The Stephens County Board of Commissioners will hold a public hearing in June to allow public comment on a petition to abandon a portion of Lake Louise Road.
Lake Louise Road joins East Currahee Street/Hwy. 123 with Prather Bridge Road, crossing the top of the dam that encases the east edge of Lake Louise and providing access to the Georgia Baptist Conference Center as well as Shiloh Baptist Church and several residential areas. The road was blocked off on each end of the dam on Jan. 21 as work began on repairs and improvements to the dam, which is part of the Georgia Baptist Conference Center campus and is owned and maintained by the Executive Committee of the Georgia Baptist Convention.
Construction and infrastructure work crews are considered critical industries under Georgia’s Shelter-In-Place order, and work has continued on the dam, which is being lowered to complete work on the dam make repairs and enhance the dam to increase its rating from a category 2 to a category 1 dam.
Initially, plans were to close the road during the dam work, and reopen the road which provides a frequently-used corridor between Hwy. 123 and Hwy. 184, as soon as the work was completed. However, rebuilding the road once the work on the dam was completed carried accompanying costs, and negotiations with the Georgia Baptist Convention did not result in a solution to funding those expenses that would not have cost taxpayers money, County Administrator Phyllis Ayers told ConnectLocal yesterday.
GBC has petitioned the county to abandon the road, and currently there is no formalized plan of what the status of the road will be following the completion of the dam repairs and improvements.
GBC may not build the road back over the dam, or they may build the road back and leave it as a non-county, private property road, or they may build the roadway back and ask the county to add the roadway back to the county road system, Ayers said.
“You never know what is going to happen,” she said, adding that pushing back the public hearing to abandon the road until June, as opposed to the originally-scheduled April 14 meeting, may mean a solution may have presented itself to address the costs of building the road back without burdening the taxpayers. The original April 14 public hearing was cancelled due to the COVID-19 response and the move from live County Commission meetings to teleconferenced meetings, Ayers said.
According to the legal notice that was published prior to the planned April 14 public hearing, “The Stephens County Board of Commissioners will consider abandonment of a portion of Lake Louise Road, .42 miles from the northerner boundary of the Norfolk Southern Railway Right of Way to the southernmost point of tax map and parcel 040-089 from the county road system on the basis that is has ceased to be used by the public to the extent that no substantial public purpose is served by it and that I is removed form the county road system is otherwise in the best public interest.”
Citizens will have the opportunity to address commissioners regarding the decision to abandon the road; the county is not legally bound to maintain the road and can choose to comply with the request to abandon the section of road that crosses the dam - as requested by GBC. If the Commission chooses to deny the abandonment request, however, they will be required to fund a share of the expenditure to rebuild the roadway. The cost for that project would be close to $3 million, according to Ayers.
If the County approves the abandonment request, Lake Louise Road would remain open on either side of the dam, but would no longer be a through-road.