Toll authorities at stake on Tuesday

By John Mullen
Posted 11/7/16

ORANGE BEACH – Tony Kennon made some bold statements regarding getting another bridge over the Intracoastal Waterway, one of the keys many officials say will help traffic in Orange …

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Toll authorities at stake on Tuesday


ORANGE BEACH – Tony Kennon made some bold statements regarding getting another bridge over the Intracoastal Waterway, one of the keys many officials say will help traffic in Orange Beach.

“I’ve learned a lesson,” The Orange Beach mayor said in an Oct. 4 council meeting. “You don’t give an ultimatum when you don’t have the final hammer.

“It won’t happen again or I will get the final hammer one way or another.”

If statewide voters pass Amendment 12 on the Tuesday ballot and Baldwin County voters pass a local measure for local the county government, Kennon and other cities and county leaders may not necessarily get a hammer.

But they’ll at least have a tool in their hands they can wield to take a lead in solving their own traffic woes.

The statewide amendment would give municipalities in Alabama the right to form toll road and bridge authorities to take the lead on improving local traffic infrastructure.

Initially, both were considered local measures, one seeking approval for counties to form toll commissions and one seeking approval for municipalities.

Rep. Steve McMillan, R-Gulf Shores, said the one regarding municipalities had a wider impact and therefore will be placed in front of all voters in Alabama.

“When the local constitution amendment commission looked at it they determined there was language that gave the authority to the municipalities that would allow the Department of Transportation to share in the funding or to provide funding for the municipal,” McMillian said. “It could potentially impact the rest of the state or take money from the rest of the state. It could in some way affect funding so they determined it ought to be on the general ballot instead of the local ballot.”

Kennon, who initiated negotiations with American Roads, owner of the Foley Beach Express toll bridge, but says the state has now taken the lead in discussions.

“ALDOT took that over and is in charge now negotiating with the bridge people,” he said. “ALDOT said it’s their decision so it’s their decision. They are the final arbiter of all roads and bridges.”

The law states the amendment’s purpose is “To authorize the Legislature by general or local law to provide for the incorporation of a toll road and bridge authority as a public corporation in the county for the construction and operation of toll roads and bridges in the county and to authorize the authority to issues revenue bonds to finance the projects.”

There is one amendment for the county commission and another regarding cities.

“We can’t sit back and wait for the rest of the state,” McMillan said. “If we want something done we have to do it ourselves and be done with it. It gives them the ability to do it.”

McMillan said the two biggest traffic problems the toll measures would tackle are extending the beach express almost 25 miles to connection with I-65 and another bridge across the Intracoastal Waterway.

The Baldwin County Commission voted 2-1 on Monday to support statewide Amendment 3 which would give it the authority to form a toll authority with an eye on the extension of the beach express. It is estimated to be a $200 million project.

There are four other measures besides the toll authority vote on the ballot that will be voted on only by Baldwin County residents. One would allow the mayor of Bay Minette to appoint two addition members to the planning commission and allows them to reside outside the corporate limits.

A second would allow Baldwin mayors to participate in the employee retirement system but under the same terms and conditions as other participants.

“In other words they would have to pay the matching share,” McMillan said. “They’re not getting a free ride.”

Another drawing a buzz around the county would allow the municipalities to regulate limited operation of golf carts on municipal streets. They would have to meet certain safety requirements.

McMillan said residents of Craft Farms in Gulf Shores as well as those in Orange Beach, Silverhill and Magnolia Springs are interested in this being passed.

Lastly, is a measure to allow judges appointed to vacant seats to serve for at least six months before they face an election to keep the seat permanently.