ALDOT gives extra funds for streetscape project

Mayor notes relationships as $100,000 obtained


Jasper Mayor David O'Mary told the Jasper City Council of the benefits of working with state agencies, noting a $100,000 grant from the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) will now offset $240,000 in extra city cost for a downtown streetscape project. 

"It's a tremendous windfall for this city," O'Mary said. "It goes back to building relationships, treating people right, understanding that folks out there can help you. You cultivate those relations" and manage your operations in a respectable way for the common good. 

O'Mary made his comments before the council adopted a resolution to allow an agreement with ALDOT for downtown streetscape improvements along 18th Street West between Fourth Avenue and Fifth Avenue South, along Fifth Avenue South from 18th Street West to 19th Street West and along 19th Street West from Sixth Avenue to Fourth Avenue South. 

Saying he was pleased to present the item, O'Mary added, "There is a message in this. It is cultivating relationships, not smiting the hand of who can feed you, understanding that people in the game of government that operate at a higher plane than we operate at." 

He said it relates to the sidewalk project at the end of 19th Street, involving federal funds that flow through ALDOT to municipalities. 

"I speak specifically with our relationship to ALDOT," he said, noting the city got a maximum $400,000 grant for the project, while the project itself came in at $640,000 several months ago. The city said it would put up 20 percent, or $240,000. 

Inquiries determined through ALDOT is that the $400,000 could have been traded in for the grant that was most recently awarded, which was $600,000, for extra funding. "You could go back and reapply for this money but you might not have been approved," he said. "It was a trade that made no sense to do," so the idea was turned down. Grant writer Terry Acuff of Community Consultants advised that he agreed with city officials. 

Resigned to the city spending an extra $200,000, O'Mary said he got a call last week from Regional Engineer James Brown of the West Central Region of ALDOT, who works out of Tuscaloosa and lives in Marion County. He asked about details on the sidewalk project, and asked how the difference would be paid off. 

O'Mary said the city had "a couple of good years" and had the money to pay it off in city funds. Brown said it was still a lot of money.

"What if I were to give you an additional $100,000?" Brown was quoted as asking. "I said, 'I would take it,'" the mayor said. 

"Relationships with ALDOT — if we had a matter-of-fact meeting with ALDOT, this wouldn't have happened," O'Mary said. 

He said he was giving the council the documents to approve to wrap up that matter. "We'll pick up $100,000, no strings attached whatsoever," he said, reducing the city's contribution to $140,000. That would put the amount closer to about where the city had anticipated had the bids come in as expected. 

Councilman Gary Cowen joked, "Mayor, I took two semester of calculus and I swear it was easier than what you just explained on the moving parts, but I hear the answer is $100,000 so I make a motion we approve the resolution." 

O'Mary replied, "Well, Gary, I went to elementary school in Eldridge and I learned this was a good deal in the third grade," which generated laughs before the vote. 

Councilwoman Jennifer W. Smith was not present for the vote because she was at the Alabama League of Municipalities state convention.