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SPLOST projects delayed

By Billy Corriher

Two Clayton County Commissioners decided to postpone action on road resurfacing projects in their districts on Tuesday because they were not satisfied with other work the contractor had done in the county.

Commissioner Charley Griswell, whose district is in the southern part of the county, said he was not pleased with the way Marietta-based C.W. Matthews responded to concerns from county residents who live around Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, where the company is working on the airport's new fifth runway.

"I've got problems with Matthews because they've tore up the whole area around (Southern Regional Medical Center) with blasting (for construction of the fifth runway)," he said. "They don't seem to pay any attention to any complaints that come out of that."

Griswell said this made him hesitant to award a taxpayer-funded contract to the company, even though it was the lowest bidder.

"It's all about money over there," he said. "I just think we're doing all those people (around the airport) an injustice."

Commissioner Virginia Gray, who represents the district around the airport, concurred with Griswell and asked to also postpone the decision on giving a contract to C.W. Matthews for resurfacing in her district.

The contracts for the two districts will be paid for by the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax and totaled $3.8 million for the first phase of resurfacing.

Bill Hammack, chief operating officer for C.W. Matthews, defended his company's handling of blasting for the fifth runway.

"We monitor all the blasts, and if there are any complaints, we try to address them," he said.

Hammack said blasting around the new runway won't be completed until next fall, but he said his company has never had a problem receiving contracts for other county projects.

"I think we've enjoyed a good relationship with Clayton County, and I'm a little surprised by (Griswell and Gray's) comments," he said.

The commissioners voted to approve contracts to another company for resurfacing projects for the two other commissioners' districts.

Crandle Bray, chairman of the county commissioners, questioned the wisdom of holding up projects in Griswell's district for something happening on the north side of the county.

"To punish people on the other side of the county for something they're doing around the airport doesn't make sense," he said. "I want to get resurfacing done? as much as I can, as soon as I can."

Bray said he didn't see the need to postpone a decision on accepting the lowest bid until the commissioners meet again in May.

"(Commissioner Gray) won't get any better qualified bid than she will from C.W. Matthews," he said.

The commissioners could reconvene for a special meeting sometime soon if the county receives a decision from the federal Justice Department on a personnel policy that requires county employees to seek a leave of absence from the commissioners to run for office.

Qualifying for candidates begins next week, but County Attorney Don Comer said there's been no word on how fast the Justice Department can rule on the policy as required under the Voting Rights Act.

"Depending on what they do and when they do it, the board may have to reconvene to consider (the Justice Department's) decision," he said.

If the department doesn't make a decision in time for qualifying, Comer said it would be up to the commissioners to decide if the county will go without a policy on employees running for office or rely on a 1963 ordinance that prohibits employees from seeking office.

If the department rules after candidates have qualified, Comer said it would also be up to the county to determine how to enforce the policy.

In other business on Tuesday, the Rev. Charles W. Grant was recognized as the commissioners voted to approve Charles W. Grant Parkway as an honorary name for Aviation Boulevard.

Grant, who has been in charge of the Clayton County Community Service Authority for 38 years, was praised by the commissioners for his service to the county's needy and elderly.

"I know of no man that did any more for Clayton County citizens than Charles Grant," said Griswell. "He was always there for them."

The county also approved a promotional contract with Coca-Cola and a contract to architect Peter H. Hand and Associates for designing the new Clayton County Health Services Center.