by the Opelika Observer staff
The Opelika City Council unanimously approved resolutions authorizing submission of four separate grant applications to the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) totaling almost $4 million. The projects would replace three bridges and upgrade/replace the four traffic lights along 2nd Avenue from N.8th St. to Pleasant Drive (Five Points) as well as install left turn lanes on Simmons St. at its intersection with 2nd Avenue.
The money would come from the third round of the ATRIP program, an ALDOT-administered federal aid highway program. The funds cover 80 percent of project costs with the local government required to pay 20 percent. The City of Opelika’s share, if all the applications were to be approved, would come to $678,184.
The three bridge replacements include the bridge over Halawakee Creek on Anderson Road just north of the railroad (Rough and Ready)($811,852); the bridge over Pepperell Creek just south of the railroad on Cunningham Drive ($980,170) and the one over Granberry Creek on North Uniroyal Road just north of US Hwy. 280 ($901,954). The 2nd Ave. project has a $696,942 price tag.
Funding for ATRIP comes through the use of GARVEE bonds (Grant Anticipation Revenue Vehicles Bond Program). Through the use of GARVEE bonds, the state is able to use future federal dollars now in order to pay for road and bridge projects that are needed immediately. With interest rates on municipal bonds at historic lows, the use of GARVEE bonds makes good financial sense as the low cost of borrowing is generally lower than the rising cost of inflation in construction projects.
In a 3-2 vote, the council voted to upgrade the city’s Purchasing Agent position to a new Purchasing-Revenue Manager position. Council members Patsy Jones and Larry Gray voiced their concerns with the resolution, with Gray comparing the position to “letting the fox guard the henhouse.”
“To me, you’re not having that room for checks and balances,” Jones said. “... I am concerned that we have hired people in this city that should have been cross-trained in a way that we could’ve moved them up to positions.”
The new position would have a level 24 paygrade, compared to the level 23 paygrade of the old purchasing agent position and the level 19 paygrade of the former revenue manager position.
Councilman Joey Motley said he was glad to see the city try to save some money by consolidating the positions.
“Any time we can combine jobs without an undue workload being added, that’s a savings to the city,” Motley said, “and we happen to have qualified people in place that can do the job.”
The upgraded position will be filled by Lillie FInley, the former revenue manager.
The council also:
- Approved expense reports for four city employees.
- Granted a travel advance for Nathan Brown of the Opelika Police Department to attend the law enforcement academy in Jacksonville.
- Assessed the cost of a weed abatement at 118 Chester Street.
- Accepted $20,000 in grant funds from ADECA to construct natural trails at the Siddique Nature Park.
- Refunded occupational tax fees paid in error to the city’s revenue department by a Tuskegee resident.
- Gave consent to an agreement allowing for self-service payment center kiosks for Opelika Power Services to be installed.
- Agreed to a change order for East Bay Electric with their work on the Frederick Road project.
- Awarded a special appropriation of $2,500 to Opelika High School’s Project Graduation for the 2013 class.
- Reappointed Walter Dorsey, Sr., to the AMEA Election Committe.
- Reappointed Dan Cannon to the Indian Pines Golf Authority.
- Appointed Richard Moreman, Jr., to fill the vacant position and unexpired term on the Lee County Youth Development Board that was vacated with the death of his father, Richard Moreman, Sr.
-Transferred $75,000 from the unassigned 7 cent gas fund to conduct street repairs in developments where the developer has defaulted and was unable to finish the roads projects.