Solid waste contract, road work to come

Published 3:00 am Saturday, January 24, 2015

As Alabama and national leaders offered their “state of” reports this week, Pike County Administrator Harry Sanders took stock of the county’s efforts during 2014 and its plans for 2015.

“ATRIP projects have been completed, which has been terrific for our roads,” Sanders said. “We’ve seen a small increase in our revenue from our sales tax, and we’ve almost completed all of our ESCO tasks. Those are just some of the positive things that have really been a positive start to what we hope to complete.”

And, Sanders said the commission had several items on the 2015 agenda that would continue to improve the Pike County community.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

“People will begin to see a positive impact in some places as more time goes by,” Sanders said. “We still have some challenges to overcome, all of which relates to what we have yet to do with our road department. If we had to say what’s the greatest challenge facing county at this point it would be to maintain our infrastructure. There is still a lot left to do in that regard.”

Knowing how much the residents depend on major roads within the county, Sanders said it is important for the commission to continue to do maintenance on them. However, Sanders said, that while federal money is coming into the commission, there are limitations on how it can be spent.

“Federal money, typically, you can only apply it to qualifying roads, which are determined by how much traffic is on it, or whether it is a major or minor collector,” Sanders said. “There are certain qualifications that have to be met to receive federal money.”

Sanders said the binding specifications have posed a large problem for the commission. However, ATRIP funding the commission received was used to improve some of the worst areas on the roads. Now, the commission hopes to set its sights on farm-to-market roads, or roads that lead from the county into city.

“The roads that are troubling us the most are roads that don’t meet those specifications,” Sanders said. “But, thankfully, the major needs in some of those areas have already been able to see improvements because of the ATRIP funding we received in the past. Now, where are looking at more farm-to-market roads.”

Funds available for the projects may be low, but Sanders said commissioners had discussed different ways to make improvement costs more manageable for county residents.

“The challenge we face is showing the value of what you’re trying to do for those costs,” Sanders said. “One of the ideas that has been proposed in the past has been a pay-as-you-go type situation. There is a certain tax or fee … that is tied to certain projects that will be accomplished, such as road projects and so forth. That’s the only place that money goes with that plan. If it’s a certain road, once that’s completed the tax ends unless, there is a new set of projects that are put together that are approved. And the people decide that.”

But, conditions of county roadways are not the only issue captivating the commissioners’ attention. Sanders said commissioners also are concerned about solid waste services for the county.

“That is something that we need by the end of March,” Sanders said. “We will have a new contract, and we may have a new provider.”

While the county has used Advanced Disposal for the its last two contract terms, Sanders said commissioners were open to the idea of accepting a new contractor if that is what was best for county residents.

Just as important, Sanders said he hopes the community will take more interest in county government. During the past year, participation at commission meetings has slowly dwindled to almost no attendees. Sanders said commissioners hoped that with a new year and new proposals on the agenda, county residents would again begin attending the meetings and offer up their opinions for commissioners’ consideration.

“Democratic government is based on participation, and as much as I understand that people don’t need one more thing t do, it has an impact,” Sanders said. “If you have an interest in your county government, and make your voice heard, it will have an impact if you’re there, attending the meetings. It’s a chance for them to let commissioners know what their interests are concerning the county.”