Road mending giving officials budget issues

LAWRENCEVILLE - With so many major roads set for repair this year, water system officials are scrambling for cash to get pipes out of the way.

"It's been a busy couple of years on state projects, and we'll adjust our budgets according," said George Kaffezakis, chief engineer of the Gwinnett Department of Water Resources. "We have no option but to move our utilities. They want the roads."

When budgets were adopted earlier this year, officials were expecting to pay less to move pipes disturbed by the reconstruction of the Ga. Highway 316 interchange at Interstate 85.

While the department knew it would have to move water pipes running parallel to the interstate, drawings later revealed a large sewer pipe running perpendicular to the interstate would be impacted by the construction.

To protect the pipe, crews agreed to build platforms to carry the weight of 12,000 tons of dirt, but the job is costing the Water Resources Department $2 million.

The department also had to find another $1.2 million to move the pipes affected by the planned widening of Ga. Highway 120, which is expected to begin soon.

Kaffezakis said the county still wasn't sure how two more major road repairs would affect the utility - the widening of Ga. Highway 20 through Grayson and a median project for U.S. Highway 78 from Stone Mountain to Snellville.

The Georgia Department of Transportation has not yet issued a contract on either project.

According to department Director Frank Stephens, the county was able to scrap together some funds when other projects came in under budget.

Also, officials decided to only replace a third of the aerators at a local plant, saving about $1.2 million.

In the future, finding the cash will be a little easier, thanks to a recent move by the Board of Commissioners.

Stephens decided to place all road-related utility projects into a generic category instead of having a line-item for each project, and the board approved the idea.

That allows for more freedom in moving funds from one project to another, Stephens said.