“How long are we going to continue to fight this battle?” asked authority treasurer Otis Raybon, publisher of the Rome News-Tribune.
The Rollins family in Cartersville, whose ranch would be bisected by the project, has shown no indication that it will stop fighting the project with every dollar in their checkbook.
Authority Chairwoman Angie Lewis summed up the response to the question by indicating the Department of Transportation needs to get several issues resolved to move forward, likely prompting another lawsuit from the Rollins camp.
“This is the compromise,” Chamber President Al Hodge reminded the authority of the current preferred route. Route D-VE was developed after many years of environmental and traffic safety studies that involved at least 17 public hearings.
“Gov. Nathan Deal, Congressman Phil Gingrey, Sens. Johnny Isakson and Saxby Chambliss have all endorsed D-VE,” Hodge said. “One of our concerns is that any other change to the route will take another seven years,” Hodge said.
“They’ve got more engineers and lawyers than we do,” said authority member Pete McDonald, adding that the Rollins family has shown a willingness to drag the fight out however long it takes.
Lewis said several remaining issues should be resolved this summer, including a decision from the National Historical Register as to whether or not the Dobbins Mountain Mine is in fact a historical property. Lewis said that even if it is, the state is prepared to show it is still in the best interest of the state that the route not be changed.
Another issue remains the city of Euharlee’s conservation easement across the route, which was acquired after the federal record of decision delineating the proposed route had been established. Hodge said that if the easement is upheld as a legal impediment to the project, it could set precedent that could block road projects all over the country.
In other news, Hodge told the authority that the chamber has been extraordinarily busy.
“There are a lot of projects in the pipeline,” Hodge said. “We are marketing buildings, including the other half of the Mohawk distribution building and the Florida Tile building on Highway 53. We are also marketing land as fortunately we do have several places for prospective industries to look at.”
Diane Lewis, chairwoman of the Greater Rome Existing Industries Association, said the jobs event hosted by GREIA and the chamber recently was a huge success.
“Not just for filling current employment positions, but also really for building a pipeline (for future openings),” Lewis said.