Weaver, Jacksonville and Calhoun County all were in on the federally-funded project until Weaver withdrew late last year. Now officials with the Alabama Department of Transportation are trying to determine if the federal government will still pay for the other government entities to complete their portions of the project without participation from Weaver. The department also is trying to decide just what will be done with the federal dollars that have already been spent on Weaver’s portion of the project.
“There is not an official word on how it will all be handled,” said DeJarvis Leonard, an Alabama Department of Transportation engineer. “We’re trying to make a determination of how we can move forward and that determination has not been made.”
To date, about $1 million in federal money has been spent on preliminary engineering fees and right of way acquisitions for the entire project. Fifty-four percent of that has been paid for the Weaver portion of the project.
Weaver Mayor Garry Bearden said his city would not repay the federal money that has been spent on Weaver’s portion of the project unless it is ordered to in court.
But Marsh said at an April 15 meeting of the Calhoun Area Metropolitan Planning Organization that all entities would have to back out in order for Weaver’s federal debt to be forgiven. He also said in a phone interview with The Star on Tuesday that if Weaver backs out without the other entities it would be responsible for paying back the federal funds.
“We can’t do for one what we can’t do for others and we can’t go that route unless all agree,” he said.
Leonard said the Transportation Department has yet to approve Weaver’s request to withdraw from the project and be forgiven the federal debt that funded its portion of the project. If that happens, ALDOT would reimburse the federal government for the money already spent on Weaver’s portion of the project, he said.
But that’s a decision that can’t be made, he said, without considering how it will affect Jacksonville and Calhoun County. Still, Weaver may be permitted to back out of the project without support from the other two entities if the federal government will allow the project to go on without Weaver.
“They do not have to back completely out,” Leonard said of the other entities. “We would like to honor Weaver’s request.”
Jacksonville has not decided if it wants to see the project through. Jacksonville Mayor Johnny Smith and council members decided Monday to take comments from the public before making a decision.
“After last night’s meeting I’m not sure. I just don’t know,” Smith said Tuesday. “I think (council members) are still wanting to get some input from some people.”
Calhoun County officials said they plan on moving forward with the project so long as Weaver’s withdrawal doesn’t affect the availability of funds
“At the current time we’re still exploring options, but my opinion is that Calhoun County will most likely stay with the project,” Calhoun County engineer Brian Rosenbalm said. “It’s a project that needs to be done.”
Contact staff writer Laura Johnson at 256-235-3544.