By Laura Camper
HEFLIN — After a discussion about roadwork and budgets, the Cleburne County Commission decided to temporarily close a portion of one road and not include two others as top priorities for repaving.
Commissioner Laura Cobb had proposed designating a portion of Cleburne County roads 35 and 49 as top priorities for repaving, but eventually retracted the proposal after hearing from County Engineer Shannon Robbins that the state does not consider CR 35 a major collector.
To be considered a major collector, Robbins said the road has to have a daily traffic count of 500 vehicles or more and has to connect with another road with a daily traffic count of 500 vehicles or more on both ends.
“They’ve told me in the past — several times — that any minor collector resurfacing’s very unlikely to happen,” Robbins said.
The road department’s funding doesn’t stretch far enough to pave all the roads that need paving in the county, Robbins said. The fuel tax collected in the state hasn’t kept pace with the rising cost of materials and labor, he said. Because the tax is collected per gallon rather than per dollar, Robbins said he believes the amount collected is virtually the same as what was collected 20 years ago. The county receives an annual federal allotment of $533,000 for roadwork, Robbins said, but it costs approximately $100,000 to repave just one mile of road. That means the county has enough money to repave about 5 miles of road a year, he said.
“Living within your means,” Robbins said, “is a bleak picture.”
The public has to make the decision whether to put more money into the roads or to keep going in the same direction, said County Administrator Steve Swafford.
Commissioner Bobby Brooks said he thought if the public knew how bad the situation was, people would approve of changing things.
“I would,” Brooks said.
But even as Brooks voiced his thought, next to him Commissioner Emmett Owen shook his head no.
One road that illustrates the problem is County Road 126, a dirt road that has deteriorated because of the wet weather and the logging trucks that travel on it.
“Back to spending the money wisely,” Robbins said. “I would treat it like a pipe washed out and temporarily close the road.”
The section of the road that has been damaged is 1.66 miles long and has no houses on it, Robbins said. There are other ways around it, and right now, there is no way for the county to fix it because it’s too wet, he said.
The commissioners took Robbins’ advice and unanimously approved closing the damaged section of the road until the county can get equipment in to smooth the road.
In other business the commission:
— Approved extending the county’s participation in the Association of County Commissions of Alabama Liability Self-Insurance Fund through Dec. 31, 2017.
— Approved purchasing a piece of property along County Road 10 for $3,000 from Carolyn Hanson. The county plans to use the property as county right of way along the road. The purchase will satisfy ALDOT standards and allow the county to widen and resurface the road.
— Approved helping Ranburne purchase two new scoreboards for its recreational fields. The proposal didn’t include a dollar amount. Commissioner Benji Langley mentioned in a previous meeting, however, that the cost of replacing the scoreboards would be about $7,200.
— Approved renewing a contract with Revenue Discovery System to collect sales and tobacco tax in Cleburne County.
— Approved transferring the ownership of a 1994 Ford bus to the local Boy Scout Troop 206. Owen abstained from the vote.
Staff writer Laura Camper: 256-235-3545. On Twitter @LCamper_Star.