CULLMAN, Ala. – The decision to vacate a portion of County Road 821 was made at Tuesday morning’s Cullman County Commission meeting. The portion of the road includes the bridge crossing Rock Creek which was deemed unsalvageable after an accident involving an 18-wheeler in February 2018.
Land owners and residents were made aware of the County’s proposed resolution to permanently close and vacate the portion of the road after a petition was presented to the County. A public hearing was held at Tuesday morning’s commission meeting and those on both sides of the issue came to voice their thoughts on the matter.
Edwin Calvert, a longtime member of the Trimble Volunteer Fire Department, said, “I’m concerned about the bridge not being replaced. There’s a lot of traffic on that road.”
Calvert said his primary concern is the extra time it may take for responders to arrive in the event of an emergency.
Gates have been placed on the bridge, and Calvert said he felt that was done “illegally.” He said he feels the bridge is essential. He said the County was awarded $188,742 from the trucking company, Werner Enterprises, responsible for the damage to the bridge and asked the commission where that money went and why the money didn’t go toward fixing the bridge.
Chairman Walker answered, “It went into the gasoline fund to repair roads.”
Cullman County Engineer John Lang said of the current condition of the bridge, “This was all brought about by the accident. The bridge was posted at 3 tons prior to the accident, which would make it impassible for many emergency responding vehicles. To alleviate some of the concerns regarding emergency vehicles, it would create a bigger emergency if a vehicle ended up in the creek crossing a 3-ton bridge rather than following a non-posted route. Additionally, when the decision was made to close the bridge rather than to repair it, we reached out to ALDOT’s emergency response team to verify our findings to see whether or not the bridge was salvageable. It was not only our opinion that the bridge was not salvageable, but it was also the opinion of ALDOT and their emergency support unit.”
Lang read a letter from one of the petitioners in support of closing the bridge that referenced the problems of non-local traffic as well as dead body that had been dumped at the bridge that is part of a still unsolved murder. He said in addition to the land owners and residents in favor of the closing, all utilities have been notified and none have voiced opposition.
Jeremy Knope spoke in favor of the vacation and bridge closing, saying, “When the bridge is open, every weekend and every time they get a chance, it’s a gathering spot for teenagers. They drink, they raise Cain on that bridge; they hang off of it. Every weekend I fill up two or three bags full of garbage. It’s a dumping site.”
He said the bridge closing is a “blessing.”
Calvert disputed the claims of trash being a problem.
Calvert made one final plea, saying, “That bridge has never been used for emergency vehicles; we all respond in our private vehicles. We don’t have time to go to the fire station to get a truck. They come behind us does that. The first responders get there quickly, QUICKLY, in minutes, so they can save your lives, your wife’s life and somebody else’s life. It doesn’t matter where you live in the county, time is of the essence.”
Cullman County Attorney Chad Floyd verified with Lang that Lang had confirmed no resident or land owner in the proposed area would have interference from reasonable means of egress or regress from their property. The commission then voted unanimously to vacate the portion of County Road 821 around Rock Creek.
In other business, the commission:
- Authorized Revenue Commissioner Barry Willingham to enter into a personal property audit services agreement with Tax Management Associates, Inc.
- Approved Commissioner Kerry Watson’s appointment of Randa Duke to the Department of Human Resources Board to fill the unexpired term of Katherine Morgan. Term to expire 5/15/2022.
- Approved Resolution 2019-18 to set the speed limit on a portion of County Road 71 at 30 MPH
- Approved the surplus of various computer equipment from Forestry Service
- Approved repairs to the AS-400 system- estimated cost $18,050
- Awarded a bid to Simpson Plastering of Birmingham for the fireproofing replacement at the Detention Center
- Awarded a bid to Straightline Drywall for ceiling replacement at the Detention Center.
- Repealed the half-cent sales tax for education passed on March 12, 2019 (See https://www.cullmantribune.com/2019/04/23/cullman-county-commission-votes-to-repeal-half-cent-sales-tax/)
The next commission work session will be Tuesday, May 21 at 8:30 a.m., followed by the commission meeting at 10 a.m. in the commission meeting room at the Cullman County Courthouse.
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