Parrish Mayor Heather Hall expressed concern last week to the Walker County Commission about the condition of County Road 20, saying potholes are wide and the state says one must drive 8 mph to drive …
Parrish Mayor Heather Hall expressed concern last week to the Walker County Commission about the condition of County Road 20, saying potholes are wide and the state says one must drive 8 mph to drive on it safely.
District 2 Commissioner Burrough later said in the meeting county employees are doing as well as they can do with roadwork in the county, what with limited resources.
Hall, who spoke Jan. 22 during the elected officials' comments section, noted that she felt the current Walker County Commission did not lead to the current problem, but that she would like its help. She said District 3 Commissioner Ralph Williams does "an excellent job" helping the town with its roads, as the town lacks some of the needed equipment to do the work itself.
The mayor, who said she gets calls about the road almost every day, said that County Road 20 "is our main drive" in the town, saying its problems have been "plaguing Parrish for nearly two decades."
"A problem arose after the Oakman-Parrish Highway was built," she said. "With the new highway now in existence, the maintenance on Highway 20 has basically stopped in favor of keeping up the new Oakman-Parrish Highway."
No meaningful work has been done on Highway 20 since 1992, Hall said.
"That's not to say they are not patching potholes, but it has come to the point some of the potholes extend (over) half the road," she said. "It is getting pretty bad."
The lack of upkeep on the road has left a hardship on the citizens of the town, Hall said.
"We appreciate the county workers will come and fill the potholes and cracks, but these fixes are only temporary and sometimes last only a week. Some of these potholes cover the entire side of the road," she said.
She said she was aware of the commission's financial situation, and understands that problem as "the mayor of a small town with little to no money. I know where you are at."
At the same time, she said the commission has not applied for local paving grants through the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA) for nearly a decade.
"The situation is creating a hardship for the citizens of Parrish. We have been told by (the Alabama Department of Transportation) that to safely travel our main road you have to travel 8 mph or less - on our main road," Hall said.
The cost of repairing vehicles and tires driving over the road "is an unfair burden to the citizens of Parrish, a burden that many cannot afford.
"This road is also a blight upon our community. All who live in this part of Walker County agree that the new Oakman-Parrish Highway has made travel easier. However, building that highway does not relieve the Walker County Commission of their responsibility of the upkeep and maintenance of County Road 20."
She asked the county to do that work and that she looked forward to working with the commission to find a solution that would help Parrish citizens in the matter.
"Our (town) council would love to sit down with you, have a workshop and see what we can do, possibly together," she said. "This road has got to be taken care of. You're talking over 1,000 people up and down that road every day, and I know that y'all have similar problems all over the county, but I'm not responsible for the rest of the county. I'm just responsible for Parrish."
Hall said she knows grants can be done and pointed to the work of grant writers familiar with the area.
"I know Peggy Matthews has done a lot of grants for Walker County. Terry Acuff, he has helped us acquire a grant for some road paving. He is an excellent grant writer. He is one of the best in the state. He said he would love to sit down with you," Hall said.
She said some of the gas tax revenue that the commission receives can be used for a municipal road.
Chairman Jerry Bishop asked after her presentation if it was a county road. County Engineer Mike Short said it was. "That's all I needed to know," Bishop said. He asked if other commissioners had questions for Hall, but no one spoke, except for Williams to say, "Thank you, Heather."
After a pause, Bishop said, "We'll look into it, mayor. You may have to go to your legislative body and help get those grants you were talking about from ADECA. Are you willing to do that." She said she would, and Bishop said, "We'll get with you. I'll be glad to help you to help you try to find some money. District 3 right now doesn't have a lot, and neither do the other districts. But I agree with you, it's a rough road."
Short, during his discussion period of the meeting, said the state built the new roads and gave them to the county. "We didn't ask for them. They were turned over to us to maintain," he said.
"When counties apply for ADECA funds, I think we are judged in a competitive environment. Normally people with water needs and things like that are pushed in front of paving projects," he said. "We are not in the best shape countywide in a competitive environment to compete. Now, cities competing for paving grants is a different story. So maybe we can look at turning the road over to the city and letting them apply for something."
That action might require the commission entertaining a vacation action, he said. Bishop said he was thinking of the same idea, suggesting he and Short have more discussions and then approach Hall.
Officials said it was unlikely the state would accept the road back.
Later, during commissioner comments, Burrough said commended the work of county employees, who also help with toy drives and cleanups, and he singled out his district crews.
"A lot of people are worried about the roads and we ride on them, too, and we're part of that. We want to get them fixed," he said. "But we all have eight to 10 employees. You have weekends like this past weekend, where you have a big rainstorm and then it freezes. I mean, we have guys picking up trees and cleaning roads, and then they are back filling up potholes that they filled two days ago. And, you know, they can only do so much. They really want to do their job well."
He said Short is fielding phone calls from commissioners every day, to which Williams added, "At least twice a day." Burrough said Bishop also is active and supportive of the commissioners.
"A lot of the employees of this county are amazing and they do a good job with the limited supplies and money we have," Burrough said. "I just want to thank them in public and thank them for all the help you give me."
He also noted the bond issue payment that is being paid annually for more than $1 million could in time be put on the roads. "We're forced to pay it," he said.
"We're lucky to pay it," Bishop added.
"The roads are going to get better. People are just going to have to keep bearing with us. They will get better if we keep working at it together," Burrough said.
Williams said in his commissioner comments the entire county has had major issues with roads due to weather. "I took a beating in District 3, and I want to thank each one of these commissioners for manpower and equipment," he said, noting the districts share their equipment with each other, which cuts down on costs. He said the districts also share employees.
"When one of the districts has an issue, we jump in and help them out," he said.
He thanked the other commissioners for help offered to him to allow him to get caught up with major road issues, as well as advice.