Roads remain major county issue

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Robert Noles/Opelika Observer

By Fred Woods
Editor

The agenda item said “Set Work Session on Road Paving.” Sounded pretty straight-forward but after a ten minute diatribe by Commissioner Harris about how he was the only commissioner who cared about Lee Countians who live on dirt roads, Commissioner Ham had to remind him of the original intent of the agenda item. By this time the remaining commmissioners were so irritated that Harris’ vaguely worded motion to set a work session died for lack of a second.
As has been mentioned often before, Lee County has about 857 total miles of roads; of the total 673 are paved and 184 are not. Of the paved roads, 167 miles are eligible for federal and state assistance, 506 are not eligible for outside assistance and must be maintained out of local funds. The county has the funds to resurface/maintain 11.8 miles per year. An asphalt-paved highway lasts, on the average, 15-20 years. With current resources Lee County can replace/resurface its currently paved roads every 57 years.
In 2010, the Lee County Commission, recognizing they could not properly maintain its currently paved roads, imposed a moratorium on paving additional dirt roads. If the county paved all of its remaining dirt roads it would lengthen the replacement period from 57 years to 72.6 years. The situation has not improved; if anything it has worsened.
Earlier this year the American Society of Civil Engineers released an Infrastructure Report Card giving Alabama’s roads and bridges grades of D+ and C-, respectively.  The current ATRIP-2 proposal for a $1.2 billion bond issue backed by an additional three cent/gallon fuel tax is a partial response to this situation.
Another seemingly benign agenda item also had an out-of-the ordinary outcome.The commission was asked to grant final plat approval to the Shotwell Ridge Subdivision, located adjacent to Lee Road 254, east of Wacoochee School near Salem. Three adjacent property owners, Rollins Moncus, Don Pitts and Richard Hopkins, spoke in opposition to the subdivision approval. They objected, first, on the basis that their bucolic, rural life style would be ruined with a subdivision next door and second, they feared that aquifer supplying water to them and the land on which the subdivision was not adequate to supply an additional 12 wells in fairly close  proximity to each other. The commission certainly has no authority to reject approval in the first instance as the county has no zoning power. They may not in the second instance,but deferred approval until the next meeting to give the subdivision owner, Carlton Greathouse, the opportunity to schedule hydrological tests.
Commissioner Harris announced that he would be receiving a President’s Volunteer Service Lifetime Achievement Award in a special ceremony at the Georgia State Capitol Building in Atlanta Sat. night, March 17. Mr. Harris, along with 17 other Americans, will be honored for contributing more than 4,000 hours of volunteer service, as approved by certified organizations, over their lifetime.
Along with the honor of presidential recognition, each recipient receives a personalized certificate, an official pin or medallion and a congratulatory letter from the president of the United States.
County employees will be glad to hear that a 3.35 {44c616e11cf70d617c8dd92fb0bc15f41001df771f775c6b004238009c89a3f0} cost-of-living adjustment was approved for them. This increase is in keeping with an effort improve the Lee County pay scale to area averages. A decision was made at the beginning of the year to compare revenue projections with actual collections at mid-year,  This comparison showed that the county could afford the pay increase.
In other actions, county commissioners
set in motion the process for closure of a 2,450 foot portion of Lee Road 179 at the request of adjacent property owners,
approved resurfacing LR 95 from Hwy, 147 to the Opelika city limits (approx. 2.8 miles),
held second reading (appointed) citizens to several county boards and authorities,
approved a motor vehicle license software update, at a cost of about $40,000 for the revenue commissioner’s office,
approved a change order for electrical work at the Lee County Detention Center, and
approved two new jobs (one is actually a reclassification of an existing position) for the new county recycling facility just off Williamson Avenue.

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