WEDOWEE - With only three members present, Randolph County Commission spent most of their Thursday workshop meeting hearing from citizens concerned about the condition of their roads.
Commissioners Larry Roberts and Lathonia Wright were absent from the meeting. At times, the meeting was out of order due to applause, but Commission Chairman Doyle Allen warned the large crowd twice not to applaud after any comments that were made by any speaker.
First to speak was Mike Anker concerning conditions on County Road 804. "Safety is a concern on so many county roads," he said. "We need a contractor to do the work because even after you patch, the holes come right back." He went on to say the public needs to know how money is being spent and how and what roads are chosen to be repaired. Applause followed his presentation, and Chairman Allen called the meeting back to order.
The next to speak was Rayford Edmondson, a resident on County Road 804. "We need good leadership and good stewardship in our county. Our leaders are not leading, and I know we can do better." Edmondson went on to explain how he spearheaded an effort to establish the Auslin Chapel Volunteer Fire Department. "We got out and worked, the people of this community donated money and we did whatever we had to do and as a result we have a new building and thousands of dollars worth of trucks and equipment." Edmondson went on to say the taxes need to be readjusted. "If we need to, we will get residents in our community to donate money to help out." Once again the crowd erupted in applause, and Allen again called for order and issued a second warning.
Commissioner Terry Lovvorn asked County Engineer Burrell Jones what could be done to 804. "It's in real bad shape and we know it," said Lovvorn. Jones said that the only thing that could be done is to keep patching until money is available to do more. In Monday's meeting, Jones told the commission the cost to grind the current tar and gravel and lay down asphalt on a 4-mile portion would cost approximately $820,000. For a surface treatment with tar and gravel, the cost would be $209,600. Jones shared the cost for information only, and no decision was made as to when and how the repairs would be made.
There were two residents of County Road 651 in the Springield community who addressed the commission at the workshop concerning the closure of their road. They had asked to be put on the agenda for the Monday regular meeting, but they were not included in the regular meeting agenda.
The first to speak was Pam Johnson, a resident who has lived on the road for most of her life. "This is the third time in six years that I have had to come before you about my road being closed." She went on to say that there was some "underhandedness" going on in District 3, Chairman Allen's district."There are residents that live on this road and travel it daily. I feel like Commissioner Allen and Engineer Jones should serve everyone and not just one person." Mrs. Johnson showed pictures of the road and a portion of the road where pasture fences had been taken down and cows were roaming several areas of the road. "I think Allen and Jones are sneaking around to accommodate one man for his cattle farming." There have been signs placed at each end of the road saying the road is closed to through traffic and only open to local traffic. Johnson said when asked for an explanation, she was given three different stories. One, it has been closed temporarily by the engineer due to poor condition; two, Allen was told about the condition of the road and asked for a temporary closure; and three, that Allen had received word from Sheriff David Cofield about drug use and trafficking on the road. "I don't want my road closed, and this sneakiness needs to stop."
The second to speak on the same road closing was Debra Cook. "It's simple, I don't want my road closed and residents did not receive any notification that the road was being closed, even temporarily." She went on to say the road is not in bad shape, and the Alabama Code was not followed when closing the road. "We had not gotten any notification about a hearing or any other proceedings. You need to consider all residents on the road and not just one cattle farmer." Chairman Allen said residents were notified, and it was even put in the paper about the temporary closing. "I never have and never will recommend to close County Road 651. We must minimize liability on all of our roads. The county engineer is the only person that can close roads, and he only recommended that it be closed temporarily." Engineer Jones said signs were posted the road was closed to through traffic. Jones concluded by stating it would take some $21,000 to repair the road and make it safe. The road closure was not mentioned at Monday's regular meeting. At the conclusion of the workshop meeting, Commissioner Lovvorn took offense to the ladies' comments. "Money is short, and we do the best we can with what we have. I don't appreciate being called corrupt, and I am not going to be called corrupt."