By Fred Woods

Pastor Doug Click of Opelika Church of God and 35-40 of his parishioners came before the Lee County Commissioners last week to ask for a variance to begin initial construction of their new church building prior to full approval of the plan by the county engineer. They did not get it because none of the other four commissioners were willing to second Commissioner John Andrew Harris’ motion to allow the variance. The new church building will be at the southeast corner of the Society Hill Road (Lee Road 54) and
Gateway Drive intersection, controlled by a four-way stop.
At issue is the nearness of the church’s proposed entrance off Society Hill Road to their parking lot to the busy intersection. County regulations require a left-turn lane for entrances to businesses or churches in high-traffic areas, but the existing left turn lane for the intersection begins just before the proposed entrances.
The solution may be to locate the entrance on Executive Drive, a more costly solution to the church because of the terrain, At any rate, all the church sought was permission to begin site preparation for the church building itself while the problems with the driveway/entrance were being worked out. County Engineer Justin Hardee promised to resolve the problem as soon as possible.
Hardee also announced the closing of a portion of Lee Road 144 approximately a half-mile northeast of the junction of Ala. Highway 169 and Lee Road 144 due to a deteriorated bridge structure. The road will be closed for about eight months to allow for the replacement of the old, single-lane bridge, one of the county’s ATRIP projects. The new structure will cost $721,900, with the Lee County share being $144,380. There are reportedly no houses on the 1.2 mile long Lee Road 144 which connects Highway 169 with Lee Road 140.
Hardee then gave commissioners a status report on the three-cent-per-gallon/ATRIP-2 proposal. A major feedback from legislators is the lack of local citizen contact about the bill. Hardee asked commissioners to urge their constituents to either contact their legislators or complete the DRIVE ALABAMA survey by either completing the survey at  or, if you don’t have a computer, calling the DRIVE ALABAMA hotline at (334) 521-2419, giving your top three road and bridge problems and your county of residence. Either way, have your top-three road and bridge concerns at hand.
Hardee reminded commissioners of the importance of this program to Lee County. The county would receive about $29 million. After municipalities got their share (approximately $5.8 million), the county would have $23.2 million for its 858 miles of roads. Of the total, 675 miles are paved, but only 25 percent of these are eligible for federal and state aid. Currently, more than 500 miles of the county’s paved roads need some level of maintenance attention. The ATRIP-2 funds will be available without restriction.
Hardee also stated that asphalt prices had almost doubled over the past 12 years, from FY 2002 to FY 2016 and crusher-run prices had more than doubled (125 percent) over the same period. The Lee County Highway Department budget has increased by just 25 percent over this same period.
In other action, the commission:
– gave final plat approval to the Shotwell Ridge Subdivision, deferred from the previous meeting,
– heard an update on the Lee County Cemetery Preservation Commission from its newest member, Mrs. Talitha Norris, and a request that the LCCPC have a page on the commission’s web site,
– heard a reminder from Mr. Hardee that April 3-7, 2017, is National Work Zone Awareness Week and
– discussed Commissioner Eckman’s appointment to the Mid-South Resource Conservation and Development Council, one of nine RC&D councils in Alabama. Mid-South includes Lee, Macon, Bullock, Elmore, Montgomery, Autauga, Lowndes and Butler counties. These RC&D councils are basically instruments of USDA-NRCS and the Soil and Water Conservation Districts.