County’s 2022 plans include construction, road projects
By Michael Wetzel
For the Enquirer
Morgan County road and recreation projects, along with courthouse improvements, fill the bulk of the commissioners’ 2022 agendas, but they have said they anticipate supply chain issues and COVID-19-related delays could slow some of the work.
Inflationary pressure, especially rising fuel costs, also could curtail projects, they said.
Commission Chairman Ray Long said courthouse visitors will see work being done on the courthouse’s heating and cooling system and construction of a large waiting room outside of the Cotaco Park entrance of the building in 2022.
The construction expenses come as the county enjoys an improvement in its financial strength.
At the most recent commission meeting, Long said the county saw its reserve fund grow from $6.98 million in fiscal year 2020 to $8.2 million at the end of fiscal year 2021.
The county’s special revenue budget, which includes some federal COVID-19 relief money, more than doubled, from $14.1 million to $31.3 million.
“Financially, we’ve had a very good year,” Long said. “We gave our employees raises, and despite COVID, we never missed a beat, like nothing ever happened.
“The sheriff’s office can’t close the jail. The deputies were out there every day. Our staff stayed with us through it all.”
He said a 2.5 percent cost of living raise, grade raises and a bonus of about $5,100 that is taking the form of $8-per-hour increases for each full-time employee in paychecks from November through Feb. 26 helped the county retain employees.
Long estimated the new heating and cooling system for the 46-year-old, six-story courthouse will cost about $6 million, and the waiting room will cost about $2 million. He said he anticipates the $23 million in American Rescue Plan Act money the county received will be spent in part to fund those projects.
He said he expects work will begin on the projects as early as this spring.
Long said the waiting room will be designed to hold about 100 people. “That will keep people from standing in long lines outside of the tag office,” he said.
A county-owned gymnasium is under construction at West Park in the Neel community, while work is being done to add ball fields and concession stands at North Park in Priceville and South Park in Falkville. Commissioners said those projects should be completed in 2022 unless the pandemic worsens and supply chain shortages cause major delays.
The ball fields could be completed by summer and the gym by September, commissioners said.
District 2 Commissioner Randy Vest called 2021 “the wettest year I can remember.”
“Couple that with supply chain issues, and we’ve had some projects slowed,” Vest said. “Things like small parts for a tractor that used to be delivered overnight now are taking two weeks sometimes.”
Vest said he is eager for the new county office complex in Hartselle to open. He said parking lot work needs to be completed, and that is weather-dependent. Anticipated opening dates of Oct. 1 and Jan. 1 have now been pushed back by another two months.
“We could see a grand opening there by the end of February,” Vest said.
The Hartselle project is a 100-by-70-foot annex along Shull Road and will house Parks and Recreation, the Commission on Aging and satellite revenue and license offices. The cost of the project is $1.03 million.
Presently, the satellite revenue and license offices are in the Crestwood Shopping Center along U.S. Highway 31 in downtown Hartselle.
In Cotaco, at the District 4 shop, a 50-by-40-foot building is being constructed to house the license and revenue department offices at a cost of $514,500. District 4 Commissioner Greg Abercrombie said the building will be a convenient option for area residents to conduct county business. He said it should be open before spring.
Abercrombie said his district crew was able to replace culverts on Pines Road and Apple Grove Road in 2021, as well as widen and repave Talucah and Hulaco roads.
“Our paving was hurt by the pandemic,” he said. “Now we have bought our own paver, so that should help us next year.”
He said about a dozen roads are targeted to be paved or chip-sealed in District 4 during 2022.
In District 1, Commissioner Jeff Clark said his crew and contractors will finish improving the Old Moulton Road/Modaus/Hudson Road intersection.
In the summer, crews straightened Hudson Road and covered a ditch on the narrow stretch, just west of the intersection. Now, Clark and county engineer Greg Bodley are focusing on the east side of the intersection, which has seen cars and 18-wheelers run off the road and into a ditch 10 feet below.
“We’re going to put in a box culvert extension on the east side of the intersection,” Clark said. “About 20 feet of that ditch on the north side will be covered. Right now, it’s dangerous, and there’s no shoulder there.”
Contractors were working on the project Tuesday. Clark said he believes that project can be completed by the end of the summer.
Widening and rebuilding a bridge on West Morgan Road is next on the district’s to-do list. “We want to finish the Old Moulton Road intersection before we detour traffic there off West Morgan Road,” Clark said.
The West Morgan Road work likely won’t begin until late in 2022, he added.
A couple of major paving projects Clark listed for 2022 are about five miles of East Upper River Road and Trinity Lane.
District 3 Commissioner Don Stisher called 2021 “fruitful” for his crew and pointed to rebuilding the flood-prone roads of Hidden Valley Road in Massey and Copper Springs Road in Eva and widening Nat Key Road between Falkville and Hartselle as major projects completed during the year.
For 2022, rebuilding portions of Freeman Road in Massey, paving Union Hill Church Road in Eva and widening Holiday Road in the Andrews Chapel community are among his crew’s projects, he said.
Adding 1,200 square feet in a renovation of the Falkville Senior Center should also be completed in 2022, Stisher said.
“We look forward to a busy year,” he said.