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Federal funds awarded for Ross Road repairs… maybe

Ross has been in bad shape for several years.

News Staff Writer

City of Atmore officials, while happy their request for federal funding to perform badly needed repairs to Ross Road was approved and included in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2024, aren’t ready to start counting their chickens. In fact, they are waiting to see if their funding egg is actually going to hatch.
The Ross Road money is just a fraction of the $30 million procured by outgoing Alabama 1st District U.S. Congressman Jerry Carl for projects across South Alabama, mainly in Mobile and Baldwin counties but including $750,000 for facility upgrades at Brewton’s D.W. McMillan Hospital.
The Ross Road repair funds — $580,910 — are included in the scheduled disbursements that are part of the act, but City Economic Planner and Grant Writer Chris Walker said he was warned not to spend any of the money until the federal check is in hand.
“I submitted the grant (application) in March 2023,” Walker explained. “A couple months later, I got an email that said, ‘we’re considering your community project request, and so forth.”
One of the Congressman’s staffers was in the area to interview people who had submitted grant requests, and Walker took him to the site.
“He looked at it and said they would be in touch,” Walker continued. “Probably a month or two months went by, and Congressman Carl called. He said, ‘your project is included.’ But, he said, don’t start spending any of the money because they would have to wait until they sat down, and the budget gets worked out.”
If the local appropriation doesn’t get cut, the work to be done includes “full depth reclamation” (repairing the places where the roadbed has washed out), especially the portion near Holman Correctional Facility, as well as resurfacing and drainage improvements.
The funding request includes a $91,300 contingency to cover cost increases that might arise before the money is released. It also includes $124,000 for a topographic study, drainage easement and preparation and engineering services before and after the project begins.
Walker said he was told the money is technically there, but it could be gone at a moment’s notice.
“(Congressman Carl) said that because these are appropriated funds, and everybody has appropriations, all of them ain’t going to make it,” the economic planner recalled. “When you have so many Democrats and Republicans and everybody jockeying for position, so to speak, as far as the budget is concerned, some of the money doesn’t make it in.”
Walker said he could do little more than wait to see if the money is still in the budget when July comes.
“I still don’t see a final budget, so that tells me it’s not a ‘boom,’ stamped final deal yet,” he said. “That’s kind of where we are right now. He did tell me that final funding will happen around July. Our request is approved, we just don’t have the money, so we’ll just wait and see what happens in July.”