Bonaire Houses Demolished for Hwy 96 Construction

6:27 PM, Oct 22, 2013   |    comments
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Get on Highway 96 from I-75 in Houston County, and it will take you through Warner Robins, Bonaire and into Twiggs County to I-16.

The highway is heavily congested at certain times of the day with Robins Air Force Base workers.

Semi trucks use the route to travel to I-16, headed for the coast.

For those reasons, it's being redesigned.

The road's new path has been a source of controversy for people who live in the area for at least half a decade.

The project's now going forward.

The road may be good for many, but it's full of heartache for a few. That includes Bonaire resident, Buddy Bass.

He said, "They do need to make some changes to Highway 96. I've never argued that point."

70-year-old Bass knows Bonaire isn't what it used to be.

Bass said, "There was five houses on Old Hawkinsville Road, when we moved here."

That was in the 1950's.

He and his wife Peggy raised children and watched grandchildren grow up in a house they built there.

Peggy said, "It's a home and what we were used to."

Last week, they watched bulldozers rip it down. One of their granddaughters saw it, too.

Buddy said, "She came up here just a cryin. 'Papa, they tearing down our house.' We both had a pretty good little cry about it, but maybe we over it."

They're not over it.

The Bass' hope one day they will be, but now, there's still a lot of hurt and anger, over the price they paid for progress.

Buddy said, "The few has to sacrifice for the convenience of the majority."

He knows most of the people bearing the load. Bulldozers reduced a few of his neighbors houses to slabs last week. They, like Bass, agreed to sell out to the Georgia Department of Transportation.

He said, "They're tearing 'em down left and right now."

Not all of Bass' neighbors have agreed to sell. Across the street, a property owner is still holding-out, because of what the road is going to do to his farm land.

Buddy said, "That road is going to go through the middle of all their farm property. They got cows out there. How are you going to get the cows from one pasture to the other pasture?"

His sister, who lives on land beside him, hired a lawyer. The state doesn't want her house; they want most of her yard.

Buddy said, "They're coming so close to it, she cannot back out of her garage and not back onto state property."

Bass says the people holding-out believe the state isn't offering fair price. Then again, he didn't like the deal they gave him either.

He said, "They did not give me enough for this to build that, and I put that on my property."

Bass was pointing at the new house he built. It's next door to the old one.

It's nice and newer, but never what he wanted.

He said, "I've got a nice house, but our home left here in a dumpster."

As the last bulldozer loaded up, Bass said he sold, because he got tired of fighting the state agency.

Bass said, "They can take it if they want it."

He felt it was a battle he was always destined to lose.

13WMAZ tried to reach G-DOT for their take on the project, but the calls were not returned.

The $200 million road is being paid for mostly through the state, with a $19.5 million contribution from Houston County.

When complete, the road will be four lanes with a divided median.

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