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Cliff Williams / The Outlook A sewer barely visible crosses under U.S. Highway 280 where the Alabama Department of Transportation is allowing an entrace for a grocery anchored development. The sewer line services a large section on the other side of the road and would be cover by nearly 40 feet of dirt presenting issues for future repairs.

A proposed development at the intersection of U.S. Highway 280 and Highway 63 is being affected by a decision from the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT).

Incentives for the 100,000 square foot development anchored by a grocery store were approved in June 2021. But ALDOT is allowing developers an entrance in the middle of the development from U.S. Highway 280 about 600 feet from Highway 63 according to Alexander City officials.

That entrance affects the layout of construction on the property and the needed fill dirt. Alexander City Public Works director and city engineer Gerard Brewer said the current plan would make it nearly impossible to make repairs on a main trunk sewer line.

“The gravity sewer would end up covered up,” Brewer told the Alexander City City Council. “It would be about 35 feet deep. It would be about 15 to 20 feet away from the building.”

Covering a sewer line is normal but the depth of the line and the proximity of the building means the city wouldn’t be able to perform needed repairs to the line after construction of the development. Brewer said it would take specialized equipment from a contractor to do the work.

“It would be a very technical repair if we ever had to go in to fix an issue there,” Brewer said. “What we are requesting is a bond, some type of warranty so if there was a problem there we have some type of financial mechanism to be able to get a little help in repairing this.”

Mayor Woody Baird said the line is already about eight feet underground and the additional covering of the line would put it nearly 40 feet deep. For the city to dig down to the line a large ditch would be required.

“A one-to-one [safety] ratio means a 70-foot wide opening would need to be made to work there, Baird said. “It takes out the parking lot; it takes out the entrance and not to mention the danger to the building. We don’t have ditch boxes. We would have to get a contractor to do it.”

Brewer said he is in conversations with the engineers of the development to determine how to proceed to protect sewer service for citizens and allow the development to proceed. Brewer said many things such as a redundant line, moving the line or adding pump stations or emergency pumps in case of issue have been thought about.

“We keep putting it back in their engineer’s lap,” Brewer said. “They can’t come with a fail proof system so we are saying some type of guarantee on it.”

The sewer line goes under U.S. Highway 280 and goes between Aliant Bank and Huddle House. Brewer said it services an area that goes over to Bice and many of the offices and shops along Cherokee Road and back to the Alexander City Chamber of Commerce.

Even before construction of the development begins, inspections of the lines are being done by city employees before explosive blasting of rock on the site is done.

“We checked it,” Brewer said. “We have [videoed] it and it looks good. We did that because there will be blasting around there and this way we have a recording of what the condition is before they start. We will continue checking it through the process — especially during blasting — to make sure it's OK and has no movement.”

Currently the project is still on the drawing board and no construction permits have been issued for the development. Baird said developers will have to come up with a plan to protect the sewer service through a bond type agreement or the city couldn’t permit it.

“We have to protect the city’s infrastructure including the sewer,” Baird said.

Baird said another entrance about 1,500 feet from Highway 63 is also proposed and doesn't present as large of an issue to city infrastructure.

Cliff Williams is a staff writer for Tallapoosa Publishers.

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