Cornelia Council gets a gift and a bill for Level Grove sidewalk project

The plan to connect Downtown Cornelia to “Bypass Cornelia” with sidewalks along Level Grove Road got a small boost Tuesday night. Northeast Georgia Housing Authority (NGHA) Executive Director Angela Cothran donated an easement along the road to the city.

The plan is to build a paved pedestrian path connecting downtown to the business area out on Highway 441. Cornelia City Manager Donald Anderson describes it as a public safety issue, “If you ride up Level Grove Road you can see the trails where people walk from downtown to Ingles and Quality Foods,” Anderson explains. “It’s a dangerous thing.”

The city is paying for part of the project with $300,000 in state tax dollars in the form of a Georgia Department of Transportation grant. The rest of the estimated $450,000 total price tag will come from Special Purpose Local Option Sales taxes.

Cornelia Mayor James Irby, City Manager Donald Anderson and Housing Authority Executive Dir Angela Cothran
Cornelia Mayor James Irby signs a letter of thanks to the Northeast Georgia Housing Authority for a property easement along level grove road

The gift of an easement from the Housing Authority saved taxpayers $978, the fair market value of the property provided. “I hope more people will take notice and decide to donate their easements,” Anderson says. “We’re eating up the project money paying for easements.”

A bill from Georgia Power is also taking a bite out of the grant money. The company is charging the city $77,286 to relocate the power poles currently standing in the way of the sidewalk plan. That may sound like a high price but Anderson says the power company is actually cutting them a deal, “The original cost estimate for this portion of the project was $200,000. We’ve worked with Georgia Power and got the cost down.”

This project was initially approved in 2011 and while this week’s announcements signify some progress, the remaining property owners along the road will need to sell or donate easements to the city before the real work can begin.

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