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McClure Town residents ask commission to repave road

Members of the McClure Town community packed the first Pike County Commission meeting of 2020 on Monday asking for the resurfacing of County Road 7749.

“As you enter on that road, it’s horrible,” said Cornelia Woods, who spoke on behalf of the community. “The potholes begin right when you make that first turn onto the road. Our forefathers and grandparents have lived in this community many years and were very proud of that community, as we are today.”

The commission found out in November that it had once again been denied a CDBG grant from the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA) to resurface the road, as well as a portion of County Road 2256. The county has applied for funding to resurface the road for each of the past three years.

“We ask you once again to consider doing anything you can for us,” Woods said. “Nothing seems to be done until I call about it. And you can come out and patch it up all you want to – it’s not doing any good.  It’s very overdue for a facelift.”

The road was first paved in 1987 and no work has been done on it since. Commissioner Chad Copeland, District 4, said that is a common problem in the county, and one that frustrates the commissioners as well as residents.

“It’s great to see a community come together around something like this,” Copeland said. “Unfortunately, it’s hard to come up with the money to help. The majority of our 700 miles of road need repaving. Those are some of the same frustrations we have. How dow pick a road and come up with a list?”

Copeland said the 33 years since the road has been resurfaced is too long to wait to repave a road, but noted that the county’s roads have been on a 127-year paving cycle with the funding situation of the county over the past two decades.

The new Rebuild Alabama act funds allowed the county to create a 15-year plan to begin addressing some of the county’s worst roads, including 59 miles to be repaved by borrowing funds during 2020.

One of the reasons that the road was not a part of that paving plan for the first year is because the county had anticipated receiving the grant for the resurfacing.

Commissioner Russell Johnson, District 6, explained that none of the county’s local roads had any funding allocated to them until recently, when the commission reallocated funds to tackle a few miles of the county’s worst roads.

Johnson said earmarking from the state and federal level limits what money the county can put toward resurfacing local roads.

Woods and other residents in the crowd contended that the county could do more to resurface the road.

“There are potholes on every inch of the road there,” one resident said. “There’s no chance to ride on a smooth road. This is disgusting where we live … You owe us to pave our road starting tomorrow.”

The residents also brought concerns about the effect the road has on emergency vehicles.

“I broke my ankle and had to be transported by ambulance and every inch the ambulance moved I begged them for pain medication.”

Commissioner Homer Wright, District 1, said he also had heard from a police officer that the road conditions delayed a response by six to eight minutes. “That could be the difference between life or death,” Wright said.

The commission voted to move forward with seeking CDBG funding yet again for the road, with the caveat that county officials are planning a meeting with ADECA officials to discuss other options.

County Engineer Russell Oliver said the application will earn bonus points that would help it get passed since it has been denied three years; however, it would be spring or summer of 2021 before any work could be done, assuming the grant is awarded. The commission discussed moving ahead with the application and also considering other options if possible to pave the road sooner.

Wright said the road won’t last another year.

“The potholes are already six to eight inches deep and with all the rain coming through, it’s only going to get worse,” Wright said. “I don’t know where we’re going to get the money, but we’ve got to do something.”

Copeland said he understands the need for the road to be fixed, but warned that the county must be cautious about how it goes about fixing the road.

“We had the McClure Town community in here tonight, but there could be several communities that could come before us with similar circumstances,” Copeland said. “If we set a precedent that we’re going to do something like emptying out the lodging tax fund to repair this road, then what are we going to do when the next community comes in? We have to work on a plan to take care of these the right way.”

In other business, the commission:

• Approved a contract to complete geotechnical services at the site of a new judicial-jail complex at Dunbar Drive up to $10,500

• Approved a contract to complete environmental services at the site of the new Pike County Jail up to $18,000