‘That’s off the table’: Lee Co. plans exit from Rails to Trails

Will Rails to Trails be completed?

ALBANY, Ga. (WALB) - South Georgia Rails to Trails is wanting action from the City of Albany and Lee County Commissioners on the trails’ project.

The time to complete the project with the City of Albany is now past due, according to a letter recently sent by legal representatives for South Georgia Rails To Trails.

Earlier this week, they sent a “courtesy” letter to Lee County Commissioners.

Lee County has been involved with the project since last year.

“well the city of Albany approached Lee County about transferring the property to us. We received a letter from the Rails to Trails organization indicating they were going to sue both Lee County and the City of Albany,” said Billy Mathis, the chairman of Lee County Board of Commissioners.

Mathis is referring to property that is mentioned in the letter.

That property is under contract with the City of Albany and South Georgia Rails to Trails, according to the letter.

That letter sent to Mathis and the other members of the board of commissioners was dated on Monday.

South Georgia Rails to Trails leaders told us the letter is basically a way to say “we need to resolve some issues.”

Rails to Trails leadership said they will release more information on Friday.

Chairman Mathis said he wants to wash his hands of the project. He said the letter “put a bad taste in a lot of people’s mouths.”

“We got a lot of projects in Lee County, so as far as the Rails to Trails is concerned, that’s off the table,” Mathis also told WALB News 10.

Mathis said he wishes the project good luck.

WALB asked him if they would ever consider returning to the project?

“Never say never," he replied. However, it’s unlikely.

City of Albany Commissioner Chad Warbington hopes that phrase rings true.

Chad Warbington, Ward 4 Albany City Commissioner
Chad Warbington, Ward 4 Albany City Commissioner (Source: WALB)

He wants to see Lee County stay involved with the project.

City of Albany has a contract with South Georgia Rails To Trails dating back to 2015, whereas Lee County does not.

Mathis said they are not a part of that contract and Lee County has no agreement with South Georgia Rails to Trails.

In the letter, there are a few reminders listed in the 13-page document that Rails to Trails want both Lee County and City of Albany leaders to be aware of. One of them being time.

According to the document, the five-year project was contracted with the City of Albany to be done before April.

Warbington said the city has experienced some hardships, which has caused some delays.

“So, we’ve been through two tornadoes, we’ve been through a hurricane, we’re in the middle of a pandemic, but yet they want to put pressure on us for not building a trail,” said Warbington.

Warbington said if Lee County does back out, it would delay the project even more.

City of Albany plans to have further talks with Lee County and Rails to Trails about this matter.

“We want to build it on the terms of the citizens of Albany and the citizens of Lee County. They’re our customers, they’re our primary focus, it’s what’s best for the citizens, not what’s best for one small group," said Warbington.

Warbington said they want to see the project complete. However, it’s not the highest item on the city’s to-do list right now.

According to that letter sent to Lee Co. Commissioners, South Georgia Rails to Trails is willing to work with Lee County, City of Albany and other governmental entities to complete the goal.

In the letter, South Georgia Rails to Trails said they want to “protect its investment in the Albany-Sasser Line.”

Adding “SGRT stands ready to take whatever lawful action maybe required to enforce its roles, responsibilities, and contract rights.”

Copyright 2020 WALB. All rights reserved.