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2 months ago

To ALDOT, from Helena: Send help — Shelby County suburb plagued by chronically clogged two-lane roads

HELENA – When it comes to the explosive growth that has been underway in North Shelby County since the late 1980s, the City of Helena is often overlooked.

Yet, it has been a significant component of that growth.

It is the kind of growth Alabama’s leaders are encouraging in other parts of the state – people relocating from other states and taking jobs in the area to raise their families. In theory, that builds upon the existing tax base, and that along with the increased economic activity improves the quality of life for everyone statewide.

It is also the kind of growth that as is the case in many places, the government has been woefully ill-equipped to adequately meet the transportation needs required as a result of it.

Helena along with Pelham and Alabaster to the east and southeast have been part of the second phase of the Birmingham metropolitan area’s southern suburban expansion. (The first phase having been Homewood, Vestavia Hills, Mountain Brook and Hoover in the 1970s and 1980s.)

However, unlike Pelham and Alabaster, Helena has felt the brunt of the area’s growing pains given its lack of proximity to a major thoroughfare. (Pelham and Alabaster are served by Interstate 65 and U.S. Highway 31.)

For most of the last three decades, there has been a lot of talk from the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) to do something about it. Unfortunately, that talk has not been followed by any significant action.

Currently, the estimated nearly 20,000 residents in Helena are served by a series of two-lane Shelby County roads to the northwest, east and southeast and by Alabama Highway 261 to its northeast. Highway 261 offers Helena the most direct route to I-65, Hoover and Birmingham.

(ALDOT)

Given that it is the most direct route, it is also the most heavily traveled and therefore, the most backed up. It has gotten incrementally worse since the 1990s. That has not been just a disruption for Helena residents, but for those in adjacent Pelham and Hoover as well.

It’s not unheard of for the eight-mile trip from Helena to the Valleydale Road-Interstate 65 interchange, or vice-versa, to take 45 minutes should that trip take place during rush hour, or when school traffic is underway.

Still, ALDOT has punted time after time after time on improving Highway 261.

“You get to an election year, and the big projects get green-flagged, and the smaller projects – ‘Eh, you know – I’m going to hold you up a little while,’ because you know, politics,” Helena Mayor Mark Hall told Yellowhammer News in an interview earlier this week.

According to Hall, the city’s hands are tied on attempting to go at it on its own given the county and state’s ownership of the roads. However, given those roads are maintained by the state and county, it does allow for federal funds to be used on improvements.

“The big difficulty here in Helena is both the main roads that come through here are state road and county roads,” he explained. “We don’t have jurisdiction over them. We don’t have the funds to spend $30 million. Not on a good day could we come up with $30 million to four-lane a road. We got a $12 million-a-year budget. So, $30 million is out of the question for us. The good thing is they are Shelby County and ALDOT-owned, which can get those federal funds – which we cannot. Getting them to actually break ground and do something is like pulling teeth from a 90-year-old man. He doesn’t have any.”

All hope is not lost, according to Hall. The long-stalled effort to widen Alabama 261 is showing some signs of life now. Hall said recently ALDOT has moved that project into its top-10 list of highway priorities.

“We got it back at the top of the list,” he added. “I feel like that is progress just to get it there. To get the funding mechanism ironed out is the next big deal. That’s what we’re working on now. We’re supposed to meet with [ALDOT] in the coming months again, you know get everybody back together and get this [memorandum of understanding] ironed out where we can at least have the funding mechanism agreed to, whether or not the money is there or not.”

The Helena mayor also said he was also pushing for a meeting with Gov. Kay Ivey, but admitted it would be difficult given she was in the middle of a gubernatorial campaign.

Given the project also has the cities of nearby Pelham and Hoover promoting it, Hall added he was optimistic about the prospects of it becoming a reality.

“I’m working as hard as I can with our council to push this 261 project to the front,” he said. “We got an MOU in the works with the cities of Hoover, Pelham and the Shelby County highway department, along with ALDOT to kick-start this 261 project. And I’m very hopeful this time that we can all sit down at a table and sign an agreement to get it kick-started and going. And I’m very pleased with [ALDOT Director John] Cooper for putting it back on top of the project list because he very well could have told me, ‘Sorry, buddy.’”

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and is the editor of Breitbart TV.

4 mins ago

Modern day “Goldilocks” finds stranger’s home “just right” with amenities

An Alabama woman says a man broke into her house and made himself breakfast, took a bath, and washed his clothes.

Mary Royster tells WAAY-TV she came home Tuesday and found a strange man who wouldn’t leave — he told her he was waiting for his clothes to dry.

Thirty-one-year-old Tyler Love is now back at the Limestone County jail on a charge of burglary.

He had been released just last week after serving time for another burglary.

Royster says “every drawer” in her house had been searched through, and Love made himself scrambled eggs, took a bath, shaved and brushed his teeth.

Royster says finding the man in her home was scary, but he wasn’t violent and she can laugh about it now.
(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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1 hour ago

Alabama sets new record for number of jobs, number of people employed

Alabama has once again broken employment and job records during Governor Kay Ivey’s tenure.

According to data released on Friday, wage and salary employment in September reached a new record high, as did the number of people counted as working, for the fifth month in a row.

“Not only are we experiencing record high employment, this month we’ve also broken another record – our economy is currently supporting the most number of jobs in history!” Ivey said in a statement. “September’s job count of 2,048,000 bypasses the previous record of 2,045,800, which was set in December 2007.”

Alabama Secretary of Labor Fitzgerald Washington stressed that the state’s booming economy has been over-performing experts’ expectations.

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“In January, economists predicted that Alabama would see job growth of 27,000 in 2018. I’m pleased to say that, year-to-date, we’ve already seen job growth of 47,000, surpassing that prediction by 20,000 jobs, and we still have three months left to grow,” Washington said.

Wage and salary employment increased in September by 9,100, and, over the year, wage and salary employment increased by 26,800.

Alabama’s preliminary, seasonally adjusted September unemployment rate is 4.1 percent. This rate represents 2,117,027 people working, which is also a record high. In August, 2,112,099 people were counted as employed, and 2,082,085 were counted as employed in September of last year.

“This is the fifth month in a row that we’ve announced that more people are working in Alabama than ever before. Alabama’s businesses are hiring, Alabamians are working, and wages are rising,” Ivey added.

Average weekly earnings increased over the year by $53.82. Manufacturing weekly earnings increased by $27.18 over the year, and construction weekly earnings were up $55.08 over the year.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

2 hours ago

Republicans draw big crowd for Fairhope rally as Election Day nears

FAIRHOPE – Complacency may be a concern for Republicans in some parts of Alabama as Election Day approaches, but it isn’t as prevalent of a concern in ruby-red Baldwin County.

With several hundred on hand at Fairhope’s Oak Hollow Farms, Rep. Bradley Byrne and Gov. Kay Ivey rallied attendees that offered the impression of being engaged and motivated to show up at the polls to vote on November 6.

The event, a fish fry, was put on by the Baldwin County Republican Party and featured other candidates running for statewide office, including Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall and Alabama Supreme Court chief justice hopeful Tom Parker.

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Parker said it was his impression that Republicans, not just in Baldwin County, but throughout the state, were fired up based on the Brett Kavanaugh’s U.S. Supreme Court associate justice confirmation process.

“Republican voters are so incensed post-Kavanaugh after they saw what the Democrats did and what they condone,” Parker said to Yellowhammer News. “And we’re just trying to remind the people of who they have running against the Republican officials. They are the people getting money from Soros, Planned Parenthood. They condone violence. They are advocating anarchy. And we do not need that in our judiciary. We need the rule of law and respect for law rather than judges who will bend things in order to accomplish political goals. We need people who will protect Alabama values, which are pro-life, pro-Second Amendment and pro-Constitutions.”

Parker said that Baldwin County was part of a campaign effort that included county fairs, local events and Republican events.

“All I’m hearing is anger post-Kavanaugh generated because of those Democrats who were paying to protest,” he added. “And then when they did acts of violence, they wouldn’t condemn it. They’re condoning it. That’s so uncivil and so un-American.”

Daphne native Matt Simpson, the Republican nominee for the State House District 96 election, who is heavily favored in his contest against Democratic nominee Maurice Horsey, explained that having Gov. Kay Ivey making an appearance in Baldwin County generated excitement.

“We’re excited,” Simpson said. “Anytime we can get the governor in this area in south Alabama, we’re excited. We expect a good turnout in Baldwin County. Baldwin County is a very red county, one of the reddest in the state. We think the voters of the area are motivated. We think there’s going to be an opportunity for people to show just how motivated they are to support Republican principles and to make sure we keep Republicans in office.”

Simpson also echoed what Parker had said about the so-called Kavanaugh effect, noting that the backlash against the Democratic Party’s tactics would be on display when Baldwin County voters head to the polls.

“I think complacency has taken a backseat,” he added. “The Kavanaugh hearings have really fired up the Republican base. I think you saw what Democrats will do once they get in power and how they will try to take power from Republicans through the lies and the smears that they’ve done. And I think people are excited to show that’s not how we run things. That’s not what we want as a general public. We want our voice heard, and we won’t accept that type of behavior.”

Simpson said the I-10 bridge was the biggest issue on the minds of Baldwin County voters given its impact on the local economy, tourism and residents’ way of life. On the national level, he said Baldwin County voters were firmly in support of President Donald Trump given the success of the economy and how Trump’s leadership showed that if free market principles were implemented, the economy could flourish.

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and is the editor of Breitbart TV.

4 hours ago

Public Policy Foundation: ‘Amendment 4 would save Alabama taxpayers millions’

The Alabama Public Policy Foundation (APPF) issued a press release on Thursday in an effort to educate voters about the virtues of voting “yes” on Amendment 4 on the November 6 general election ballot.

Rosemary Elebash, an APPF board member and state director of the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), explained that the amendment would save Alabama taxpayers millions of dollars by eliminating costly special elections when a regularly scheduled election is already imminent.

“Under current law, the governor must call a special election to fill legislative seats vacated due to death or resignation, even if there are only a few months remaining in the term,” Elebash outlined. “Each legislative special election costs from $90,000 to $900,000 per county, based on the number of voters and polling locations. These sometimes occur when candidates already have qualified for the next general election or when the Legislature is not scheduled to meet again before the end of the term.”

APPF noted that money spent on late-term special elections could be used for other services important to Alabama taxpayers. In addition to the wasteful cost, Elebash said back-to-back balloting can create fatigue and confusion for voters.

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“In recent years, we’ve seen candidates win special elections and immediately begin campaigning for a regular primary election a month or two later,” she said.

Amendment 4 would allow Alabama Senate and House of Representatives seats to remain open if vacated on or after Oct. 1 of the third year of a four-year term. The longest a seat would remain vacant would be 14 months. The amendment only applies to these state legislative seats, and the governor would still be required to schedule special elections for vacancies occurring earlier in a term.

You can read the objective Fair Ballot Commission’s explanation of Amendment 4 here.

APPF is a 501(c)(4) non-profit organization “created to promote educational, social, financial and economic policies to enhance the well-being of Alabama citizens.”

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

5 hours ago

Kay Ivey: Walt Maddox ‘misguided’ on calls to expand Medicaid

FAIRHOPE – Gov. Kay Ivey isn’t necessarily buying into the notion that the expansion of Medicaid could be a win-win for Alabama, as her Democratic opponent Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox has portrayed it.

Medicaid expansion has been a key component of Maddox’s campaign, and it has been something Republican lawmakers have resisted given its potential future cost to state taxpayers.

Thursday night, before taking the stage at Baldwin County’s Oak Hollow Farms for a political rally, Ivey fielded questions from reporters, one of which dealt with the expansion of Medicaid.

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She expressed her support for quality health care, but described Maddox’s push as “misguided.”

“It’s important that we have the availability of quality health care for our people,” she said to Yellowhammer News. “That’s for sure. But at the same time, we’ve got to be sure we’re doing all we can with the Medicaid program, and nobody has come up with how we’re going to pay back the high cost if we expand it. So, I think my opponent is misguided again.”

In recent weeks, Maddox has been pushing Medicaid expansion on his bus tour of Alabama, and on Thursday, his second TV ad began airing across the state that doubles down on the proposal.

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and is the editor of Breitbart TV.