The Auburn City Council approved a construction bid for the roundabout at the intersection of Wire Road and Cox Road at it’s Tuesday night meeting.
The City is continuing the project without funding from the Alabama Department of Transportation, as the project funds were not yet approved and the City would have to go through the construction bidding process again after receiving them.
During the Committee of the Whole, City Manager Megan Crouch alerted the Council to the contract, recommending that they continue with the project to avoid further delays. The roundabout was initially approved by the City in September 2018.
ALDOT offered a $450,000 safety grant to the City for the project, but Crouch was informed the day of the meeting that ALDOT’s approval would have to come before the City put the construction contract out to bid.
“We cannot guarantee when we would receive ALDOT’s approval,” Crouch said. “It’s really hard to make a recommendation to the Council to walk away from half a million dollars, but that’s where the staff stands today.”
The project is budgeted to cost over $1.8 million, though the City expected to pay the entire cost before ALDOT offered a grant. The additional $450,000 will come from potential future projects but will not affect any currently approved projects. The City will be able to adjust the biennial budget during the summer to reflect the change.
Ward 8 Council member Tommy Dawson spoke in favor of continuing the project without the ALDOT grant, citing safety concerns for the current intersection.
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“We recently had a young man killed out there at the intersection, so I don’t think you can put a value on human life,” Dawson said. “Hearing that it could possibly finish by November is very good news, and I definitely think it will save somebody else’s life.”
Mayor Ron Anders said that the death was one of many that have occurred at the intersection of Wire Road and Cox Road.
Engineering Services Director Alison Frazier said that, based on a conversation before the meeting, ALDOT will not consider approving the grant after the City approves the construction contract. Crouch said she will continue to pursue the money if the Council moves forward with the project, though she does not know how many months ALDOT might take to approve the grant.
When discussing the speed at which ALDOT works, Ward 3 Council member Beth Witten noted that ALDOT’s work at the intersection of Highway 280 and Lee Road 147 was scheduled to be completed in April. Crouch said one side of Highway 280 has been paved and the traffic signal is not yet in place.
The construction contract for the roundabout was unanimously approved.
The Council also discussed a roundabout at the Auburn Soccer Complex on Wire Road. Crouch explained that the City has plans to expand the complex’s facilities and residents have voiced concerns over entry and exit of the property at its current capacity.
Engineering Services evaluated the area and determined that it did not warrant a traffic signal, even if it remained flashing when the facility was not in use. A roundabout should allow for vehicles leaving the soccer complex to do so efficiently without stopping Wire Road traffic, Frazier said.
The roundabout at the soccer complex will be roughly one mile down Wire Road from the intersection with Cox Road. Crouch also said that the project does not require permission from another agency and that the City will not be seeing a grant.
The roundabout was unanimously approved.
When discussing additional policies for short-term rental properties, Ward 4 Council member Brett Smith denied unanimous consent, moving the decision to the July 6 Council meeting. Once approved, the additional policies will allow the City to give short-term rental owners business licenses.
After the meeting, Smith explained that he has multiple unanswered questions about the changes, including how they might affect the City’s policy towards subleasing.
When discussing a conditional use approval for townhomes on North Dean Road, multiple dentists and orthodontists spoke to the Council with concerns of neighborhood continuity and privacy. The proposed townhomes would sit behind Craftmaster Printers, directly opposite a pond from dental offices.
North Dean Road between Opelika Road and East University Drive was originally built to support industry such as Craftmaster, Crouch said. The road currently holds retail and office space.
Project representative David Slocum stated that the townhomes are an approved use for the area, so the conditional use approval only affects the method of accessing the property. With the approval, the developers would be able to create an entrance off of an existing parking lot. If not, the townhomes would need direct road frontage, requiring a City road to be built to the back of the property.
Crouch stated that the City is not interested in building a “road to nowhere.” She also said that the Planning Commission unanimously voted to not recommend the project to the Council due to a lack of continuity with the surrounding area.
Ward 5 Council member Steven Dixon said he was in favor of the townhomes due to a current shortage of homes in Auburn. He also said the property, though in an office park, borders other homes in a neighboring development.
The conditional use approval was denied in a 6-2 vote, with Dixon and Griswold voting in approval. Smith abstained due to a professional relationship with Craftmaster.
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