ALDOT to repave Highway 261, widening on hold

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

Alabama Department of Transportation crews will begin repaving Shelby County 261 from its intersection with Shelby County 17 in Helena and U.S. 31 in Pelham in early 2012, but likely will not widen the road for “several years,” said Pelham City Engineer Jesse Jowers.

The announcement came during a Dec. 19 Pelham City Council meeting, during which the council voted to approve the repaving project.

Jowers said ALDOT will repave and restripe the road to maintain it until the widening project commences. ALDOT currently has the Shelby County 261 five-lane widening project listed as a 2016 project, Jowers said.

“This is not the widening project. They just have to repave the road to maintain it since they put off the widening project several more years,” Jowers told the council members.

ALDOT has already purchased several pieces of property along Shelby County 261 to one day accommodate the widening project. In early 2011, ALDOT officials said economic shortfalls had caused several projects across the state to be delayed.

In other business, the council:

-Heard from Pelham resident Edward Brasher, whose yard in the Chandalar subdivision recently was damaged when an underground water line broke. Brasher said he called the city and reported the break, but the Pelham Water Department employee who responded only turned off one of the two valves flowing to the leak.

Brasher told council members during a November meeting the water leaked into his yard for several hours before the water department realized the second valve was still open, and told council members he should be reimbursed for the damages because of the “city’s negligence.”

During the November meeting, council members told Brasher the city’s insurance would not cover the damages. Council President Teresa Nichols said the city’s attorney said the city was not negligent and advised the council to not establish a policy of reimbursing homeowners for such damages, but could reimburse homeowners for damages on a case-by-case basis.

Council member Bill Meadows said he previously looked at ways to reimburse Brasher, but was unable to due to the “legal process.”

“Bill Meadows has done his due diligence to help you, and I regret that I can’t in my role as councilman,” Meadows told Brasher Dec. 19, shortly before he asked Pelham Mayor Don Murphy to look at ways to reimburse homeowners on a case-by-case basis. “I encourage you to seek legal advice.”

Councilman Steve Powell said he would not be in favor of reimbursing homeowners for non-negligent damages because it could “devastate” the city’s finances.

-Voted unanimously to fund a project to replace water pipes and install pressure regulators to address the frequent water line breaks in the Chandalar subdivision. The project will be bid out, but likely will cost about $255,000, Nichols said.

-Received a proposed city blight ordinance from the Pelham Homeowners’ Association. If passed, the ordinance would lay out city appearance-related violations and penalties for violating them.

The council likely will vote on the blight ordinance at its next meeting.