Cullman council awards 1st bids for Hwy. 157 widening, issues permit for 4th of July fireworks

The Cullman City Council (Heather Mann for The Cullman Tribune)

CULLMAN, Ala. – The Cullman City Council on Monday night approved several requests for special event permits and also awarded the first bids for the long-awaited widening of Alabama Highway 157 from just east of U.S. Highway 31 to just past Cullman Regional. The 3.5-mile stretch of Hwy. 157 is the only portion of that highway that is not four lanes. 

Special event permits were granted for events throughout June and July, including a permit for Cullman Parks, Recreation & Sports Tourism (CPRST) to hold the annual 4th of July fireworks show in Heritage Park.

CPRST Executive Director Zac Wood said the fireworks will start at 9 p.m. and will be synced to patriotic music, which will be broadcast on 92.1 WKUL for anyone in their cars or at their homes to tune in. With the fireworks visible from most places within the city, there will be plenty of opportunity for people to enjoy the full experience while social distancing; however, those who wish to go to the park and watch up close will have designated areas to sit to ensure distancing.

There were four other special event permits issued during the meeting. One was for Cullman First Baptist Church to hold a Live Stream Motion Conference in Depot Park July 23-25 from 10 a.m.-7 p.m. each day.

Two were for protests in Depot Park in June and July: Correct Cullman will be holding protests from 3-7 p.m.  June 9, 10, 13 and 14, and Smooth Fondu Band will be holding a musical protest and concert in Depot Park July 17 from 7-10 p.m. Cullman Police Chief Kenny Culpepper offered his support for both of these permit requests, saying the members of Correct Cullman have been cooperative, peaceful and “absolutely correct in everything that they’ve done,” and he said talking with Terrell Jones (a Cullman resident and the band member who requested the permit) led him to voice his endorsement for the permit.

The last permit issued also went to Correct Cullman for a prayer vigil led by Rev. James Fields in Depot Park from 3-5 p.m. June 10.

Amy Kampis, a member of Correct Cullman and the person who requested the permit, spoke to the council about the event, saying, “There have been some prayer vigils at Depot Park with all the unrest around the country right now, but some of us felt that it was telling that none of the people praying in our community at Depot Park that were holding these vigils were actually from the black community in Cullman. I believe that the only way we can reach racial unity is to work together and bring everybody together. We just want to make sure our whole community is represented.”

There will be a microphone and speaker system set up so that people choosing to stay in their cars for social distancing reasons will still be able to hear.

Highway 157 project

Mayor Woody Jacobs announced in his report that preparations continue for the Hwy. 157 widening project, with two bids already awarded, and the council signed two resolutions formalizing the bid agreements. Apel Machine & Supply was awarded the bids for water and sanitary sewer relocation. Other bids will take place in July. Jacobs said construction for the project will likely begin in September 2020. The Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) back in October 2018 said the project was part of its five-year plan, but specified the timetable for the Hwy. 157 projects (including the bridges over Lake Catoma and bridges over the railroad tracks), expected to cost around $25.2 million, was contingent on the agency’s ability to procure the necessary funding. In December 2018, the City of Cullman announced it had been awarded a $14 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Better Utilizing Investment to Leverage Development (BUILD) Grant program for the project.

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Heather Mann