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Residents question dam repair

By Justin Boron

Leaning over the rail at the Lake Jodeco Dam, Gary Samuel drops his line in the water and sips from a drink wrapped in brown paper.

"It would be terrible if I couldn't fish here anymore," he said, dangling his legs in the gap between Lake Jodeco and Lake Spivey.

Samuel said he casts his troubles into the water every week whenever he sits down for a long day of reeling in catfish, bass, and bream on his day off.

But he and many of his neighbors worry that the Lake Jodeco and Joy Lake Dam repair project scheduled to begin this spring could alter their lakeside recreation and divert traffic through their neighborhoods.

The county commission approved more than $446,000 Tuesday for an engineering study, construction, and inspection aimed at repairs to the dams that transportation officials say if left untouched, could continue to deteriorate and render Lake Jodeco Road impassable.

"There is no imminent threat, but there is the potential for bridge failure," said Wayne Patterson, director of transportation and development.

The money for the project would come from Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax.

Some of the homeowners in the lakeside neighborhood are skeptical that the dams even need repair, said Dave Keplinger, the president of Jodeco Homeowners Association.

Patterson claims the dams have been weakened by an overgrowth of trees with roots jutting through them.

"All the trees will have to be removed," he said. "The waterway underneath the road will have to be re-built."

The homeowners association represents about 200 homes surrounding the lake.

Keplinger said the plans to repair the dams have raised questions about the far-reaching intentions of the county.

There is a possibility of raising the bridge to allow boats to pass underneath, he said.

Keplinger also said he has heard about plans to add a sidewalk to the bridge and straighten the curving road as it enters Henry County.

County Commission Chairman Crandle Bray confirmed plans for the dam-related projects, but said the bridge raising would not be to a level where boats could pass between the two lakes.

He also said traffic would not be diverted through the neighborhoods.

Instead, one lane of the bridge would be closed.

Talk of the sidewalk and road alteration is tenuous subject matter for the residents because the planned projects could require right-of-way property acquisition, Keplinger said.

"It's going to be interesting to see how people react to the idea of putting in a sidewalk," he said. "Anytime they have to give up part of their lawn and have people walking on their property, it doesn't go over well."

The homeowners association has asked for a public awareness meeting to address the county's plans for the repairs, but has received a less-than-enthusiastic response, Keplinger said.

The residents would like to confer their input before any plans or studies are drawn, he said.

"I would rather have input on the plans sooner than later," Keplinger said. "So far the county hasn't been too interested."