County to apply for state bridge grants

Published 2:28 am Thursday, March 1, 2012

County Engineer Benjie Sanders updated the County Commission on a new source of grants for roads and bridges at Monday night’s meeting.

Governor Robert Bentley has launched a road and bridge initiative, with $200 million to $300 million being awarded in the first three rounds of funding.

Sanders said that funding will come from Grant Anticipation Revenue Vehicle (GARVEE) bonds, and is expected to be an $800 million to $1 billion program.

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Sanders also said that because the county has applied for Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grants recently, much of the research and plans required to apply for the new funding is already completed.

“My concern is that if all our projects got funded, we’d be looking at just over $1.2 million in matching funds,” said Sanders.

Bentley’s initiative requires a minimum local match of 20 percent.

“Where would we get the money to match it this year?” Sanders asked.

Commissioner Charlie Sankey said that it would be best to borrow the money.

“These projects are long overdue,” he said. “We’ve got AA credit, and we’ve got a $500,000 loan that will be paid off in 2013.”

“If you can borrow a dollar and get four dollars free for that, you’ve got to do it,” agreed Commissioner Merrill Sport.

The 10 projects on Sanders’s proposed list are all bridges — six bridges along the Petrey Highway, two on Honoraville Road and two on the Lapine Highway.

The application deadline for the first round of funding is March 30, with the project announcements coming on May 16 and the contracting date is Dec. 3.

The second round of funding will occur in October and November of this year, while the third round will take place from March to May 2013.

Sanders said that with the Commission’s approval, he is planning to put in all 10 applications by the first round deadline.

Sanders also discussed the county landfill, which saw a rate increase at the beginning of the year.

He said he has been getting feedback from Advanced Disposal, one of the main customers of the landfill, about the new rates being too high for roll off dumpsters.

The cost for a roll off has increased from $140 to $240, but Sanders said that Advanced feels the rate is too high on a per-ton basis.

“I feel like our rates are good and in line with other C&D landfills,” said Sanders, who also said that he understood Advanced’s concerns.

Several commissioners said that they would like offer the landfill as a service, no a money-making venture, but that some kind of rate increase is necessary to keep the county from losing money.

The commission agreed to let Sanders discuss adjusting the rate.

“We don’t want them to have to raise the rates for our citizens,” Sport said. “That’s the last thing we want to happen.”

Dozier Mayor Karen Davis was also on hand to find out the details of an agreement between the town and the commission that began in 1973.

Davis said that the town has been told that there were federal funds appropriated for the housing authority in Dozier, and that the commission appoints a board member.

The agreement apparently dates to 1973, but she said they haven’t been able to find it nor find out who the board member is.

County administrator David Smyth said that the appropriation was usually around $700 per year and was paid each year, however, commission members couldn’t recall appointing a board member.

In other business, the commission approved some computer equipment from Revenue Commissioner Sherry McSwean as surplus.

They also discussed the litter problem in the county and suggested instituting an inmate program to help clean roadsides.