Flood damaged roads discussed

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County roads damaged during flooding in late March are a priority for the Walker County Commission, per discussion held at its meeting Monday morning.

Torrential rainfall on March 31 caused flash flooding that stopped traffic in some areas of the county, leaving some roads completely washed away.

Walker County 911 reported that day the following roads were flooded: Nauvoo Road at Slicklizzard Road, Nauvoo Road at Radiant City Road, Mt. Herman Church Road near Myers Road, Curry Highway near Cujo's, Prospect Road near Leonard Chapel Road, Trinity Road, Haley Bottoms Road, Iron Mountain Road, Poplar Springs Road at the bridge near McKeever Creek, and Slicklizzard Road at the bridge off the end of Prospect Road. A tree was also reported down that blocked Nix Road near Nauvoo Road, and Piper Road in Nauvoo was washed out. Duncan Road and Raccoon Branch Road were also flooded. Albert Windham Road and Bunkum Creek Road in northern Walker County were closed. Airplane Hollow Road (southwest of Nauvoo) and Lays Road (the 1800 block) in Jasper were reportedly washed out, closing the Lays Bridge. Marigold Road off Highway 195 was closed near Banks Lane as well.

A part of Windham Loop was completely washed out and continues to be closed.

Mike Short, the county’s engineer, told commissioners Monday that officials are still assessing the amount of damage to see if federal funding will be available to help with needed repairs, including the work needed to reopen that portion of Windham Loop.

“This was an event that caused significant damage around the county, particularly in District 1,” Short said.

Two, 5-foot in diameter culverts washed away on one end of Windham Loop, while two, 6-foot culverts “barely” survived the flood waters on the other end of the roadway, Short said. If federal funds are available, Short suggested larger culverts are needed to keep the road stable permanently. 

Short added that Walker County would need to have $257,000 in damage to qualify for Federal Emergency Management Agency funding from the Alabama Emergency Management Agency. With more assessing remaining, the county is currently only $15,000 under that number.

District 1 Commissioner Keith Davis said Windham Loop had been approved several years ago for improvements, but a study of possible endangered species slowed those efforts.

“We’ve been waiting on this frog study for years now,” he said. “I don’t want us to get this funding and then have to wait another three or four years for another frog study. We know what it is going to take to repair this section of the road. We need the funding and to not worry about the frogs at this point.”

The commission did not take any action on the damage roads on Monday. 

In action from the meeting, commissioners:

• Approved retirement tier conversion for county employees from Tier II to Tier I retirement. County Administrator Robbie Dickerson said the biggest advantage was that an employee can retire after 25 years of service at any age - they don’t have to make it to age 60, as with Tier II. 

• Proclaimed April 2021 as “Fair Housing Month” in recognition of the 53rd anniversary of the passage of the United States Fair Housing Law.

• Heard from Walker County Community Action Agency (WCCAA) Executive Director Diedre Tatum on county. Tatum stated that the program is operating within budget and the agency recently purchased a third vehicle, which was paid for with matching funds. The report from ALDOT showed 74 trips for the month of December and 426 trips for the entire quarter. 

• Approved a Coronavirus Rescue Fund, which is an account for new coronavirus funding that is coming from federal government. Commission Chairman Steve Miller said the anticipated time to receive funds is mid-May of 2021. The county has 4 years to spend these funds, and will receive ½ of funds in 2021 and the 2nd 1/2 in 2022.

• Approved re-appointment of Dell Green to the board of the Walker County Housing Authority. Green has been on board since 2011, and will serve a 5-year term, which will expire in 2026.

• Approved a Curry Water Authority Amendment, which affects the pay schedule of the board.

• Passed a budget amendment for Walker County Sheriff's Department. Amendment was for traffic grants the department received for Jan-Feb-Mar, as well as for litter crew and security detail for the courthouse and probate judge's office. Total budget amendment was for $35,319.47.

• Approved a banking agreement to move several accounts to Pinnacle Bank from Synovus, stating the move was because Pinnacle is headquartered in Jasper. Commissioners also discussed using other locally-based banks for other services.

• Approved financing for a tractor for District 3. Commissioner Jim Borden said the tractor will be financed for no longer than 4 years.

• Approved a job posting for public service worker in the county maintenance department.

• Passed a Hazard Mitigation Plan for 2021 outlined by FEMA.

• Approved a property condemnation resolution for Smith Chapel Bridge -McGough. Approval also gave Miller the authority to sign legal documents related to the resolution on behalf of the county.