County, Fairhope at odds yet again on county road repairs

By Cliff McCollum
Posted 5/9/17

Tensions have once again flared between the Baldwin County Commission and the city of Fairhope’s utilities department following continued discussions and problems involving needed upgrades to …

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County, Fairhope at odds yet again on county road repairs

Posted

Tensions have once again flared between the Baldwin County Commission and the city of Fairhope’s utilities department following continued discussions and problems involving needed upgrades to county roads on the city’s borders.

Late Tuesday afternoon, the county moved the highway department’s message boards to County Road 32 near the intersection with Highway 181 displaying a message to motorists and the city itself: “Delays caused by Fairhope Utility. Call 928-2136.”

The county said several roads, including County Road 32, have been held up for far too long. The list includes the following:

- CR48 just West of Bohemian Hall Rd

According to notes from the Baldwin County Highway Department: “This site is currently open to the public. We have received a quote from Fairhope Water & Sewer to relocate this conflict. The City of Fairhope has the utility agreement and we are waiting for the city council to sign off on it.”

- Section St. South of Old Battles

According to notes from the Baldwin County Highway Department: “This site is currently open to the public. We have received a quote from Fairhope Water & Sewer to relocate this conflict. The City of Fairhope has the utility agreement and we are waiting for the city council to sign off on it.”

- CR34 Just West of Section St.

According to notes from the Baldwin County Highway Department: “This site has not started. We have received a quote from Fairhope Water & Sewer to relocate this conflict. The City of Fairhope has the utility agreement and we are waiting for the city council to sign off on it.”

- CR32  East of CR13

According to notes from the Baldwin County Highway Department: “This site is currently open to the public. This site has a high pressure gas line in conflict. We are currently working on a resolution.”

- CR24 East of CR13

According to notes from the Baldwin County Highway Department: “This site is currently opened to the public. We have received a quote from Fairhope Water & Sewer to relocate this conflict. The City of Fairhope has the utility agreement and we are waiting for the city council to sign off on it.”

- CR24 West of US98

According to notes from the Baldwin County Highway Department: “This site is currently open to the public. We have received a quote from Fairhope Water & Sewer to relocate this conflict. The City of Fairhope has the utility agreement and we are waiting for the city council to sign off on it.”

- CR32 just East of US181

According to notes from the Baldwin County Highway Department: “The culvert excavation has started.  This site has a high pressure gas line in conflict. A utility agreement with The City of Fairhope has been approved by ALDOT. Fairhope Gas has ordered the required materials to lower the gas line. We currently expect 2-3 weeks for this conflict to be resolved before we start construction on the box culvert.”

Fairhope Operations Director Richard Peterson addressed the issue during the May 8 Fairhope City Council meeting, saying his department was trying to work with the county on the issue, but was waiting for the county to pass an agreement to reimburse any costs the city would incur on the projects.

“The bottom line is that the county commission will probably meet on May 16 to create the reimbursable agreement that meets with this cost assessment,” Peterson said. “It’s net zero costs to us and we’ll be reimbursed for labor and equipment as well.”

At the meeting, Peterson said his department was working hard to try to come to an amicable solution.

“I’m wanting to accommodate working with the county to get it done as quickly as we can,” Peterson said.

During the May 9 county commission work session, the commissioners were still incensed that Fairhope Utilities was still “dragging their feet,” and had not even ordered any of the necessary parts to do the jobs.

Commissioner Tucker Dorsey said the projects had been ongoing since the April 2014 rain event and the delays due to Fairhope’s inaction were dangerously ridiculous.

“To me, this makes it look like typical government work,” Dorsey said. “Cut the road wide open and sit there and watch it. We’ve been trying to get this finished for months now and the delay has been and continues to be Fairhope Utilities.”

Dorsey said in the case of County Road 32, another large rain event could cause a washout that could create even larger infrastructure issues than the ones that currently exist.

Commission Chairman Chris Elliott said the passage of the reimbursement agreement was a foregone conclusion from their perspective and he didn’t understand why more action wasn’t being taken.

“It’s a reimbursable agreement,” Elliott said. “It doesn’t cost them anything. They know that it’s coming and we will pass it, so I don’t understand what the problem or the holdup is. We’ve asked them to move this stuff for a long time.”

Commissioner Frank Burt said he hoped people would know this was not the county holding this up and would hold Fairhope Utilities responsible.

“When you’ve got this kind of problem with progress, people are sitting there wondering what is going on,” Burt said. “People need to be calling over there and see what the hold up is.”

Dorsey said he felt he knew what the holdup was.

“This project is on hold because of Fairhope Utilities and Dan McCrory,” Dorsey said. “Nothing good is coming at us from their delay.”

Elliott urged more action immediately from the utility.

“They’re saying they’re waiting on the reimbursable utility agreement, but we’ll push the paperwork through later,” Elliott said. “Go ahead and move your utilities, some of which they never knew were in conflict because they never even came and located their utilities.”

When the commissioners asked Acting County Engineer Joey Nunnally how long the delays had been happening, Nunnally said it was a situation they’ve been trying to communicate over and solve for several months. On the County Road 32 situation, Nunnally said the first response was not a positive one.

“Fairhope’s response was ‘not my problem,’” Nunnally said. “That was my first reply.”

Nunnally said when the lines were located and couldn’t be worked around, his department went back to Fairhope Utilities and asked them if they wanted to do the relocation themselves or get the county’s subcontractor to do it.

After the county placed the message boards on County Road 32 on Tuesday, Fairhope Mayor Karin Wilson called the move a regrettable one.

“The sign - it’s like pranks,” Wilson said. “They always come back.”

Wilson said the city’s utilities department has been working hard to address this issue since they became aware of it.

“As soon as it was brought to my attention and Richard’s, we’ve been doing everything we can to catch up,” Wilson said. “I think it was a bad situation and there was unnecessary time wasted on getting this accomplished, but we have the right people in place to make it happen.”

County officials said following the placement of the message boards on County Road 32, they received word that some of the needed materials had been ordered for some of the projects by Fairhope Utilities.