Lakeberry Road Project pros and cons and budget review highlight commission meeting

Published 7:16 pm Monday, September 9, 2013

By Fred Guarino
The Lowndes Signal

Pro and cons for paving Lakeberry Road and Lakeberry Lane and a review of the 2013-2014 Fiscal Year Budget were highlights of Monday’s regular Lowndes County Commission meeting in Hayneville.

Yancy Green appeared before the commission to express his opposition to paving Lakeberry Road. And George Crawford expressed concerns about the project with regard to his cows, grass and fences.

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Nell Howard and Germane Akley of Lakeberry Lane also appeared to express support for paving both Lakeberry Road and Lakeberry Lane.

And County Commission Administrator Jackie Thomas presented the commission with a review of the proposed 2013-2014 Fiscal Year Budget for which she said the General Fund would have a surplus of nearly $4,000.

At a previous meeting County Engineer David Butts reported that letters were sent out regarding work to be done pave a portion of Lakeberry Road, Lakeberry Lane, Debeck Road and Fleeton Road. All are dirt roads.

The roads are part of an approximately $400,000 Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA) Grant funded project for which Butts said the county will have to provide for any cost over the grant amount.

Butts said two landowners don’t want the Lakeberry Lane and Lakeberry Road parts of the project to go forward. He said they also do not want to provide the county additional needed right-of-way.

At Monday’s meeting, Green of Lakeberry Road appeared to express his objections.

He told the commission he has always tried to b e a good and productive citizen of the county. He said he has pastored a church in the county for 19 years. And he said he and his wife opened the Dirt Road Diner in October of 2012.

Green said, “We’ve always tried to have peace and get along. And opposing this road project on Lakeberry (Road and Lane), we’re not trying to stir up conflict.”

Green said the road has a neighborhood feel and setting, which he said would be changed by the proposed road paving project. He also said that he would lose property that could not be replaced.

Green said he owns parcels of property along Lakeberry for a total of 1,485 linear feet. He said that combined with others, who he said also do not want the road paved, would result in the loss of 4,907 road frontage.

Green said he would lose pecan trees. And he said he would lose parking space for his church in use now and that planned for the diner.

Green challenged the notion that paving the road would make it safer. “I say it will not,” he said. He also said it would become an economic burden for the county.

“Our road is in great condition. This project is not needed and is a waste of taxpayer funds,” Green said. “Use the money to repair the paved roads you already have.”

Green also said paving would reduce the value of his property because “a 5 acre lot is a lot more enticing for someone to buy than a 4.1 acre lot.”

Commission Chairman Harris asked if Green had been considerate of others.

“We do know that when a dirt road is dry, it’s dusty. We know that when it’s wet, it’s muddy,” Harris said. “There is trouble sometimes when a road is muddy and people can’t get in and out probably like they should.”

He said the dust affects people’s allergies and asthma.

Green said except for where the road hits Old Selma Road, it has never been impassible.

Harris acknowledged Green’s right to his opinion. However, he said he has received calls from people wanting the road paved and upgraded.

While Butts said there could be 15 feet of right of way needed from the edge of the existing road. He said all of it would not be used and could be still used as yard by property owners.

George Crawford expressed concern about trees to be cut for the paving project.

“I don’t want them piled up on my place,” Crawford said. He also said he had cows that graze and he did not want trees piled on the grass. And, he said, if his cows got out, “somebody is going to pay $1,100 per cow.”

Harris said, if a fence is taken down, another fence would be erected. He also said, “If we tear anything down, we’re required by law to put it back equal or better.”

Nell Howard said, “Everybody on my road, Lakeberry Lane, want a road.” She said, “We want a road because we’ve only got one way out.” And she said it has rained so bad at times that she could not get out to pick up medicine.

“We want a road on our side. We want Lakeberry Road to be paved. My people are in agreement,” Howard said.

Germaine Ackley, also a resident of Lakeberry Lane, said every time it rained it caused a hard time getting to Lakeberry Road. And she said from what she thought was Crawford’s property, she could hardly see traffic coming.

“And a lot of times that dirt road does not stop that traffic from going fast,” Ackley said.

In a budget preview Administrator Thomas said the county’s General Fund Budget would have revenues of $4,794,320 and expenses of $4,333,239.
Less funds transferred out of the budget of $457,450, she said, there will be a surplus of $3,631.

Thomas said the overall budget would include both a 2.5 percent raise across the board for employees and a one-time $500 increase in either November or December.

Thomas told the commissioners that she thought they have done a “better job of managing” spending.

It was agreed by commissioners that the commission would approve the budget at its regular fourth Monday meeting.

In other matters, the commission approved a consent agenda including:
Minutes; invoices; a contract with the Lowndes County Board of Education for deputies to patrol at basketball and football games; an exchange of information agreement with the state of Alabama Department of Revenue with herself, Harris, Kimberly West, the tax assessor and clerk; a lease agreement with Boost Mobile for rent at the Hayneville Plaza; an appropriation to Central High School for $250 to host a Lowndes County Got Talent program for the children; and a letter of support to West Alabama Public Transportation to pick up senior citizens and dialysis patients and take them to Montgomery.

On a motion from Commissioner Brenson Crenshaw with a second from Commissioner Dickson Farrior, the commission voted to draft a letter to the Lowndes County Water Authority seeking a copy of their contract for management of services.

And Thomas asked commissioners to hold off on the payment of an $8,000 invoice from Standard and Poor’s until she can find out why the invoice was received