Butler Co. faces major road issues

William Kelley
William Kelley

Posted by Bryan Henry  -  bio | email

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - On old Highway 31 in the southern end of Butler County, you don't have to tell William Kelley his road is in really bad shape.

"I got a hubcap laying over there, found it the other day," said Kelley.

That's what concerns Butler County Commissioner Lynn Watson.

"These roads were built for 50 years dating back to the Governor Jim Folsom era," said Commissioner Watson.

Fellow Commissioner Jesse McWilliams agrees.

"It does sound drastic," said Commissioner McWilliams.

So much so Commissioner Watson believes within 5 years the county will have no choice but to tear up the broken asphalt secondary roads, such as Highway 31, and turn them into gravel roads where the maintenance is much cheaper.

"We're sitting on 400 something miles of paved, farmer market roads. There's no money to do it," said Commissioner Watson.

"When the gasoline prices start to rise everything that's related to that as far as upkeep of the roads are with that," said Commissioner McWilliams.

Right now the Alabama Department of Transportation gets 55% of the gasoline tax while the remaining 45% is distributed among the counties. Who gets what is based on population. On top of that each county in Alabama also receives more than $500,000 a year from the federal government.

One option to help solve the road problems is a half-cent sales tax, but commissioners say the climate's not right for that.

"It's the economy," Commissioner Watson said.

In fact, a recent survey showed county residents would not support a half-cent sales tax increase even though the county only gets one-half of 1% from the current sales tax rate which is 9 and a half percent.

William Kelley for one would support a hike since he knows what 'smooth' is. Kelley's own driveway is in much better shape than many of the roads in Butler County.

"I did this about two months ago," Kelley said.

Commissioners Watson and McWilliams say the entire county commission agrees there's a problem, but no consensus on how to go forward with a plan to fix it.

Butler County is by far not the only government with road issues. Local governments in states like Indiana have already turned many of their paved roads in gravel roads.

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