MARIETTA — Cobb officials took steps Tuesday toward making a countywide trail system and a $33.5 million east Cobb road project a reality, though construction on both is still a ways away.

Regarding the road project, commissioners unanimously gave the go-ahead to pursue condemnation proceedings by declaration of taking on two condos in the Turnberry Lane neighborhood off Terrell Mill and Bentley Roads, as well as a two-unit apartment building at the Forest Ridge on Terrell Mill apartments southwest of Turnberry Lane at 1557 Terrell Mill Road.

The county says the land on which these residences sit is needed for its Windy Hill-Terrell Mill Connector project, an 0.8-mile four-lane road designed to relieve traffic along Powers Ferry Road and Interstate 75 between Windy Hill and Terrell Mill roads.

“It’s just a step we typically take ... we’ll continue negotiations and working with the owners of the properties and any other tenants until we get to the very end, and if there’s no additional time, then we could start those (condemnation) proceedings,” explained Erica Parish, Cobb’s transportation director, following Tuesday’s meeting. “We definitely would prefer to not go that far — we’d rather work with all the property owners out there.”

Tuesday’s measure “doesn’t mean the county has reached the point where they have to condemn,” said Commissioner Bob Ott, who represents east Cobb.

“It’s part of the process,” he said. “It’s done at a certain point in time so the process can continue, so that it doesn’t get bogged down, but the right-of-way acquisition crews are in their process of negotiating with the homeowners right now. It’s always unfortunate if you have to come in and buy somebody’s residence, and we’ve had that discussion in the past, but because of environmental concerns and issues, that’s how the route of the road became what it is.”

Parish said additional condemnation proceedings are expected to be put before county commissioners as soon as their Jan. 22 meeting.

The Windy Hill-Terrell Mill Connector will connect Windy Hill Road at Spectrum Circle in the south to Terrell Mill Road at its intersection with Bentley Road to the north.

The project will be funded using $20 million from the 2016 Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, as well as nearly $12 million designated by the Georgia Department of Transportation.

The county estimates right-of-way acquisition will cost about $20 million, with the county expecting to complete the needed acquisitions by May. Construction could start late this year and remains on pace to open within the first half of 2022.

Another approved transportation-related matter, though unrelated to road traffic, was a $454,239 consultant services agreement with Kimley-Horn and Associates for engineering and design of the West Atlanta Street Trail. The project calls for a multi-use pathway spanning 0.72 miles that would run along the east side of West Atlanta Road, beginning at its intersection with Pearl Street, going south across South Cobb Drive and down to Dunn Avenue.

The project would fill in a gap in the Mountain to River Trail, a 13.5-mile system designed to stretch from Kennesaw Mountain to the Chattahoochee River using trails built by Cobb County, the city of Marietta and the Cumberland Community Improvement District.

The West Atlanta Street project’s estimated cost is about $2.5 million, though a final price tag has yet to be determined as its design remains pending. The county is aiming to start construction on the trail at the end of 2020.

OTHER BUSINESS

Commissioners also approved several measures aimed at developing new facilities for county firefighters and medical examiners:

* The county will spend more than $1.56 million to acquire and perform due diligence on nearly 2 acres of land at Canton Road and Centerview Drive to become the future site of a new Fire Station 12. It would replace the existing Station 12, which dates back to 1964 and is located on Brackett Road just off Canton Road and north of Piedmont Road.

Cobb Fire Chief Randy Crider said his department aims to be in the new fire station by early 2021.

Expected to be built and operational by this summer, however, is an estimated $500,000 indoor physical agility testing facility for firefighters. Commissioners gave Crider the go-ahead to accept sealed bids from contractors who could construct the facility within the Cobb County Fire & Emergency Services Annex at 3200 Austell Road, south of Pair Road.

As proposed, the 6,500-square-foot facility would include nearly a dozen different stations to test and evaluate firefighters, such as the stair climb, ladder carry and mount, victim rescue and more.

* An initial phase contract with Batson-Cook Company for more than $1.1 million will cover the design, project fee and general conditions costs for a new medical examiner laboratory.

Expected to cost $10 to $11 million, the laboratory is on the county’s 2016 Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax project list but only had $3 million in SPLOST funds earmarked for it. Commissioners in November voted to supplement the set-aside SPLOST funds with $8 million in general fund revenues.

A location for the future facility has yet to be finalized,

All of Tuesday’s votes were unanimous but were without Commissioner JoAnn Birrell, who left the meeting early to attend the funeral mass of community advocate Barbara Hickey, who passed away Jan. 2 at age 72 due to ALS.

Commissioners held a moment of silence for Hickey near the start of Tuesday’s meeting.

Follow Jon Gargis on Twitter at https://twitter.com/JonGargis

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