A sidewalk project that began along Byler Road in Moulton in 2017 could be in danger of losing state funding after the project was put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
District 4 Councilmember Cassandra Lee said she fears the project she has fought for so long in her district may never happen after she learned the city is at risk of losing funding if construction for the sidewalk isn’t resumed by October.
In a regular council meeting last Monday, Lee learned the project had been put on hold as of April 20 after Mayor Roger Weatherwax sent a request to the Alabama Department of Transportation.
The request stated that the City of Moulton was “cutting back on large spending,” due to the uncertainty of future revenues in the wake of statewide COVID-19 health orders and business closures.
Lee said ALDOT approved the delay on the condition that if the project is not reset in six months, the project will have to be reviewed for possible funding remission.
“As I stated (in the last meeting), the mayor did not consult delays with me as the council representative for District 4,” Lee said. “If this grant is canceled, more than likely there will not be another opportunity for District 4 to tie into the City of Moulton.”
Weatherwax said the council will put the project to a vote before the six-month delay is over.
After discussing the suspension with Goodwyn, Mills and Cawood, the company engineering the project, Weatherwax said construction would likely resume before the middle of October.
Discussions for sidewalks in District 4 began under the administration of former Mayor Ray Alexander after an apartment complex was built and the city received a $400,000 grant in 2015 to install a curb and gutter from Alabama 33 to the triangle at Byler and Pinhook Road. The project also included the construction of a sidewalk from AL-33 to Danville Road.
In April of 2017, the council then under the direction of Mayor Weatherwax, learned the sidewalks would run almost the entire length of Byler Road, from Moulton Village Apartments near Alabama 157 all the way to Alabama 33.
“If it goes to 157, that's even better for my district," Lee said in 2017. "That allows the children who live in those apartment complexes on Byler Road to be able to safely walk to school. Byler Road is a main vessel for traffic, and it can be dangerous to walk down without a sidewalk."
She said the sidewalk would also improve the quality of life for residents in her district, especially for handicapped residents along Byler Road.
In Septemeber of 2017, the City Council, under the direction of Mayor Roger Weatherwax, discussed implementing the project in phases after the lowest project bid came back at $650,153.
Lee said the first phase saw a sidewalk installed along Byler Road in District 5 Councilman Brent White’s District, while her district continues to wait on a project that initially promised to her constituents over six years ago.
In March of last year, the council heard from project manager Paul Burkhalter, of Goodwyn, Mills and Cawood, that the second phase of the project would begin in early 2020.
Burkhalter presented construction plans for a sidewalk beginning on Pinhook Road and ending at Moulton Village Apartments. He told the council the sidewalk project that was planned in October of 2017 and approved by ALDOT in December of 2018 would cost approximately $529,000—about $423,000 of which is being paid for in grant funds.
As of March 2019, Burkhalter said the project was pending environmental assessments that could take up to 12 months to perform before being submitted to ALDOT for approval.
In last week’s council meeting, City Accountant Emily Farris said an application to renew a permit for the project was pending approval by the Alabama Department of Environmental Management.
“I would like to see construction on the sidewalks resume before October,” Weatherwax said Tuesday. “It’s a good project and it’s really needed out there. The City Council will have to put it to a vote and make that decision.”