When I was elected and took office last November, I promised to be honest, a hard worker and a good steward of our county’s monies.
As you know, the role of a county commissioner has many jobs, including overseeing all county department budgets, purchasing all equipment and supplies not only for my district, but countywide as well.
Our county tax base is very limited.
We, as commissioners, strive to get the most and best work done for our residents on a very limited amount of money. Everyone wants their road paved. Here again, it becomes a money issue.
We, as a group of elected officials, meet and decide what projects qualify as needed.
In my district, District 1 of Marshall County, we have 360 miles of roadways. If you bush hog that, it comes to 720 miles of roadways due to both side of the roads needing mowed.
We start out with roughly $500,000 per year to pave with. At the current estimated cost of paving a road correctly at $110,000 per mile, you see the problem.
We do sometimes find extra grants and are awarded some federal grants. This helps a lot when we receive these monies.
As many of you remember, during our former commissioner’s term, we had a major flood on Christmas Day 2015. The flood caused catastrophic road damage to two of our county roads in District 1.
We, the county, did not have the funds to repair these roads, along with several other issues caused by the 15 inches of rain we received in 12 hours that day.
Former Commissioner Bill Stricklend, county engineer Bob Pirando and their staffs worked extremely hard for months to find funding to repair the most damaged and used roads.
The Commission sought out help from several different areas. We were able to get some grants and funding through FEMA and the state.
After four years, we were able to start repairing our damaged roads.
On May 20, 2019, we were finally able to reopen Aldridge Gap Road. The original bid to repair Aldridge Gap was $279,087 using federal money. The project was completed for $221,546.56.
District 1’s cost was $33,231.88.
The bottom portion of Feemster Gap has been completed. The Alabama Department of Transportation industrial access project grant was for $582,589.
District 1 paid $137,396.27.
This part of Feemster Gap Road services a poultry farm, a sand pit, and six residences. We were told the only way we would get the grant for the lower portion of Feemster Gap is to not use the upper portion as a truck route.
A separate grant was sought for the upper portion of Feemster Gap Road.
The upper portion is where the road washed out due to the flooding. At this time, no work has begun on the upper part.
The estimated cost will be around $800,000. This would cost District 1 an estimated $140,000.
Here is the problem I have.
This one-mile area of Feemster Gap is a winding, curvy road. No residences or farms are on this section – only forest and rock bluffs.
I’ve spoken with the few residents who live at the top of Feemster Gap Road. They’ve told me they never used it to travel down the mountain.
They say they drive to Fry Gap Road to go to Arab or Guntersville. I have also spoken with officials from the Four-C Volunteer Fire Department.
Chief Raymond Bodine stated: “We’ve only used that portion of Feemster Gap maybe two times in 20 years.”
Being the Commissioner of District 1 in Marshall County, I’m making the decision to not repair that part of the road.
I have started the procedure to vacate the upper portion of Feemster Gap. This means it will no longer be a Marshall County maintained roadway.
This will save our residents money that can be used on other, more-traveled roadways.