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Search for road funding continues

Chilton County could benefit from $6 million in federal stimulus money, approximately $2.5 million of which could be used for roads, the county commission learned Monday.

There is a catch, however. The funds, which were allocated to each Alabama county as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, would have to be paid back over time.

“It basically works like a bond issue. It’s not free money, in other words,” attorney Hollis Jackson said.

But in a time when the county is desperate for money, and one of the wettest winters in recent history has caused extensive road damage, the commission seems ready to pursue every possible avenue of funding.

In order to benefit from the bond money, the commission would need to identify specific projects and submit them to the Alabama Development Office by the end of March, Jackson said.

The $2.5 million could be used toward public infrastructure, including roads, sewer lines and similar projects. The remaining $3.5 million would go toward economic development.

“The beauty of it is that money is sitting there for Chilton County,” said county attorney John Hollis Jackson.

Commissioners discussed the need for a plan to help the road department meet its annual budget.

“We are going to run out of money,” Allen Caton said. “It’s his (Engineer Tony Wearren) responsibility to get roads fixed, but it’s our responsibility to provide him with the funds to do it.”

Once again, discussion turned to an additional 1-cent sales tax earmarked for roads. Rep. Jimmy Martin told the commission it was too late for a bill to be entered in this year’s legislative session.

Martin said the commission should develop a plan outlining how the money would be used. He added that public education would be key.

“I would like to involve the public from the get-go,” said Bobby Agee, asking that the commission consider holding a public hearing.

In other business, the commission:

Entered into a contact with Telecom audit group to audit county phone bills

Awarded a $36,500 bid to Double J Steel on a utility shed for the road department

Awarded a $28,138 bid to Stokes Automotive on a truck for the road department

Voted to purchase a new phone system for the motor vehicles and licenses department at about $2,200.