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June 21, 2012 Issue

Wrens plans to take down tree and tower
Stapleton lays off chief and two officers
Four injured in Father’s Day wreck
Wadley approves streetscape project

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Wrens plans to take down tree and tower

By Parish Howard

Two of Wrens’ tallest icons’ days are numbered.

Safety concerns for both individuals and city property are the primary reasons the city is currently planning to remove the old water tower that stands over city hall and the huge live oak tree located in the center of Veterans’ Memorial Park.


Mayor Lester Hadden said that every time a strong wind storm blows through town, he is concerned about the rusted tower and the dying limbs and the damage and injuries they could cause.

“It’s dangerous and needs to come down,” Hadden said of the water tower. “Not only is it old and difficult to work on, requiring a crane to reach the top because it’s no longer safe to climb, but it’s also covered in old lead paint.”

The tank was a part of the city’s first water works system, built sometime after a November of 1925 bond was voted on by local residents to fund the water system. The bond passed 148 to 4. At the time there were 212 registered voters in Wrens according to city records.

Hadden said that the city’s emergency communications antenna, currently used by the county’s 911 services, are located on the water tower, but those devices are expected to be moved in a matter of weeks.

“Once the new tower is up we want to spend a couple of weeks making sure that it is working like it needs to and then we’ll begin making preparations to take down the water tower,” Hadden said.

The scrap metal in the tower is likely to be a part of the deal with the contractor who takes it down, the mayor said.

“We looked at what it would take to take care of the water tower,” Hadden said. “It’s going to cost around $17,000 we think to take it down, but it would be $85,000 to fill it with concrete and paint it, and that doesn’t even cover the danger of it falling. The footings are rusting out. It just isn’t safe.”

Hadden said that the contractor who takes the tower down will cut it up and sell it for scrap, using the price he gets for the scrap metal to offset the city’s cost.

“He also takes responsibility for all the environmental issues associated with that lead paint and the clean up,” Hadden said. “Some people see it as kind of an icon, others have been asking us to take it down for years.”

The oak in the veterans’ park behind the city’s post office is much older than the water tower. A paved skating rink surrounded it for more than 50 years before the park was built.

“Better Home Town has put a lot of work into our veterans park,” Hadden said. “We are very proud of it. It all looks real good.”

The city and its Better Home Town organization are afraid that storms and strong winds will eventually break off the tree’s limbs which could damage the park’s thousands-of-dollars-worth of benches, tables, brickwork, signage and monuments.

Hadden said the city has had tree experts from Augusta and Louisville inspect the tree. They have had the tree treated, he said, dead limbs professionally removed and have been fighting the mistletoe that is growing throughout the old Live Oak.

“They all said it was only a matter of time,” Hadden said. “There are dead limbs in it now.”

The mayor said Otis Tree Service saw it most recently and told them that they could take out the dead limbs, but that parts of the tree are hollow and other limbs would be dying.

Tony Otis, owner and operator of Otis Tree Service, said he has been talking with the city about the tree for over a year.

“I’m no certified arborist, but I have run into situations like this with trees all over,” Otis said. “Trees are like people. At some point, they’ve lived their life. The last three years have been devastating to trees, both pines and hardwoods. The extreme heat and drought have taken their toll. A lot of trees that were already weakened by storms, age or disease can’t deal with these weather conditions. “

Otis said he believes that when the grading work was done for the park the old live oak’s root system might have been disturbed.

“It’s everything coming together,” Otis said. “The damage, the weather…If the city doesn’t do something soon one of those dead branches is going to fall out and do some real damage to the park.

“They wouldn’t be spending the city tax dollars well if they don’t do something to protect the parts of the park they have already spent all of that money on,” Otis said. “It’s true, we won’t see another tree there that size in our lifetimes. But the city can take this one down and plant others so that in 50 or 60 years the people living here will have something to be proud of.”

Otis said that if the city called in an arborist who wanted to spray fertilizer on the roots and continue to treat the diseased portions of the tree, it could cost the city up to $5,000.

“And it’s more than likely the tree will die after all of that anyway,” Otis said. “We’ve talked about taking out just the dead limbs, but with all the work they’ve done there in the park, I’m going to have to fly them out anyway. And if they do that, over time it is liable to cost them five times as much as if we just took the whole tree down at once.

“Nobody loves trees better than we do, but the city has to spend its tax dollars as wisely as it can. It’s unfortunate that the tree has to come down, but anybody who gets out and looks at it can tell that this tree is on its way out.”

Wrens Better Hometown members Peggianne Chalker, Peggy Sheppard and Walter Hannah all said that they would rather find some way to keep the tree, but after talking to people about it over the last few years, they have accepted that it is going to have to come down.

“We just hate to do this,” Chalker said. “We would much rather be able to keep the tree where it is, but it’s just hanging in there and it doesn’t look like we’re going to be able to save it.”

Under the tree is the city’s veterans’ memorial, which bears 780 names of area men and women who have served in the United States armed forces. There are at least that many available bricks already in place for names to be added to the memorial in the future.

At $50 a brick, the Better Home Town members are afraid that if pieces of the tree damage the memorial, they will not have the funds to repair or replace them.

“There’s probably $15,000 to $16,000 in the message boards, tables and benches alone,” Sheppard said. “It’s a beautiful old tree. We treated it and they’ve cut out the bad limbs. I just don’t know what else we can do.”

Hadden said the tree could come down as quickly as in the next two weeks.

Stapleton lays off chief and two officers

By Carol McLeod
Staff Writer

After an executive session Thursday, June 14, Stapleton City Council voted to lay off the city’s police chief, Jon Hills, and all police officers except one, Steve Mathis who was retained as a part time officer.

The council voted to hire a full time police chief, with the closing date for accepting applications to be Monday, July 2, at 5 p.m.


The city council voted to have the public safety committee review the applications and make a recommendation to the council at the next council meeting, scheduled for Thursday, July 2, at 6 p.m.

The public safety committee is made up of two council members, Willie Moss and Jason Irby.

Council voted for the layoffs, which affect a total of three officers, to take place immediately. Besides Hill, the other officers laid off were Joe Mentor and Mike Patton.

The lay off was effective immediately.

In other news, the council established a policy for picking up limbs from residences. Residents will get one free truck load per month, after which there will be a $25 per truck load charge applied. The limbs will not be picked up until after the fee has been paid.

Mayor Frank Parrish told the council mulch had been put in the city park.

“It looks real good,” he said.

“The county came in and done that for us,” Parrish said, adding the county did a good job.

The city clerk, Gail Berry, told the council the EPD inspected the water tank and said the overflow pipe is currently deficient.

“This is the first time it’s noted; but, it’s been noted,” she said.

Councilman Kevin Prescott made a motion to send out for bids for the overflow pipe work. The motion passed.

Council also accepted the second reading of the fiscal year 2012 budget amendment ordinance and the fiscal year 2013 budget ordinance.

Four injured in Father’s Day wreck

By Carol Mcleod
Staff Writer

A trooper with the Georgia State Patrol cited a 55-year-old Florida woman for failure to yield in a two-car accident on State Route 88 and State Route 296.

The accident occurred on Sunday, June 17, about 12:30 p.m. when the vehicle the woman was driving crossed State Route 88 from State Route 296 and struck another vehicle.


The woman, identified as Patricia Hinton of Ormond Beach, Fla., was driving a 2007 Chevrolet Silverado.

A spokesman with the GSP stated Tuesday Hinton’s vehicle was approaching the intersection of State Route 88 and another vehicle, a 2009 GMC Sierra, was traveling eastbound on State Route 88 approaching the intersection of State Route 296.

Hinton’s vehicle, identified in the trooper’s report as vehicle one, crossed over the westbound lane of State Route 88 and continued to travel southbound on State Route 296, the spokesman said.

“Then vehicle number one attempted to cross over the eastbound lane of 88. The driver pulled into the path of vehicle two. Vehicle two struck the right front of vehicle one with the front of vehicle number two. Vehicle one came to a final rest on the paved shoulder of State Route 88, facing east. Vehicle two came to a final rest after striking a ditch on the south side of State Route 88,” she said.

Hinton was transported to Georgia Health Sciences University, formerly the Medical College of Georgia, in Augusta.

The driver of the other vehicle and two passengers in the car were also taken to GHSU.

Wadley approves streetscape project

By Carol Mcleod
Staff Writer

In its monthly meeting Monday, Wadley City Council approved a streetscape project for its downtown area.

Ryan Thompson, a registered landscape architect with Thomas & Hutton in Savannah, asked the city council to approve a bid for Transportation Enhancement (TE) funds the city has been awarded.


Thompson said the project had been bid in December 2011; and, the bids were opened in January.

“The bids were too high,” he said. The project was scaled down and rebid.

The bid he recommended was the low bid, which was from E & D Coatings in Savannah.

The architect said there were not enough funds to do the parking lot that had been a part of the original plan.

“We can’t just go and award the contract,” he said, adding the project has to be approved by the state’s department of transportation.

“We’re hoping for a council authorization to get this back to DOT,” he said. The DOT’s approval could take between 30 and 45 days, he said. Then the contractor has 180 days to complete the project.

Thompson said the project as proposed includes lighting by Georgia Power for $49,000.

“It’s part of the contract,” he said. “They’ll continue to own and operate the lights.”

Thompson said this will be decorative, pedestrian lighting; and, there will be 12, rather than the 14 called for in the original project.

He told the council there will have to be construction oversight as part of the overall project.

This will be a third party who is familiar with DOT practices, he said.

The total cost of the project is $363,046.19, with the city responsible for about 20 percent. Thompson said DOT’s portion will be $283,320, leaving a balance of about $79,726.19 as the city’s responsibility.

“The city pays the contractors and then gets reimbursed,” he said, emphasizing the need for the oversight as a means to ensure everything is handled by DOT guidelines.

Thompson said the plans call for a bulb out type of area on the sidewalks at the intersections and said, “There’ll still be space for parallel parking.”

“It’s the section between Railroad Avenue and Wall Street, going down Main Street to Gunn Drugs,” Thompson said in a telephone interview Tuesday. “That’ll be basically the limits of the project.”

A streetscape project, which this will be, means new sidewalks and some planting, he said.

The bulb outs are areas at the intersections that shorten the distance pedestrians have to cross, he said.

Council members in prior meetings have discussed these areas of the street where cars are parked so near the intersection drivers have to pull into the intersection to see around them.

“What we’re doing now will be a good solution for that,” Thompson said.

Thompson said there’s a bid bond, which means the bid for the project will not change between now and when the contractor starts work. The architect said the project should be completed sometime during the winter.

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