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By Christa Jennings
Senior Staff Writer
During a lengthy 2-hour meeting Tuesday morning, the County Commission heard concerns from residents regarding a number of roads in the county.
Barbara Maxwell, a District 1 resident on County Road 130, addressed the commission under public comment on the agenda. She thanked the county for filling in the potholes on the road last month, but said they are reaching the point of needing to be filled in again already.
She further said that the road is narrow with grass growing in along the roadsides. She explained that she cuts some of the roadway grass with her lawnmower to help widen the road, but that she can only cut so much of it.
Maxwell also said that between the potholes and the narrow road it is “almost impossible” to meet oncoming vehicles. Having lived on that road for quite some time, she said that no extensive work has been done on County Road 130 in the last 25 or 30 years.
In further discussion, she said that the lines are faded, people have to drive in the middle of the road and that all of the residents on that road are concerned about the conditions.
She explained that she wanted to know how the county decides which road projects to do, how decisions are made for repairing roads and what the process is for getting a road repaired, as well as what they as residents need to do.
Commission Chair Randall Dunham, who is the commissioner for that district, said that he was familiar with what Maxwell was talking about because he travels that road quite often. He said that she was right about the road being narrow.
He stated that the county does what it calls “clipping shoulders,” where they clip and push grass back off the road. He said that County Road 130 does need to have the roadsides clipped and pushed back as soon as possible.
Dunham also turned the floor over to County Engineer Tad Eason, asking him to explain how projects are chosen. Eason said that County Road 130 does need work and has been in discussion.
He explained that the new gas tax allowed the county to start paving many more roads than it was able to do in the past. He said that with the new gas tax they are able to spend approximately $200,000 on road projects in each district.
Eason said that Dunham’s district covers numerous areas, and this past year he chose a road in Stewartville that “really is bad and really needs some work.” However, he said that they did talk about County Road 130 and have discussed putting it on the list for next year.
Eason added that they know County Road 130 “definitely needs work” and that they would like to keep the road in drivable condition for the residents until it can be included in the project list.
“It becomes a choice of what’s the worst and what can we afford at that point,” Eason said. “If I could do all of them I’d do them all so I wouldn’t have any complaints.”
Dunham promised that they will get the sides clipped as soon as possible to help widen the road back out. He added that they will maintain the road until they can get it paved, saying that he will spend some of his district money on County Road 130 next year.
“It’s a slow process, but believe me, I’m going to do it for you,” Dunham said.
District 3 Commissioner Unzell Kelley also said that residents from County Road 40 were in attendance to address some of their concerns with the commission.
He said that it is one thing to have a bad road that needs repair, but that it is another thing when they get a grant, start the repairs and then the contractor does not do a good job.
He further explained that he asked the residents to address the commission to speak on some of the issues and concerns they had shared with him at the Union Square Neighborhood Watch meeting regarding County Road 40 and the resurfacing project. He said that it is not an acceptable job and that they need to hold the contractor accountable.
Janice Kilgore addressed the commission, stating that she lives on County Road 18, but travels County Road 40 numerous times each week. She presented photos to the commission of the roadwork done thus far.
“Believe me, when I saw in the paper that 40 was going to be paved, I was thrilled,” Kilgore said.
She explained that she went through the area and saw a gentleman doing preliminary work on the road on September 22, with the project having been delayed from its initial start date. During her conversation with the man, she said he had told her the road would be closed to through traffic and that the project would be finished in two weeks.
Kilgore said that the workers finally showed up September 29 or 30 to begin work on it, and by about October 22 or 23 they were no longer to be seen.
“But you can see by the pictures they certainly didn’t complete the project,” she said, adding that it was “very inconsistent work.”
“I’m not an engineer; I’m not a rocket scientist, but I don’t have to be either to know that that’s subpar work,” she stated. “The inconsistency is unbelievable. It’s unbelievable that taxpayer dollars would go to something like that.”
Kilgore said that potholes were starting to appear in the road again. She said that they need a timeline for when the residents can expect the road project to be completed and also asked if any money has gone to the project, adding that if so the commission needed to get the money back.
Kelley said that there were action items on the agenda for consideration later in the meeting, saying that he would have Eason address some of those matters then.
Later in the meeting, the agenda item came up for “approval to deny Alabama Rebuild Program County Road 40 resurfacing project.” Kelley explained that it was “denial to approve project completion.”
He said that he wanted the commission on record as denying approval of the project completion until the county is satisfied with the scope and project. He said that they would not approve it until the project meets their specifications.
Eason said that it is a reclamation project and that he has told the contractors that the base is not smooth enough to tar and gravel. Since it is now after November 1, he said the road cannot be paved until April, per state regulations.
However, Eason explained that per the contract, the contractor is responsible for maintaining the road until the project is complete.
He said that as the project continues, he is going to make sure it is done correctly, saying, “I intend to fix it right.”
In further discussion, Kelley said that the project will not be considered complete and will not be approved until it meets the specifications and bid requirements.
In followup conversation with Kilgore asking for clarification, Eason emphasized that the contractor cannot pave the road until April now, but that the contractor has to maintain it until the project is completed. He explained this means the contractor can work on the base that is there, but cannot pave it until April.
After discussion, the commission unanimously approved denying the approval of the project completion.
Also regarding County Road 40, originally on the agenda was the approval to deny payment for that project. However, Kelley had the item withdrawn from the agenda.
At that time, Eason explained that no money has been spent on the project yet because the work is not satisfactory.
In other business regarding roads, Kelley brought up County Road 12, which had been previously discussed at length regarding safety concerns and weight limit restrictions.
Kelley explained that there was no record of the county ever approving a weight limit for that road, but said that it is a dangerous road, with one curve in particular offering very limited sight for drivers.
He added that the Tallapoosa County side of County Road 12 has a 15 ton weight limit. He said that he wants the road to be consistent and suggested the county put a 15 ton weight limit on the Coosa County side, as well.
Kelley said that this would help address some of the concerns of the area citizens until the road can be resurfaced.
The commission also briefly discussed the speed limit and speed studies. Eason mentioned that if a speed limit is not posted on a county road, the speed limit is 45 mph.
After discussion, the commission unanimously approved setting a speed limit of 40 mph and a 15 ton weight limit on County Road 12.
During discussion items by commissioners at the end of the meeting, District 2 Commissioner Bertha K. McElrath asked Eason if the Highway Department had the chance to fill in potholes on County Road 131. She said that the road has worsening conditions and that it is hard to drive on.
Eason said they had patched the road, but he could not remember the exact date it was last patched. He added that he would send someone out to look into it and see about patching the road again if needed.
McElrath also brought up the intersection of County roads 66 and 52, asking about possibly placing a stop sign to stop traffic on County Road 66 going into County Road 52.
During discussion, Eason said that the county can do that without going through the state if it is something they want to do. McElrath said that she was only asking if a stop sign might need to be there, adding that she was only posing the question for consideration at this time because she has received numerous complaints about that intersection.
Eason mentioned changing construction of the intersection so that it is at a 90-degree angle to help solve dangerous conditions at that juncture. He said they could reconstruct that intersection and change the way it is paved.
No action was taken on the matter as it was only for discussion.
McElrath also mentioned issues with overgrowth at times at the intersection of County roads 64 and 66.
During discussion, Kelley also mentioned to Eason the intersection of County roads 30 and 93, saying that the area needs some striping and also possibly speed breakers or bumps there before the 4-way stop.
For coverage of the remainder of the County Commission meeting, including the lengthy discussion regarding the county-wide ambulance service, see next week’s edition.