Bridge repairs OK’d

Published 8:27 am Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Needed repairs to a timber bridge in Pike County prompted more discussions about funding concerns during Monday’s county commission meeting.

County Engineer Russell Oliver sought commissioners’ approval to spend about $5,000 to convert the White Branch Bridge on County Road 2250 from a timber bridge to a pipe bridge

“Economically, it’s a no-brainer,” Oliver said. “We think we can buy the pipes and stone for about $5,000.”

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Oliver said while the bridge remains open, the need for repairs has prompted the county to restrict weight on the bridge to three tons, meaning farm vehicles and trucks cannot use the bridge.

Because it was an unplanned repair, Oliver sought approval from the commissioners before moving ahead. Initially, he suggested commissioners consider using funds from the lodging tax revenues, which were earmarked “rainy day” funds, but commissioners were reluctant to tap into those.

The tax has only generated about $9,000 for the commission so far, and commissioners want to see the fund balance grow before tapping into it.

“If we start dipping off the top, we’ll never get anywhere,” Homer Wright said.

Instead, Oliver will use the road department’s existing materials budget to cover the expense and will address any shortfalls later with the commission.

However, Oliver also told commissioners that the bridge is one of nearly four dozen timber bridges in Pike County. “And of those, three dozen are part of the 62 bridges in our county that are posted (for weight restrictions),” he said. “Most of our roads (and bridges) do not qualify for ATRIP or federal funding.”

That’s why Oliver and other engineers in the state are supporting the Drive Alabama initiative, which seeks to educate and inform the public about the funding needs for roads and bridges in the state. “Even after ATRIP – and we all know what a great blessing ATRIP was – our needs are still tremendous.”

“Two-thirds of our roads don’t qualify for ATRIP funding,” added Commission Chairman Joey Jackson “And most of our county bridges are over 50 years old.”

Oliver said he expects road and bridge funding to be a key issue in the 2016 legislative session. “We all share the same goal: to provide good, safe roads and bridges for the people we serve, but with our funding basically flat for the past decade, it’s hard to do that.”

In other business on Monday, the commission:

• Approved the creation of a Purple Heart parking space at the Pike County Courthouse. The designated space will provide parking for Purple Heart recipients.

• Approved the purchase of a new module for administrative software, which will cost about $5,300. Administrator Harry Sanders said the funds would come from the existing budget.