Archived Story

Proposed Russell Boulevard hits road block

Published 6:47pm Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The long-planned Russell Boulevard, which would open up the Russell campus and the adjacent Central Alabama Business Park, hit another speed bump this week as bids for the project came in more than a half-million dollars above expectations.
Sheppard Dearing, a project manager with engineering firm Goodwyn, Mills and Cawood, informed Tallapoosa County Commissioners of the result of the bid opening at Tuesday’s meeting.
“The bids came in much more over budget than we anticipated,” Dearing told commissioners of the costs offered by paving companies to lay the proposed road between U.S. Highway 280 and Lee Street.
The bids for the project were about $600,000 higher than what was expected, according to Don McClellan, executive director of the Lake Martin Economic Development Alliance.
Dearing said he would get in touch with contacts at the Alabama Department of Transportation to see if the bids were in line with what state road engineers are seeing in their projects.
Commissioners voted unanimously to table a motion to approve the bid award, giving Dearing time to explore why bids came in so high. If those bids were legitimate, commissioners said, the county would have to go back to the state to ask for another access grant.
Goodwyn, Mills and Cawood was initially retained to engineer the project after a $1.6 million state Industrial Access Grant was obtained in August 2011. Alexander City and Russell Brands LLC both agreed to chip in a portion of the engineering costs.
But this summer, Dearing came back to the commission to let them know the design project was “back on track.” It had been delayed almost two years as engineers dealt with roadblocks like underground utilities and power lines.
“Building a road through the Russell campus is not an easy chore,” he said in June.
McClellan said he feared the bid letting fell victim to “timing.” When the project was first proposed, he said, paving companies were looking for any business they could find. That increased competition for jobs, which could have held down the cost of the project.
But now paving companies have all the businesses they can handle due to the statewide Alabama Transportation Rehabilitation and Improvement program. That program aims to pump a billion dollars to help local governments resurface roads and repair bridges through a federal bond program. The cost of asphalt and other materials, affected by high petroleum costs, also rose.
“A billion dollars gets everyone in the state bidding,” McClellan said. “It’s disappointing to have the bids come back like this.”
Alexander City city engineer Gerard Brewer told The Outlook that although the grant did come into jeopardy because of the delays, Goodwyn, Mills and Cawood brought the situation to ALDOT to achieve the necessary extensions by explaining “some of the design snags we’ve been through and the economic hardships.”
In other business, the Tallapoosa County Commission:
Adopted its meeting schedule and county holiday schedule for 2014. Holidays include those extended to state employees, as well as the Friday after Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve, which Gov. Robert Bentley approved for state workers last year.
Approved a single event license to sell alcoholic beverages for SpringHouse Restaurant.
Approved County Administrator Blake Beck’s request to pursue a refinancing of the county’s 2004 GO Bond Issue. Beck said the terms will remain the same, but the county could save “around $75,000 over six years” by taking advantage of lower interest rates.
Approved a resolution for the Tallapoosa County E-911 Board to purchase land for towers to improve county first-responders’ communications coverage.
Approved the service contract for a plotter/scanner/copier unit for the highway department at $799 per year and an additional license for the MicroStation software at a cost of $770 per year.
Approved the naming of a private drive off Timberwood Drive as Timberwood Point.
Approved a contract for juvenile detention beds at the Lee County Youth Detention Facility.