DOERUN -- Some Doerun residents believe they hear the bell tolling for their little town. They think the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) has already decided it's going to route the four-lane project to bypass the historic downtown.
Monday evening, engineering consultants J.B. Trimble, Inc. and other GDOT representatives laid out three proposed routes for the four-lane before citizens at Doerun Elementary and Okapilco Elementary schools. They sought feedback from those the road will impact.
A couple of days later, the reality of what the proposals mean appears to be sinking in for people living and working along these routes. The local GDOT office got in maps Wednesday, and residents were coming in through the day to take another look.
Two of those proposals utilize the existing corridor for Ga. Highway 133 that goes straight through Doerun's Main Street as a one-way route. One proposal would have Main Street become one-way, northbound and Bay Avenue be one-way, southbound. The other would have Main Street become a southbound one-way and Robinson Avenue, commonly known as Tin Can Alley, become a northbound one-way.
Doerun residents are divided over the road's placement. Merchants want the state route to remain downtown fearing the little town -- too small for a stop light -- would dry up without it. Some downtown residents cringe at the prospect of heavier traffic destroying their laid-back haven.
The bypass would cut through several farms north of Doerun. Farmer Jerry Smith wants to see a bypass built even though it will run through some of his best property.
"I love Doerun and it's going to hurt me, because it's going to run right through the middle of my farm, but for safety reasons for the public ... You've got to imagine the liability. It's just too dangerous," he said, noting that Doerun has many elderly residents who still drive.
Smith worked for the railroad for 23 years as a train engineer and has gruesome recollections of deadly collisions. The bypass would not cross the railroad as the other options would and would be less costly to build, he said. The other options include costly construction of two bridges over the railroad at Ticknor Road.
"They could buy 10 homes for that," Smith speculated.
Residents at Wheeler Hardware and Auto Parts in downtown Doerun said GDOT engineers sounded as if the bypass was a done deal, saying that Doerun's historical status, two churches along the proposed routes plus the cost of the railroad overpasses are just too troublesome to be the most feasible approach.
One man suggested they could put the "billion dollars" the state's going to use for the four lane to better use by paving all of Georgia's county roads.
Property owner Dewayne Turpin is just as disgusted with the seemingly merciless process of building roads. He has a house on the corner of Union Drive and Jones Street. The proposed bypass would abut his small lot, and the realignment of Union Drive and Jones Street would cut 15 to 20 feet off his front yard. Turpin asked engineers at the public meeting Monday three times, he said, and each time he got the same bad news: He's not going to be compensated for any lost property. His property was not considered affected, he said.
Turpin said he asked if the state would buy him out and got a "no."
"That to me is just straight wrong. If they cut 15 to 20 feet off, that's 15 to 20 percent of my yard, and it's gone," he said. "I believe that anybody's property that's utterly affected in any way should be reimbursed or have the alternative to have the state purchase their property. The people should have the right to choose if they want to remain there or have the state buy them out completely."
Turpin worries about the four-lane coming so close to his house and his 10-year-old son, but his plight, he said, pales in comparison to many of his friends and neighbors who are threatened with being forced out of their homes or their livelihoods.
Resident C.W. Harden thinks that some businesses, such as the grocery store and convenience stores, will be hurt the most by a bypass. Turpin brought up the thrift shop across the street from Wheeler's and its dependence on thru-traffic.
"It's always people with Florida plates or from out of town at that thrift shop," he said.
"Doerun would prosper with it coming through here instead of around it. It's common logic there," Harden said.
As for the safety factor Harden posed, "They went around Cuthbert and they've had more wrecks at that intersection at 82 and 27 then they had way before that bypass was there. ... Blakely is the same way. They bypassed Blakely and have had more wrecks at that intersection than in the whole county. ... They went through Colquitt -- that's one of the only towns I know they went through with Highway 27 -- and they've had less wrecks in Miller County because of that four-lane."
In other spots along the corridor, there's only one option presented so far.
John Beverly owns property on both sides of Georgia Highway 133 near Old Doerun Road. The current proposal will run him and his family out of their homes, because right now, the state considers an old house Beverly owns across the highway historical and are designing the road around it. Beverly said he would much rather let the state take that house than uproot from his home.
"I'm too old to move," Beverly told GDOT area engineer Sonja Thompson, as they poured over the maps.
Beverly's offer could spare Terri Tomlinson's and several other neighbors' properties on Old Doerun Road which are slated for displacement, because the intersection with Highway 133 must be redone to meet at 90-degree angles. To accomplish this, the road must curve onto property on which several houses -- including hers -- now sit.
"You look at all these red dots up here," Tomlinson said, pointing to houses marked on the proposal maps that the road might absorb. "That's stupid for a road. ... I know families all up and down this road where people have been there for 50 years. I've been in my place 25 years, and for them to come up and say 'you're out of here' when there's so many other suggestions for it to be fixed."
Thompson said rights-of-way acquisition should begin on both parts of the widening project -- from Albany to Moultrie and from Moultrie to Valdosta -- in fiscal year 2007. She expects that the final route will be firmed up in a matter of weeks for the stretch from Moultrie to Valdosta. Public input will continue to be gathered on the stretch from Albany to Moultrie.
Another GDOT informal public meeting is anticipated to be scheduled soon just for Doerun's dilemma, Thompson said. Notice of the meeting will appear in The Moultrie Observer.