By Fred Woods
Lee County roads and bridges dominated discussions at last week’s regular meeting of the Lee County Commission. County Engineer Justin Hardee discussed vacation of right of way on old Lee Road 86, two bridge replacements, reimbursement for road repairs of LR 29 and the observance of Work Zone Awareness Week last week.
Rather than close roads completely for repairs, authorities frequently make repairs while keeping roads open to traffic. The areas where road maintenance and repairs are going on, or “work zones,” require drivers to slow down and be especially vigilant to avoid endangering workers, work equipment and themselves and their automobiles. The work zones with their decreased speed limits may be inconvenient, but they are in place to provide safe navigation around workers and their equipment while leaving the road open for traffic.
Unfortunately, many drivers view the work as an inconvenience and don’t follow instructions for reduced speed and increased awareness, to the detriment of both themselves and highway workers.
There was a 7-percent increase in work zone fatalities from 2015 to 2016, from 712 deaths of drivers as well as workers in 2015 to 755 deaths in 2016.
After the required public hearing, commissioners voted to vacate public right of way on old LR 86 at its intersection with US Highway 280 (south side), returning the property to abutting property owners. The vacation was made necessary by the realignment by ALDOT of the road access to Highway 280. LR 86 is also known as the Gold Hill Road.
Replacement of the bridge on LR 417 just east of Parker Grassing in Beauregard is approved as an ATRIP project, but the Lee County Highway Department believes that they can make necessary changes to strengthen the bridge at a cost less than the county’s required 20 percent ATRIP match.
The bridge project will be removed from the list of ATRIP projects, and the county will add stronger beams to the ones already in place on the bridge. The bridge, built in 1981, was not originally designed to carry today’s heavier vehicles. The commission unanimously approved this proposal.
Hardee also reported to the commission that the previously approved bridge replacement over a tributary to Hodnett Creek on LR 137 (Wire Road) will commence this week. The project contractor will close the affected portion of Wire Road on Monday, April 16.
Construction is expected to take three to four months, depending on the weather. The detour will involve using LR 10 to Interstate 85 at exit 50 and then south to the Wire Road exit.
The commission also authorized a settlement agreement with Gaston Construction, Inc., for reimbursement for the cost of repairing damage to LR 029 during construction of a new power station in southern Lee County near US Highway 80.
District 4 Commissioner Robert Ham expressed his concerns about illegal dumping at county solid waste collection sites and the need for strengthening and simplifying solid waste regulations to make it easier for law enforcement officials to ticket violators. Solid waste collection costs have risen 15 percent in recent years, and several commissioners mentioned seeing business vehicles from inside Auburn and Opelika city limits dumping wastes at county collection sites.
Ham asked for, and received, commission approval to draft a new policy for commission consideration over the next several months.
Lee County currently has 143 authorized commercial users and 13,673 residential users.
In other action, the commission:
• voted to hold the May 29 commission meeting at the new Beulah Senior Center. The meeting will be combined with an official dedication of the center;
• approved replacing the current BellSouth lease of a 50’ x 50’ plot of land off Frederick Road near the Justice Center with an easement for a one-time lump-sum payment of $5,000;
• a pproved a deductive change order for re-roofing of the jail project enabling closing out the contract with a net savings to the county of $23,750;
• approved changes to the Personnel Policy handbook concerning re-employment of retired members of the Retirement Systems of Alabama (RSA); and
• heard Ms. Judy Lockhart announce a political candidate forum to be held at the Loachapoka Community Center on Alabama Highway 14 in Loachapoka on April 26 beginning at 6 p.m.