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County strikes deal on Old Augusta signal
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Effingham County and the ownership group of a large industrial tract have reached an agreement for a road into the property.

The county has agreed to pay more than $47,000 for a change order to its contract for a new traffic signal at Highway 21 and Old Augusta Road and will be reimbursed by the property owners.

The issue had been tabled twice before and commissioners had denied the property owners’ request at a subsequent meeting. Tommy Exley and Tom Exley Jr. asked the commissioners to allow them to work out specifications for the interchange with the state Department of Transportation.

“I want y’all to go ahead and put the light up,” urged Exley Jr. “Let’s not back up. We’ve been there before.”

Under the agreement, the Exleys also will give the county a 200-foot right-of-way through their tract for a possible east-west connector.

“We feel that is very vital to the county,” said county public works engineer Toss Allen.

Allen said an east-west connector has been in the county’s planning documents.

With a 200-foot right-of-way, the property owners can put in a two-lane road to serve their tract and there is room to expand it to four-lane road.

With the change order, the strain poles that hold the wires for the signal aloft will be moved to accommodate an entrance into the Exleys’ property.

“We have to do this,” Exley Jr. said.

The younger Exley said the state was adamant in wanting the intersection to line up.

“They don’t want people shooting across to have to pick a lane,” he said. “We don’t have to move the poles again.”

County officials said there is the possibility of commercial development if the property owners built a road to tie into Highway 21, and if the commissioners didn’t act, it could take place in the Chatham County section of the tract.

Tom Exley Jr. said the commissioners still will exert control since any site plan will have to come before them for approval. He added their engineering firm is adamant about what they will have to put down for a heavy truck road.

He also said he didn’t want a road with a 55 mph speed limit that will have commercial and industrial development along it.

The entrance road into the Exleys property originally was planned to be opposite from the Effingham Park of Commerce entrance. Instead, the state is telling the Exleys the entrance road has to match the Old Augusta Road interchange, Exley Sr. said.

“We’re going to spend a lot more money if we had left it where it was,” he said.

Murray Marshall of Atlantic Investors asked commissioners to move ahead with the pact to put in the traffic light. He worried that further delays could deter potential prospects.

“There are people looking at Effingham County and that intersection,” he said. “A month might not make a bit of difference. But it might.”

Commissioner Steve Mason said he was against spending any money if it was just going to benefit the developer.

“As long as we know where we’re going to enter and exit (the property), that changes my opinion,” he said.