FLORENCE — A decision coming within days by the Lauderdale County Commission on which state road and bridge grant program to participate in could determine whether the city of Florence will be able to draw money from one of the programs.
The City Council was told Tuesday during its work session that a newly created grant program that funnels state and federal money to county governments also cuts out municipal governments.
The Rural Access Match Program, or RAMP, unveiled in November by Gov. Robert Bentley, can give counties $5 million to upgrade bridges with weight limits less than 13 tons. Replacing those bridges would make them safe for school buses.
Unfortunately for cities, if the county government opts to participate in the RAMP program, municipal governments cannot apply for money from a similar program, Alabama Transportation Rehabilitation Improvement Program, or ATRIP.
Melissa Bailey, head of the Florence Planning Department, told the council Tuesday the city has applied for $7.4 million from ATRIP to rebuild and repave Wood Avenue, and to complete the first phase of the College Street redevelopment corridor. The corridor eventually will include building a bridge that will link west Florence with Alabama 20 and the city sports complex.
She also said the city of Killen has applied for money from ATRIP to install a traffic signal at Brooks High School.
Bailey said she, Mayor Mickey Haddock and city engineer Bill Batson met with county officials last week to discuss the situation.
"The county feels the $5 million in the RAMP program would serve them well," Bailey said. "They feel it is a better option for them."
The differences in the programs are what makes RAMP so appealing to county governments, which generally have less money than cities. In the ATRIP program, governments must pay a 20 percent match when money is awarded. Under the RAMP program, no local match is required.
Lauderdale County officials estimate they can upgrade as many as 20 rural bridges with the $5 million.
The County Commission meets Monday, but city officials are asking them to consider delaying the vote until the first of 2013 and consider cooperative efforts with the city.
"If the county takes the RAMP money, we can't apply in the next round of ATRIP grant applications," Haddock said.
Haddock and Council President Dick Jordan said they have asked the county to consider working with the city to help fund road and bridge projects, and to delay their vote while discussions continue.
The only bridge in Florence that would qualify for RAMP funding is on Mars Hill Road, near the Florence-Lauderdale Industrial Park.
In another matter during the work session, the council adopted a resolution to ask the County Commission to consider rebidding ambulance service under a joint contract. The council stipulated that the entire county be included in the contract.
The commission considered a resolution Monday to rebid the service for all the county with the exception of Killen.
Under the present contract, the Killen-Center Star Ambulance Service answers calls in the central part of the county, serving 14,000 people. The Killen Town Council was asked Monday to consider the proposition, but has not issued an answer, said George Grabryan, director of the Florence-Lauderdale Emergency Management Agency.
Robert Palmer can be reached at 256-740-5720 or robert.palmer@TimesDaily.com.