WEDOWEE - Randolph County Commission moved one step closer to a resolution to its ongoing and, at times, contentious road project with Wadley Crushed Stone.
The commission voted 3-2 at Monday's meeting to withhold nearly $350,000 of reimbursement money from Wadley Crushed Stone until the road project is complete and officially signed off on by an inspector from the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT).
Commissioner Doyle Allen made the motion to withhold the money, but the motion hung silently in the room without a second for several moments before Allen broke the silence to further explain the rationale behind it.
"The history we have had with this has not been good," he said.
That prompted Commissioner Lathonia Wright to speak up.
"I'll second to get us off the hook," he said. "I don't want to have to deal with them anymore."
Wadley Crushed Stone (WCS) was supposed to front the money for the project, while the county worked with the state to acquire an Industrial Access Grant from ALDOT. That grant money would then be used to reimburse WCS for the project.
The agreement signed by both the county and WCS back in 2017 stated, "Wadley Crushed Stone has agreed to pay all costs associated with the project so that there would be no cost whatsoever to the county at any time during the project. The county would never be required to pay any funds out of county money."
But WCS was late in getting funds to the contractor, and over $11,000 of service charges for late payment accrued since the beginning of this year. In an effort to avoid further late charges, the commission voted on March 9 to write a check out of county funds to the contractor on the project, Ingram Paving. That check covered the outstanding amount for the completed work, plus the service charges, a total of $358,152.
WCS did finally issue a check to the county the next day, March 10, for $347,114 to cover the cost of the work that had been done, but that amount did not include money for the $11,037 of late fees.
The amount of WCS's check to the county was then reported to ALDOT, who issued reimbursement checks to the county. The county now has those funds ($347,114) in hand, and it is that money that the commission voted Monday to withhold from WCS until the completion of the project.
All but an estimated $15,000 of work on the original project has been completed. The road still needs to be striped and shoulder maintenance remains, but the remaining cost far exceeds that $15,000.
There is still $75,000 due for engineering and inspection of the project. And two spots on the newly-paved road have already failed. Those compromised portions of the road will need to be repaired before ALDOT can sign off on the work.
There is no current estimate on how much it will cost to repair the damaged portions of the road, and it is that uncertainty that prompted the county to hold onto the ALDOT money until the project is complete.
"Until we get to that point, this money is the only insurance we have," Allen said.
The next step will be to get an estimate on the cost of the repairs to the damaged portions of the road and then work with the contractor to have that work completed.
County engineer Burrell Jones reported at Monday's commission meeting that Crystal Lake, the water reservoir used by the City of Roanoke, has receded to normal pool levels after flooding in February and March prompted emergency action from the county.
Jones also reported that previous blockage of the reservoir's drain appears to be clear, allowing the lake to drain at a rate that should prevent a similar flooding emergency in the future.
Heavy rains earlier this year caused the water levels at the lake to rise to a critical stage, which prompted the county to set up pumps and a siphoning system to provide emergency relief for the rising waters.
The county issued an invoice on March 24 to the City of Roanoke for over $57,000 for the work. Roanoke has yet to respond with a payment.
Allen said the county would give the city a reasonable amount of time to respond and mentioned 30-60 days as a potential window for what would be considered "reasonable."
Questionnaire for courthouse visitors
The commission also voted to keep the county courthouse closed to the public until Gov. Kay Ivey lifts the coronavirus-related state of emergency statewide.
Visitors will be admitted to the courthouse on a case-by-case basis for work that cannot be completed remotely or over the phone, but those visitors will be subject to a questionnaire before being allowed entry to the building.
That questionnaire is composed of 10 questions related to recent travel, recent exposure to COVID-19 and the purpose of the courthouse visit.
Incentive pay for sheriff's employees
Near the end of Monday's meeting, Farr brought up the possibility of providing additional pay to sheriff's employees who have no choice to break social distancing and other preventive standards in their interaction with arrestees and inmates.
This additional pay would come in the form of incentive payments, and the commission established a committee of Farr, county Chief Financial Officer Travis Heard, Sheriff David Cofield and EMA director Donnie Knight to determine how much those incentive payments should be and whether they can be reimbursed since they are tied to the COVID-19 outbreak.
The results of the committee's findings will be heard at the next commission meeting, scheduled for April 27.