By Fred Woods
At last week’s regular Lee County Commission meeting, commissioners put a hold on Beulah’s and Beauregard’s portion of the county’s Recreation Master Plan, approved a number of issues regarding Lee County roads and bridges and heard a very positive progress report on the Beulah Utilities District.
According to information presented to the commission in early May, the land acquired by the Lee County Recreation Board for the two communities is woefully inadequate for the types of recreational facilities desired by the community residents. The communities overwhelmingly want ball fields which require level lands and the purchased land is hilly and contains both flowing streams and wetlands.
To develop the two parcels for the desired purposes would cost substantially more than the original cost of the land. County Administrator Roger Rendleman observed that developing the Beulah property would cost three times as much as the property cost originally.
Commissioners suggested that the recreation board look for more appropriate land. Smiths Station was cleared to proceed with its plans as given in the master plan. As yet there has been no apparent progress in acquiring land for Loachapoka’s recreational needs.
Road and bridge items included authorizing a Federal Aid Agreement to replace the old bridge, closed since heavy rains in mid-2013, on Lee Road 27 over Chewacla Creek, known as the Nixon Steel Bridge and built in 1934. Also included was approval for Lee County participation in the Southeast Region (20 counties in SE Alabama) Joint Bid Program, which will give the highway department access to more maintenance-type items at a considerable cost savings.
The commission also adopted, on a 3-1 vote, a resolution for removal of 50 miles of local roads from the county’s state graded road inventory. These roads, classified as “local roads,” are not eligible for state or federal funding but are included in the grading inventory because state or federal funds were used on them at some time in the past. If they received a failing grade from the state they could jeopardize the county’s other federal funds. So clearly it is in the county’s interest to have them removed from state inspection.
The roads will continue to be inspected, but by the county. They will be prioritized for resurfacing along with other local roads.
Governmental Relations Coordinator Wendy Swann presented commissioners with the transportation portion of a draft Americans With Disabilities transition plan, to open for public comment with the final plan to be submitted to the commission for approval at the last meeting in July.
District Four Commissioner Robert Ham wrapped up the meeting with a report on changes in the Beulah Utilities District over the last two years from an inefficiently operated system facing almost certain bankruptcy to a thriving efficiently run system, strongly supported by its customers and in a strong financial position with its bond rating recently increased to A+.
Ham also reported that the Beulah Volunteer Fire Department had improve its fire protection rating from the previous 6/9 to a 4/10, which should mean a substantial savings in homeowner insurance premiums. BVFD missed a 3/10 rating by a very narrow margin.