Commissioners disagree on bond spending

Published 10:25 pm Friday, March 27, 2009

The Chilton County Road Department has paved more than 32 miles of dirt roads and resurfaced nearly 56 miles of existing paved roads through a $6 million bond issue taken out in 2006.

The project also included the construction of six new bridges and the replacement of nine existing bridges with pipe culverts.

But now that two of four phases are complete and less than $500,000 remains, some county commissioners are unhappy with how the money has been spent.

“I was really hoping the commission would do the right thing, but they haven’t done it,” Commission chairman Tim Mims said.

Mims, who was the only commissioner to vote against the bond issue in October 2006, did support a resolution directing how the money was to be spent — basically, $4 million for roads and the remaining $2 million for bridges.

“There was to be $1 million spent in each phase for roads,” Mims recalled, saying that phases 3 and 4, the southwest and northeast areas of the county, got overlooked. These two phases are currently being worked, with less than half a million dollars remaining in the bond balance.

Commissioner Allen Caton agreed with Mims, although neither was quick to point a finger at County Engineer Tony Wearren, who arrived in the middle of the project due to a position change.

“A lot of the projects were done before Tony got here,” Caton said.

Mims complemented the Road Department on the quality of work done in southwest Chilton County thus far.

“They have done a good job,” he said.

Thus far, about $808,000 has been spent on new construction, or the paving of dirt roads. Nearly $2.5 million went toward resurfacing, $2.1 million for new bridge construction, and about $290,400 for culverts.

“There hasn’t been anything wasted,” said Wearren, who has made bridges a high priority due to the state’s downgrading of many local bridge weight limits. “There hasn’t been anything done that didn’t need to be done.”

Other commissioners seem relatively pleased with the work that has been done. Bobby Agee expressed confidence in the engineer, and Joe Headley said he is just glad to see work being done.

“At least that’s more than what’s gotten done in the past,” Headley said.

But with all the second guessing going on, few votes dealing with the bond issue have been unanimous. Mims indicated the project could have been handled better if commissioners were elected by district instead of at large.

“Until Chilton County is put back into districts where people in districts elect their commissioners, nothing’s going to change,” he said.