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VILLA RICA, Ga - An endangered bat, rare plants, and a pocketbook mussel have stalled a Villa Rica road project, and taxpayers will pay thousands to clear the way.

In March, 11Alive reported on the rare Indiana bat that halted 182 road projects in 30 Georgia counties.

One of those projects is the Villa Rica Bypass. The city has already spent a million dollars on planning and engineering, but hasn't been able to turn the first shovel of dirt.

"It's a joke," said Mayor J. Collins. "We've been bogged down by the bureaucratic red tape and a lot of silly issues we feel like."

Last May, a single Indiana bat was spotted in Gilmer County. The bat is protected by the Federal Endangered Species Act.

So, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Federal Highway Administration stepped in, requiring bat studies before hundreds of millions of dollars in transportation projects can go forward.

An abandoned mine shaft was identified as a "potential roosting area" for the Indiana bat. Taxpayers will fork out tens of thousands of dollars to see if the rare mammal actually exists there.

The owner of the property where the old mine is located believes it's a waste.

"There's bats there," said John W. Sauls. "An Indiana bat? No. I don't think there's anything to worry about."

The cost to taxpayers will be $75,000 to search the for bats, search nearby wetlands for an endangered plant and the Fine-lined Pocketbook mussel, and to re-do a traffic study that's out of date thanks to the delay.

"The next hoop we have to jump through, there's no telling," said city councilman Verland Best. "A tree? An animal? Who knows? Maybe the Loch Ness monster."

The bat survey will begin in August.

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