The Cleburne County road and bridge department’s  budget is almost at the breaking point, the county engineer told commissioners at their meeting Monday.

The department has absorbed about $75,000 in the initial cost of the cleanup of a contaminant found in a creek running near the county’s equipment storage building, said Shannon Robbins, county engineer. But another bill for $64,000 for the recently-completed installation of a contaminant collection system will be due soon and the department has no money to pay it, he said.

The leak was discovered by a resident in late March. The resident reported it to the county, which in turn reported it to the Alabama Department of Environmental Management.

The road department already has expenses that weren’t budgeted for this year including equipment repairs and extra loads of gravel for the county’s gravel roads which have become waterlogged because of the wet weather this winter and spring, Robbins said.

“We’re about to get to the point where we’re going to have to have some major budget meetings,” he said. “It’s not really a good situation, but it is what it is.”

The county applied for some money from the Alabama Tank Trust Fund that ADEM maintains to help pay for cleanups of contamination like this, said County Administrator Steve Swafford. The county has paid into the fund over the years through a per gallon fee, he said. The county’s request was preliminarily denied, Swafford said.

The county has contacted local legislators for their assistance in lobbying ADEM for the funding, he said.

Robbins said an investigation which should determine the origin of the contaminant and the extent of the contamination is scheduled to begin the week after the Fourth of July. Up to this point, the county has been assuming that the contaminant was from the county fuel tanks on the equipment shed property, he said.

In other business the commissioners:

  • Heard that most encroachments on the County Road 10 right-of way have been removed. Out of the original 28 encroachments, all but three fences have been removed, Robbins said. But those three are holding up a repaving and widening project on the road because the Alabama Department of Transportation won’t release the funding for the project until all encroachments are cleared, he said.
  • Allowed four resolutions dealing with wind turbines to die with no discussion or vote. Commissioner Benji Langley requested the items be on the agenda, but he was not at the meeting to introduce them for a vote. The other commissioners declined to introduce them.
  • Approved a liquor license for Debbie Walker for a new bar at 7311 U. S. 431 in Heflin.
  • Approved participating in a one-time lump sum payment approved by the 2014 Alabama State Legislature for retirees in the employees’ retirement system.
  • Approved re-bidding the county’s garbage collection service rather than renewing with the current carrier.
  • Approved hiring McKee and Associates to prepare plans and specifications to be used in bidding for new windows for the Cleburne County Courthouse. The county will pay McKee $4,200.
  • Approved applying for a Community Development Block Grant to be used to resurface a portion of County Road 82 near Fruithurst. The county will request a grant of $350,000 for the $512,928 project.
  • Approved changing its meeting and work session times to 6 p.m. on the first and third Monday of each month.
  • Approved  2-0 outsourcing the county’s fuel service using Wright Express, a state contract. Commissioner Laura Cobb abstained from the vote.
  • Declared the county’s current supply of fuel and three large storage tanks at the county’s equipment shed as surplus and asked Robbins to sell the items by bid.

Staff Writer Laura Camper: 256-235-3545 or, in Heflin, 256-463-2872. On Twitter @LCamper_Star.