Council faces financial crunch

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 7, 2008

DEMOPOLIS &8212; Citizens on the west end of the city may soon be looking at an alternate route to get to places like Westside Elementary School and Foscue Park, if the city can&8217;t find the funds to fix a deteriorating bridge on West Jackson Street.

After failing to pass an inspection, the bridge may need up to $134,000 in repairs, Mayor Cecil Williamson told the council Thursday night. According to Public Works director Mike Baker, the bridge&8217;s substructure, which is the structure under the waterline that supports the bridge, was repaired only two years ago.

Since that work was done, the bridge has not been inspected, and an inspection report showed the bridge would need significant repair to be deemed safe.

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But before a realistic estimate of the cost for the project can be given, one of the bridge&8217;s steel spans must be cleaned, at a cost of several thousand dollars to the city.

This news came less than a month after the council approved a two percent raise for all city employees, which spawned numerous discussions on the state of the city&8217;s finances. One of the most outspoken councilmen on the subject of the city&8217;s finances has been Woody Collins, who again voiced his concern over the prospect of another expenditure on an unexpected and potentially costly city project.

French Creek roads

Demopolis resident Jennifer Thomason, who has resided in the French Creek area all of her life, came before the council with a concern about the road conditions in her part of the city.

According to Thomason, since the city installed water and sewage to the area last year, the roads that were torn up during the construction process have not been in good condition since. She described the conditions of the roads as being &8220;horrible&8221; with constant dust when the weather is dry and water and mud when the conditions are wet.

Councilman Melvin Yelverton chimed in to Thomason&8217;s analysis, saying he had visited the area just before the meeting and saw how poorly of a condition they were in.

John Pierce of Goodwyn, Mills and Cawood, the engineering and design firm responsible for overseeing the project, said a final inspection of the French Creek project had been completed last spring.

Another point brought up in council discussion was the issue of pavement. The original plan included pavement for the roads, but due to budget concerns the project had to be scaled back and gravel was used to cover the roads after construction.

Pierce also said during this process, if a concern from a resident about access to a driveway or poor drainage was brought up, the workers repaired each problem. Thomason corroborated his statement, saying the work done to repair those concerns was done.

Pierce went on to say that a &8220;punch list&8221; or listing of additional items for the project was worked through with his firm, the council and the construction company before the project was deemed complete.

In October, Commissioner Freddie Armstead presented the council with a letter from Alabama Department of Transportation saying the city was awarded $60,000 for road repairs, specifically for the French Creek area.

Williamson said although they had received the notification, no funds had been given to the city and what was once considered a $60,000 project had been increased to a cost of $100,000. She said they were still in the negotiating process for the funds. No action was taken on Thomason&8217;s request.

In other business, the council:

4Denied a liquor license request for Erick Nathan Wright and Shemeca A. Wilson for 20 Grand on 112 N. Strawberry St. at the recommendation of Director of Public Safety Jeff Manuel.

4Approved two resolutions to move forward with applying for FEMA funds through the Alabama Tombigbee Regional Commission in order to address drainage problems in northeast Demopolis.