Bikers cross county in two-day Tour de Louie
• Around 37 cyclists from across Georgia tour area over the weekend
By Jennifer Flowers
With willing hearts and heavy eyelids, Team Cutlet, George Brewton, Lil Agel and Hulet Kitterman opened the Louisville Academy gymnasium at six o'clock on Saturday morning to kick off the first Tour de Louie bike ride.
In the next two hours, riders registered for their route of choice and prepared themselves for the day ahead before being led out of town by police escorts at 8 a.m.
Seven of the 22 riders on Saturday opted for the 100-mile loop. Of the 15 riders on Sunday, most chose the 50-mile route.
The Riders Speak
"I was excited about the number of people who came for the first ride," said Jean Miller, who organized the ride. "It was a lower turnout than expected, but it will only grow if we continue to host the ride each year."
She believes the low turnout was due to the fact that most cyclists don't like to ride in cold weather, and the morning temperature was around 32 degrees both mornings.
The Tour de Louie staff also found that a later start time could bring in more riders.
"Riders were on their way from Atlanta on Saturday morning and called at 7:30, saying they were just getting off the Warrenton exit," Miller said. "They ended up not being able to make it in time for the ride."
The participating cyclists hailed from numerous cities across Georgia, including Alpharetta, Conyers, Atlanta, Statesboro, Augusta, Gordon, Macon, Milledgeville, North Augusta, Thomson, Gibson, Louisville and Stapleton.
These bikers rode a total of 1,847 miles across the county.
After finishing their courses, riders enjoyed a lunch provided by Lil' Jake's Barbecue both days.
"The food was excellent, and Lil' Jake's' preparation was right on time," Miller said.
As riders enjoyed the lunch, they shared their experiences and opinions of the ride.
"Comments from the riders were extremely complimentary of Jefferson County," Miller said. "They commented on the beauty of the county, how beautiful the route was. Riders were not only impressed by the beauty of the ride, but also by the hospitality of the people of Jefferson County."
Cyclists commented favorably on the amiability of the Supply And Gear (SAG) station attendants.
"Sandersville Technical College, led by Matt Hodges, did an awesome job," she said. "Riders not only enjoyed refreshments and nourishments, but also a fun time of fellowship with the workers."
She also commented on the dedication of those overseeing the Wrens Fire Department station.
"They worked SAG stations both Saturday and Sunday and were willing to do anything to help," she said.
A third SAG station was managed by a group of youth from First Baptist Church of Louisville, led by Angela Stavely.
"This group was dedicated and awesome, waiting several hours on the 100-mile route for riders," Miller said.
The SAG station at Jim McAllister's in Grange was headed up by Harry and Carllene Veal, George Brewton and Jim McAllister.
"This was a fantastic group," Miller said. "Their support was much needed after riders battled the hills from Gibson."
The last SAG station was provided by Lil Agel and family.
"It was the most remote station, but much appreciated by tired riders as they finished the last leg of the 100-mile route," Miller said.
The Tour de Louie was the first serious bicycling tour for Ron Bussey of North Augusta.
"It's a great route," Bussey said. "It would really be wonderful without the wind."
Tim Corbin of Augusta, a veteran rider of three or four years, echoed Bussey's sentiments.
"It's a good ride," he said. "The traffic is pretty light and the drivers have been fairly courteous. It's also nice that it isn't too far from home."
Bernie Baker, also of Augusta, agreed.
"These are good roads. There isn't a lot of traffic and no one has buzzed by us. We were chased by a few dogs, but that just keeps it interesting," he said, laughing.
The day after the ride, Marty Pinion of Thomson emailed Tour de Louie, saying, "Had a blast! Very well planned. The stops were at just the right places and the servers were the best. Maybe I will recuperate before next year."
Of course, this being the first year, there were a couple of glitches.
"The most negative comment regarded a dog somewhere between Stapleton and Avera," Miller said. "This was obviously a very persistent dog who didn't want to give up the chase for several miles."
One rider, Dr. William Lavigne of Augusta, rode both the Saturday and Sunday rides.
Saturday's ride took Dr. Lavigne on an adventurous route, as he missed a turn onto Hwy. 88. The turn would have taken him into Matthews, but he ended up continuing into Keysville and soon found himself in Blythe.
After returning, Dr. Lavigne told those waiting at the finish line, "When I saw 'Welcome to Augusta Richmond County,' I thought, 'Uh-oh, I'm in trouble.'"
Still, Dr. Lavigne carried on, undaunted by missing the turn. He simply consulted the maps provided by Tour de Louie and made his way back to Wrens via Hwy. 1.
From there, he traveled the 100-mile route, hoping to find a SAG station along the way where he could find nourishment. He somehow missed each SAG station and decided to take his own shortcut through the county back to Louisville. Tour de Louie workers began backtracking routes in search of him. Suddenly, he appeared at the finish line, at the completion of a 104-mile tour of Jefferson County.
Upon returning, he laughed and talked about the beautiful scenery he saw while traveling on his own route. The next morning, he arrived at registration with a cluster of balloons given to him by Ingles to mark the turn that he had missed the previous day.
Tour de Louie staff marked the turn, and just before Dr. Lavigne reached that point of the ride, SAG wagon driver Neal Miller and assistant Chris Flowers, both of whom had been waiting at the intersection, exited their truck and waved him in the right direction.
Upon reaching the finish line after Sunday's 52-mile ride, he was enthusiastic and repeatedly expressed a desire to see the ride flourish in the coming years, stating that he intends to be a major sponsor of future Tour de Louies.
For Mark Baggerly, the Tour de Louie was his first bike ride ever. He was accompanied by his son, Wade, who talked him into riding 50 miles with him.
"I felt great from the waist up, but my legs were beginning to give out," M. Baggerly said at the end of the ride. "I just bought my bike at Christmas and had a total of 30 miles on it before this ride."
Many of the riders offered suggestions and free assistance for next year's Tour de Louie.
The Colavita Racing team offered to set up Tour de Louie's website with pictures and promote it across the internet with Colavita Racing.
Andy Jordan, former Jefferson County resident and owner of Andy Jordans Bicycle Warehouse, expressed interest in helping the ride grow and be successful and is a valuable source for ride promotion and organization.
"I am really grateful for all the support the people of Jefferson County offered to make the Tour de Louie possible," Miller said. "There were so many enthusiastic groups and individuals supporting this event.
"I truly appreciate the efforts of George Brewton, Lil Agel and Hulet Kitterman. These people provided a location for event headquarters and assisted with registration, sacrificing early morning hours when most people are still asleep to make the Tour de Louie a success."
Ingles provided all of the food nourishments for riders and Prescott Septic Tank Company provided port-a-potties.
New owners invite former Pine Valley residents back
• Developers say they hope to have the first phase of improvements completed in 30 days
By Parish Howard
The new owners of Pine Valley Apartments in Wrens have a message for the 40-some-odd families recently displaced.
"We just want to tell them to come back home," said Timothy Lowery, an associate of William "Billy" O. Key Jr., the Augusta attorney who bid on and purchased the apartment complex at the federal foreclosure auction on the Jefferson County Courthouse steps Tuesday afternoon.
Bidding started at $5,000, and in the end, Key purchased the property, its six acres and seven buildings for $16,000 plus closing costs and other expenses.
At The Bidding
Key was one of two bidders on the property, which includes 32 two-bedroom apartments and 20 three-bedroom units.
According to L.J. Swertfeger Jr., the Federal Foreclosure Commissioner who handled the sale, the original mortgage on the property, issued in 1973, was $678,000, and the current mortgage is $661,000.
Lowery said that as long as the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) allows them access to the property, they hope to begin work on remodeling the apartments as soon as next week, and that he believes they could have the first phase of apartments completed and ready for rent in the next 30 days. The entire complex could conceivably be ready in the next four months, Lowery said.
HUD estimates that the property will need close to $1.2 million in repairs, and so required bidders to provide a $300,000 letter of credit to bid.
Both Lowery and Key said they first found out about the pending foreclosure through The News and Farmer/The Jefferson Reporter.
Former Pine Valley resident Cynthia Smith attended the sale to find out first hand what was going to happen to her former home of nearly two years.
Plans for Improvements
"I've found a temporary place," she said. "But once they fix it up, I'll go back. I just want to go back home."
Smith's family was one of around 40 given 30-days notice by the property's former owner, TAMCO Inc., at the end of February to find a new home. Like a number of the residents, Smith received a Department of Community Affairs (DCA) housing choice voucher.
The residents were told to find new housing after the project-based HUD subsidy was discontinued Jan. 31. The subsidy was discontinued because TAMCO had defaulted on its HUD loan, failing to pay the mortgage for a number of years.
Over the years, the property has seen very little physical improvement or maintenance, and during DCA's fall inspections, only four of the complex's 52 units were found to be in compliance. In letters dated Feb. 6 pinned to their doors, residents were notified that the subsidy had expired, Pine Valley would not accept any DCA issued vouchers and they had 30 days to make other arrangements.
"It was wrong, the way they did it," Smith said. "They could have handled it in a better way."
For now, she, other former residents, and even some neighbors of the apartment complex are just glad that someone has taken it over and there are plans to renovate the property.
Joey McBride grew up in Wrens and had just moved back in the last few days to a house across the street from the complex. He was at the bidding Tuesday afternoon to see what was to become of Pine Valley.
"I'd heard they had closed it," McBride said. "And the other night, when I first drove up, it was so dark back in there. It used to be a nice place. It's in a nice area. If someone came in and took care of it, it could be a nice place again."
Lowery said that while they own several homes, at least one of which is a HUD-subsidized property, Pine Valley will be their first multi-family endeavor.
"We are definitely interested in the voucher program," Lowery said. "Vouchers are welcomed and encouraged. We're also hoping that a lot of the former residents, especially the seniors, come back to Pine Valley. We definitely want them to apply."
Lowery said that they would take the apartments in the best shape and get them ready first, so that people could move in as soon as possible.
Lowery also said that he has already been in touch with members of the Wrens Police Department and plans to work closely with them.
"I spoke to one officer who said he lived there when he was a child and that it used to be a good place," Lowery said. "He told me that (more recently) there were about five families that caused problems, but that with the right management, it could be a great place to live."
Other plans for the complex include repaving the drive and adding a more child-friendly playground, all new appliances in the apartments, stripping the gas system and using a more affordable total electric heat pump system.
"These people are on fixed incomes," Lowery said. "They can't afford gas rates the way they are now."
HUD estimates the property needs around $1.2 million in repairs.
Key now has 15 days to file the appropriate paperwork with HUD. If he fails to do so, HUD could reject the bid. If the bid is rejected, it would go to the second highest bidder, Thomas Straight of Indiana, who bid $15,000 on the property.
Locals see DOT plans for U.S. One widening
• A church and other properties will have to be moved, officials say
By Faye Ellison
The Georgia Department of Transportation (DOT) recently held an open house at Jefferson County High School to receive input from the community on the proposed widening of U.S. Highway 1.
The widening will start at the north end of the Wadley bypass and end at State Route 88 in Wrens.
The plans are to take the two-lane road and turn it into a four-lane divided highway.
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District 2 Communications Officer Vonda Everett said that 121 citizens came to the open house, which she said was a good turnout.
Only 31 comments were submitted during the open house, with 16 giving approval for the widening, nine approving conditionally, two uncommitted and four against the widening all together.
One concern that many people had at the open house is about Canaan Galilee Baptist Church being relocated. According to Everett, there is a historic property across from the church that will not allow the Department of Transportation to build on that side of the highway.
“Church members really came out to find out as much as they possibly could about the right of way acquisition process,” Everett said.
Everett said that the Department of Transportation will begin to secure the land needed to widen the road in 2007.
“Since we are widening the roadway, utilities will definitely need to be relocated,” she said. “There are some proposed houses and/or businesses that will need to be relocated.”
Everett said that a total of six businesses would have to be relocated, including Cobb’s Fish House in Louisville and three buildings on Tony Wren’s property in Wrens. Everett said she believes the structures on the Wren property are old car lot buildings.
Everett said that the plans for the widening of the highway have been around since 1989 as a part of the Governor’s Road Improvement Program and it was one of the original 14 corridors included in the program when it was initiated.
Everett went on to say that one of the Governor’s Road Improvement Program purposes was to ensure that 98 percent of all areas in the state will be within 20 miles of a four-lane road.
“The Governor’s Road Improvement Program is intended to foster economic growth in Georgia as well as provide safer and more efficient transportation,” Everett added.
The U.S. 1 Highway stretches throughout Georgia from U.S. 441 in Habersham County and extends to the Florida State Line at Folkston, Everett added. The corridor is approximately 331 miles in length. As of now, 133 miles, or 40 percent, of the corridor is open to traffic or under construction.
The cost to complete the entire corridor is $743,400,000, making it will the same throughout with four lanes of roadway divided with a 44’ wide grass median.
The proposed local widening is projected to start in 2009. The project will be divided into four different segments of U.S. 1 construction, Everett said.
“I would guess that each section would take approximately two years or more to construct depending on the length,” she said. “It is possible that two or more sections could be under construction at the same time.”
Everett added that there will be no detours involved, and that with the construction taking place in phases, there should be no effect on traffic.
The cost to acquire the right of way along all four sections is estimated at $10 million, according to Everett. Construction costs are estimated for all sections from Wadley to Wrens to be $66 million, coming from federal and state funds.
Information about open houses and public outreach can be found on the Department of Transportation’s website at www.dot.state.ga.us.