The road to progress

Published 12:00 am Sunday, May 9, 2004

Though it is the brick and mortar that the city and county are built upon, when it is maintained, infrastructure remains part of the scenery, unnoticed. However, once those basic components start to fail the effects are felt immediately.

For their tax dollars, citizens expect well-maintained roads, clean water, working sewers and bridges, but often in elections, the plans for improving infrastructure get pushed to the back for other, flashier topics.

But in Dallas County, where half of our roads are still made of dirt, a candidate’s plan for improving our infrastructure should be up front.

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According to Coosa Jones, Dallas County Engineer, the county is in constant need of improvement. Of the 900 miles of roads in Dallas County, only 400-450 miles are paved. In addition, six bridges are under construction and the county has submitted grant requests for three more.

Candidates planning to serve Dallas County after the June 1 Primary need a plan to deal with these projects plus the inevitable surprises while battling the budget crunch that faces nearly every city and county government in Alabama.

Darryl Moore, who is running for the District 3 County Commission seat said he believes infrastructure in the city and county is in terrible shape.

According to Jones, the only thing preventing Dallas County officials from doing more to fix the problem is money.

Most of the Dallas County Engineer’s office operation is funded by the seven-cent gas tax. Most of these funds, however, are used on the day-to-day maintenance and operations of the Engineer’s office, leaving little left over for paving projects and other improvements.

“(The Commission is) trying to get some funding to pave unpaved roads,” Jones said. “We just try to maintain (roads) as well as we can. The Commission tries to get funding other than our normal funds.”

Moore said a bond issue would provide some relief.

“The only way to fix it is to seek a bond issue to defray the costs,” Moore said. “That may make take a little time to do here in the city.”

It’s an approach the council has used before, according to Roy Moore, who is running unopposed for the District 2 seat.

Roy Moore pointed to a $1 million bond issue slated for paving roads, but noted that it takes $100,000 to pave one mile of road.

“We’re doing what we can with what we’ve got,” Roy Moore said.

The council has also gained grants to help get water to the rural parts of the community. Over the last four years, the council has gained nearly $1 million in grants for water.

“We’ve been real active in that,” R. Moore said.

Darryl Moore’s opponent, the incumbent Cutis Williams, points out that while infrastructure is important, it’s no the only issue facing commissioners.

“Many people think that paving roads and cutting grass is all the commission is responsible for doing,” Williams wrote. “but we provide funding for various agencies and projects, develop plans for different projects, renovation and building construction,”

Like the other commissioners,

Connel Towns Sr., District 1 commissioner, said his infrastructure plans included improving the water and roads.

According to Towns, six roads have been paved since he took office and another one is on the way. District 1 residents will see the paving of additional roads come August.

Towns said he does his best to make sure the people’s needs are met.

“I’ve dedicated my time and energy to serve the people,” Towns said. “I try to meet the needs of the people.”

Towns added that he works with the Selmont Water Works and Sewer Board to ensure county residents receive clean water.

Barbara Barge, who is running against Towns, said in her declaration that work on Alabama Highway 41 and roads in the Minter area was done, but added that more was needed.

“I want to see more roads paved,” Barge said. “I’d focus on the areas with more people.”

Commissioner Kim Ballard is running for re-election to the District 4 seat. Ballard said an aggressive paving program is already in place, but more work is needed.

“Ideally, you’d want all roads paved,” Ballard said. “They’re easier to maintain.”

However with so many miles of unpaved roads, Ballard acknowledged that paving them must occur on a piecemeal basis.

“I’ve made good headway since I’ve been in office,” Ballard said.

Ballard said he would continue the paving program and work with various governmental entities to ensure the county had clean drinking water.

“Just the same things we’ve been doing,” Ballard added.

Larry Nickles, who is running against Ballard, said prevention is the key to maintaining roads. If elected, he plans on discovering where bad patches of road exist before they become too worn down.

Nickles also wants to get local groups involved in maintaining the county’s infrastructure and donating to the cause.

“If the county can’t fix it, I’ll ask the people to help,” Nickles said.