Completing construction of the Morgan County Jail addition, several road and bridge projects, and redrawing the federal flood zone maps could dominate 2016 for Morgan County officials.
This also is an election year, but it should be quiet on the local front with a Morgan County Board of Education seat the only contested local race.
“We want to finish the jail,” Morgan County Commission Chairman Ray Long said. “That’s our top priority.”
Construction on the 450-bed, $11 million expansion began last June with an estimated completion date of June. But Long said work is about 45 days behind schedule because of the weather. He said the work should be completed before the end of the fiscal year Sept. 30, but he hopes it will be done this summer.
Long, District 4 Commissioner Greg Abercrombie and District 3 Commissioner Don Stisher virtually are assured of serving another term after none of them drew any opposition for the Republican primary in March or the November general election.
Recruiting jobs to the county remains a priority, and high on Long’s list is finding the first tenant for the Morgan Business Park off Thompson Road in Hartselle. He said the park would be a good location for suppliers to larger manufacturers such as Polaris in Limestone County.
“The park’s been sitting empty for nearly three years,” he said.
Long hopes the county doesn’t have to dip into its reserves again to balance next year’s budget. The county has used its reserves the past two years to adopt a balanced budget. Long said the reserves were used to pay for some one-time computer software upgrades and to give county employees cost-of-living raises.
The county plans more road and bridge work this year than normal, thanks to Alabama Transportation and Rehabilitation Plan (ATRIP) grants that are paying most of the costs, County Engineer Greg Bodley said.
A $3 million bridge replacement project on Kirby Bridge Road began last summer. It’s about 50 percent complete and should be finished before the fall 2016 school term begins, Bodley said.
Bids are expected to be awarded early this year for a $2 million bridge replacement on Cotaco Florette Road and a $900,000 bridge replacement on Cedar Creek Church Road.
Bodley said the number of bridge projects in the county this year “is way above average. Except for ATRIP, we maybe could replace one bridge a year as opposed to three. Generally, it takes us eight years to save enough money to start a bridge project.”
Also, the Alabama Department of Transportation recently opened bids to repave and install guardrails on Eva Road between Alabama 67 in Florette and Peck Mountain Road.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency could have preliminary redrawn flood-zone maps available for public comment this summer, Bodley said.
He said the new maps could place some areas in the county into a flood zone that are not presently in a flood zone.
“I expect the flood zones will be more accurate,” Bodley said of the redrawn maps.
Officials plan to notify property owners by mail if their property is moved into a flood zone under the new maps, Bodley said.
“It’s going to upset some people,” he said.
A homeowner with a mortgage whose house is redrawn into a flood zone is usually required to buy flood insurance by his mortgage holder. A homeowner with a house that is moved out of the flood zone can still buy flood insurance, but at a cheaper rate.
Abercrombie said he looks forward to the bridge replacement on Florette Cotaco Road and the paving and guardrail work on Eva Road, both of which are in his district.
The new Lacey’s Spring Senior Center building is complete, Abercrombie said. All that remains for the center to open to the public is installing a septic system and building a parking lot, both of which are weather-dependent, he said.
Abercrombie said the county has acquired an acre close to the Tennessee River in Lacey’s Spring with plans to construct a building for the Morgan County Rescue Squad to store a boat and rescue equipment.
The Rogers Group is building a barge dock on the river, from which the company will allow the Rescue Squad to launch rescue boats, Abercrombie said.
A launch area on the south side of the river would keep the Rescue Squad from having to drive to Ditto Landing in Madison County to launch a rescue mission, he said.
District 1 Commissioner Jeff Clark expects a routine year of work ahead in his district. He plans to repave about seven miles of county roads, work on drainage improvements and perform routine maintenance.
“You never get done with those,” he said.