By Fred Woods
The Lee County Commission voted to begin construction of an addition to the historic Lee County Courthouse by accepting the low bid of $9,328,844 from Carmon Construction, Inc., of Albertville and adopting an overall project budget of $9.9 million.
The three bids received were all within $80k of each other and were 10 percent higher than the expected $8.5 million range, reflecting the high level of construction activity in the area, particularly at Auburn University. All the commissioners and County Administrator Roger Rendleman recognized that further delay of the project would just increase its cost that much more.
The Courthouse Annex Project will, in accordance with Mr. Rendleman’s recommendation, be funded as follows:
– $2 million in the Capital Improvement Fund has been designated for this purpose,
– $6.5 million will be provided through a 15-year loan to be repaid from the Capital Improvement Fund, and
– $1.4 million will be provided from the county’s general fund.
The Courthouse Annex will be a three-story, 36,000 square-foot structure with parking on the first level, revenue commission offices on the second and appraisal staff and storage on the third. The structure will provide much-needed office space for the revenue commission staff in particular.
The first step in the construction process will be the demolition of the old jail structure which was added to the rear of the courthouse 70-odd years ago and today houses a number of staffs including the registrars’ office, Veterans Affairs office and Coroner’s office. The old Tyner Building on Avenue A will also be demolished.
The new construction, which will parallel Avenue A and run from the rear of the original courthouse to Tenth Street, will protect the integrity of the original courthouse and is expected to be completed within two years. Staff displaced by the construction/demolition will be temporarily housed in the Lee County Meeting facility and other county properties.
The revenue commission, the probate office and the appraisal department will continue to operate from their present courthouse facilities.
The commission initially granted final plat approval to the Hornet Flats Subdivision Phase I, a 19-lot subdivision beginning at the intersection of Lee Roads 165 and 123 and running east along LR123 about 2,000 feet. Then Mrs. Lee Anne Evans, who lives on LR123, expressed her concerns over adding traffic to what she described as an already hazardous road due to its being too narrow in some portions for two vehicles to meet each other safely. Commissioner Long subsequently moved to reconsider the previous action which passed unanimously. The commission will probably take up this issue again at its next meeting on May 8.
The commission has been approached about reactivating the Lee County Industrial Development Authority to work with the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama to promote commercial/light industrial development in an unincorporated area of Lee and Macon counties. At present, LCIDA has three members (Joe Lovvorn, Danial Sexton and Carlton Clifton), one individual in an expired term (Randy Price) and one open position. The announcement of two vacancies last week means nominations/applications can be received at the next meeting (30 days) and appointments made at the following meeting (60 days).
In other action, the commission:
-authorized the chairman to execute federal aid agreements for resurfacing Lee Roads 175 and 279. Both are ATRIP projects and involve the usual 80 – 20 federal – local funding split. In the southern part of the county, approximately 3.8 miles of LR 175, from the Russell County line to its intersection with AL Hwy. 169. In the northeastern part of the county 1.735 miles of LR 279 will be repaved; from its intersection with LR 375 north to the Chambers County line.
-acceded to the request of the Board of Education to change the dates of the Back-to-School Sales Tax Holiday from the first full weekend of August to the third full weekend of July to reflect the actions of the state legislature. The 2017 Back-to-School Sales Tax Holiday begins at 12:01 a.m.on July 21, and ends at midnight on July 23.
-discussed state allocations of gas tax revenues to the smaller incorporated jurisdictions in Lee County: Smiths Station, Notasulga, Loachapoka and Waverly, all of whom have agreements with the county for road maintenance within their corporate limits. Smiths Station is the only jurisdiction getting enough revenue to make a difference. Smiths Station received just under $27k in 2016 and an accumulation of about $300k since they began receiving allocations. Smiths Station has transferred roughly $160k to Lee County over the past two years to assist with road maintenance within the town’s corporate limits. The other three jurisdictions receive less than $1,000 in gas revenue annually. It costs at least $140k to resurface one mile of road.