Will taxpayers statewide ​be on the hook for new beach bridge?

Orange Beach

Usually, local Town Halls are primarily about issues only relevant to those in that area. That’s not always the case. An upcoming Town Hall meeting in Orange Beach is a prime example of one with statewide implications.

The meeting has been called to discuss two critical subjects: first, creating an independent city school system and then what’s happening relative to bridges and roadways. It is this second conversation, which has piqued the interest of politicos and taxpayer advocates statewide. Locals are speculating that among the topics to be discussed is in what has been described as a costly and unnecessary second local bridge. The proposal many are expecting according to local sources, is a competing bridge to the Foley Beach Express. This proposed bridge would divert much needed state resources away from other critical state infrastructure projects

OB Town Hall MeetingThe Town Hall, hosted by Orange Beach Mayor Tony Kennon and the City Council, is scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 7 at Orange Beach Event Center. Both the Baldwin County Schools Superintendent Eddie Tyler and the Alabama Department of Transportation Director John Cooper will clear their schedules to be in attendance.

“Director Cooper and Vince Calametti will be here from ALDOT, who will announce what’s going to happen relative to bridges and roadways,” Kennon said during Tuesday’s city council meeting.

Cooper’s attendance comes at a time when both Montgomery and Birmingham are both having real highway crises. In fact, State Auditor Jim Zeigler identified the top four projects he believes ALDOT needs to tackle, including a proposal for how to pay for them, which have nothing to do to with the creating of a second bridge which he is not sure current traffic conditions calls for. Zeigler’s priorities include:

  1. Fixing the congestion on 280 in Jefferson and Shelby Counties
  2. Creating six-lanes from I-65 from Pelham petroleum tanks to Prattville
  3. Building four-lanes and upgrading “Bloody 98” in west Mobile County
  4. Completing the I-10 bridge and expansion of I-10 Bayway over Mobile Bay

Cooper has a history of using his office for political purposes. In the past he admitted to halting proposals in the Yellowhammer State to retaliate against those who opposed former Gov. Robert Bentley‘s tax plan. Leaving many to wonder if his decision to prioritize a second beach bridge is another example of misplaced priorities and rewarding loyalty.

The Town Hall is also prepared to discuss the Orange Beach school system.

“Eddie Tyler and his staff from the county school system will be there as we discuss the new schools and the split, and answer questions as we can,” Kennon added.

He is referring to the split between Orange Beach school system and Gulf Shores regarding the future of a $14.9 million new high school, which is projected to be completed by 2019. It has yet to be determined whether of Gulf Shores will break from the Baldwin County School System.

Kennon is hoping for a large crowd to show state officials what locals truly think of the projects.

“We need 1,200 to 1,300 people to show up,” Kennon added. “We need to make an impression on the state and on the county that it matters to us. …We need to make an impression on our new governor.”

The Town Hall will begin promptly following the City Council’s 5 p.m. meeting. The public is encouraged to attend.