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Roswell Transportation Committee takes step back to pave way for future projects

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ROSWELL, Ga. — In an effort to dig out from the stalled Oxbo Road realignment project, Roswell officials are planning to reinforce existing guidelines drafted in 2017 to move the multi-million-dollar venture forward.

Officials want to implement a key recommendation cited in a recent report commissioned to investigate cost overruns and delays on the project.

Since the report, conducted by law firm Jarrard & Davis, was delivered in September, the city has made changes to correct the path of the Oxbo Road project. Most recently, the city called on interim Director of Transportation Dan Skalsky to temporarily replace former Director of Transportation Muhammad Rauf. The city has not publicly explained why Rauf was replaced.

During an Oct. 27 Transportation Committee meeting, the City Council approved a motion for staff to begin developing project management standard operating procedures for its Transportation Department.

Skalsky said the list of procedures would address a major issue mentioned in the investigation report – that the Oxbo Road realignment project did not have any real guidance.

An overview of the findings stated the project lacked a defined funding source, failed to have a timely utility relocation plan from Georgia Power and followed improper/inefficient right-of-way acquisition procedures to purchase private property or access rights.

Probe into Oxbo realignment project rings up $71,000 tab

This led to millions in cost overruns including a $2.5 million settlement agreement for failing to meet a deadline the city agreed to when it purchased property on Atlanta Street. In another instance, the city paid a company for property on Maple Street it did not own and then paid again – without receiving a refund – for the acquisition, access rights and to tear down three existing buildings.

The project is now expected to cost close to $14 million. Initial estimates were that the project would cost $9 million.

The new approach the city is taking includes:

• Requiring all staff to read the Roswell Project Management Guidelines 2017 Manual before they can be assigned as a project manager for any city project.

• Attending several Georgia Department of Transportation training programs for locally administered projects.

• Encouraging all transportation project managers to get project management professional certification while employed with the city.

Interim City Administrator Michael Fischer said the Jarrard & Davis report highlighted how staff was not following the Project Management Guidelines 2017 Manual for the Oxbo Road project, despite it having been in place for several years.

“We have the solution,” Fischer said. “It’s that document. We just need to make it more formalized, and that’s what we’re doing. … We want you to know that and approve that so we can move forward with confidence that this is the way to do it.”

Skalsky said another key item in the report’s list of recommendations was to draft an acquisition policy for low-value properties. He recommended adopting the policy from the Georgia Department of Transportation, which has different procedures for properties worth less than $500, $10,000 and $25,000.

Roswell deals with fallout from Oxbo Road project investigation

The legal department is set to begin drafting the resolution to present to the City Council in November.

Also, during the meeting, the council pushed back a vote to sign a contract modification with E.R. Snell Contractor for the Ga. 9/Atlanta Street at Oxbo Road intersection. The contract would have been in an amount not to exceed $616,802.

Fischer said deferring the vote would buy them time so Skalsky and his staff can work on developing a plan to “reactivate” the project.

“Our staff is still not ready to present that,” Fischer said. “… I would not even suggest putting a specific date on it, but deferring it to a future committee meeting as we all work through this process of getting ready to reactive this project at the appropriate time.”

Fischer said it didn’t make sense to grant E.R. Snell a contract when some areas of the project are not ready.

“It’s a very large project, and we’re taking a step back to figure out where we’re at, what properties we have control over and are ready to work on, what properties are not, and we’re not comfortable having a contractor out there working until we know where we’re at so that we don’t make future mistakes,” Fischer said.

In other business at the meeting, the council agreed to sign an intergovernmental agreement for the Old Roswell Road at Warsaw Road Intersection Improvement project. The agreement includes accepting approximately $45,000 in reimbursements that Fulton County will pay Roswell for utility work related to county-owned waterlines.

The project is meant to improve traffic flow by featuring new turning lanes and signal modifications as well as existing sidewalk upgrades on the eastern side of Warsaw Road to match Alpharetta’s improvements on the north side of the intersection. It also includes drainage improvements in front of Mimosa Elementary School.

Roswell council remains divided over development, leadership

Councilman Matthew Tyser said it is a surprisingly dangerous intersection.

“I’ve had calls from property owners in the area asking us please fix this as soon as you possibly can,” Tyser said. “I probably go through it two or three times a week. It doesn’t seem dangerous, but if you look at the accident history here it certainly is, so the quicker, the better on this one.”

The next Transportation Committee meeting is scheduled for 8 a.m. Nov. 17 at City Hall.

Reach Chamian Cruz at 770-847-8079. Follow her on Twitter @xchamian.

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