Weather and staffing shortages are reasons Bulloch County commissioners voted Tuesday to hire a contractor to do grading work at the Bulloch County multipurpose arena.
Originally, the county agreed to do the site work for the arena on Langston Chapel Road, but with demands for dirt road repair, coupled with a staffing shortage, country crews have been busy keeping up.
The commission voted to spend an extra $50,000 to get the work done by an outside contractor so the arena can open on schedule without delaying road repairs and grading.
The arena project was placed on an 18-year hiatus after Bulloch County residents voted in 1999 to spend $6.1 million in Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax funds to build the arena, a “one-stop-shop” office complex for multiple agriculture-related businesses and a conference center.
The office complex was built, but the conference center phase was abandoned and the arena construction was delayed until last year.
The project was to cost $4,282,200, but in January another $1 million was added to bring it up to $5,300,00. Other change orders have increased the cost to just over $6 million, said Bulloch County Manager Tom Couch. That sum is still around the original 1999 SPLOST amount originally approved for the project.
Staff shortage and excessive rainfall
The Bulloch County Roads Department is getting hit twofold, caught between what seems to be never-ending road repairs due to heavy rains and not having enough skilled motor grader operators, said Bulloch County Board of Commissioners Chairman Roy Thompson.
“We lost some operators, but have been able to hire three,” he said. “But with all the ditches and dirt roads needing work, we could not take the motor graders (off the road repairs) to the arena site.”
With 35 inches of rain reported in June and July alone, road work has been a steady challenge, he said.
“The road department has been getting hammered,” Couch said.
But the grading work at the arena must be done in order for others to complete their work, said Billy Springer, arena director.
“We are at a point where we can’t do landscaping, road work or fences until the grading is done,” he said.
The arena is slated to open this fall, and there are at least a dozen groups eager to book events, he said. The Savannah Kennel Club and two other canine trial groups are waiting, as well as several equestrian groups that want to book events, he said.
“And that is without solicitation,” he added.
Word of mouth already has a number of groups that want to book events, and when it is time to advertise, Springer said he is confident “Bulloch County will see an event just about every weekend.”
“We have to get that (grading work) completed,” Thompson said. “Other trades cannot work until the earth moving is done.”
Springer said it has yet to be determined which contractor will be hired to do the site work, but the work should begin by next week.
“We’re at a happy spot with it, but anxious to get (the arena project) over with,” Couch said.
By late fall, the arena is expected to be completed and events booked.
Herald reporter Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912)489-9414.