'm not going to be held hostage with the people's money and making a decision with what to do with it."