Duluth OKs right of way purchase for Hill Street extension

DULUTH -- The Duluth City Council in a called meeting Monday authorized purchase of the necessary right of way at a cost of $1.1 million from Capitol Materials Inc. to extend Hill Street to Buford Highway at the intersection with Davenport Road.

The agreement between the city and Capitol Materials would provide the city with 65 feet of right of way and an option to purchase an additional 15 feet if necessary. The council also agreed to lease Capitol Materials the continued use of the property for up to three years with an option for the company to extend the lease for an additional two years.

It would be the city's responsibility to tear down the building currently on the right of way.

Councilman Billy Jones voiced concern that the city would be "spending a big chunk of SPLOST funds for a project five years down the line," but voted along with the city's other four council members to proceed with the right of way purchase.

Councilman Marsha Bomar pointed out that the current downturn in the economy offered the city the opportunity to purchase the property for a lower price.

"This is a significant step in the future of finishing the downtown," said City Administrator Phil McLemore.

The council also authorized the city to enter into an easement agreement with Gwinnett County for widening Pleasant Hill Road in front of W.P. Jones Park.

In a council work session after the called meeting, Economic Development Manager Chris McGahee presented a report on the demolition of the end of Red Clay Theatre that occurred early Monday and stressed the urgency of weatherproofing and stabilizing the open end of the building.

The end of the theater building was demolished to make way for improvements to Ga. Highway 120.

McGahee was authorized to direct the architectural consulting firm of Hill, Foley Rossi & Associates to design a supporting wall for the end of the theater. He also was given the go-ahead to engage a contractor to construct the wall on an emergency basis.

The city plans to quickly hire a company to replace the roof on the adjacent section of the theater, which had been damaged by heavy rains and flooding last fall.

Councilman Jones objected to spending more money on the theater.

The council also discussed matters expected to be on the agenda for its May 10 meeting that include switching companies to provide red light cameras in the city, adopting penalties and fees for false alarm calls, and requiring training for owners and managers of establishments that sell alcohol.