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County talks interchange funding
Commissioners hope to meet Feb. 15 deadline for state project list
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The Bryan County Board of Commissioners may hold a called meeting soon to discuss the proposed I-95 interchange at Belfast Siding Road.
The county has to have a letter to the Georgia Department of Transportation by Feb. 15 outlining how it will help fund the project, which is estimated to cost at least $15 million.
Commissioners discussed the latest development in the long running push to have the interchange built during a workshop Saturday in Ellabell.
Under one scenario, local government — in this case both Bryan County and Richmond Hill — would pay about $900,000 by 2015 while landowner Rayonier would fork over about $1.4 million next year. Earlier scenarios had the cost being divided into thirds among state, federal and local entities.
But making the Feb. 15 deadline doesn’t ensure the interchange will make the cut, nor does it ensure the state will go along with whatever local officials end up offering.  
“The DOT has agreed to nothing,” Commission Chairman Jimmy Burnsed said. “They could come back and say our proposal is not enough.”
Commissioners, who also have to get the Richmond Hill City Council to go along with the plan, agreed the interchange is needed for growth, though they differed on how to fund it.
Most, however, appeared to agree Rayonier could do more to help. The paper company owns thousands of acres in South Bryan through its development arm, TerraPointe.
Private developer Johnny Murphy, who attended the workshop, suggested commissioners establish a special tax district to help fund the project.
“The landowners’ land values will (increase) to as much as 10 times as much (as a result of the interchange,” Murphy said. “Get creative and get the money through a special tax district.”

Read more in the Jan. 30 edition of the News.

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