Duties of the County Engineer in Rural Lee County
Updated: Sep 27, 2022
"Before commencing his duties, the Lee County Engineer shall enter into a bond for faithful performance of his duties..." Mr. Hardee took office on May 29, 2012 and remained un-bonded until January 2017. Right out of the gate he failed to perform the duty to be bonded. The bond shall be recorded in the office of the Probate Judge. Notice of failure to file bond must be given by the Probate Judge to the DA. If the Engineer performs any official act before his bond is approved, he must on conviction, be fined not less than $500. If the Engineer fails to file bond, he vacates office. (AL Code sections: 45-41-130.01, 11-2-3, 36-5-16, 36-5-22, 36-5-15.)
Evidence of Failure to perform Duties of County Engineer:
1) The Engineer failed to enforce the Lee County Access Management Policy (LCAMP) and assisted the wrongful connection of East Lake Blvd. to the County Highway system, i.e., Green Chapel Road (CR 106). He circumvented LCAMP by conducting his own Traffic Study to supplant the Developer’s own Traffic Study finding of 123 vehicles per day (VPD) with his own bogus finding of 93 VPD and allowed the developer’s performance bond to expire without enforcing the improvements mandated by LCAMP (see PDF below). All previous and subsequent Traffic Studies have found a VPD of over 100, thereby mandating the improvements specified in LCAMP. Failure to enforce LCAMP jeopardizes every public traveler on Green Chapel Road including the dangerous intersection with Moores Mill Road. Hardee's failure to enforce LCAMP saved the Developer of East Lake, more than $100,000. Now if LCAMP is to be enforced and the road made safe, the cost will be borne by Lee County taxpayers. Thank you, Mr. Hardee.
2) He failed to timely provide the drawings for the crossing arm improvements at the Smiths Station H. S. and during the delay, two vehicles were struck by trains at this crossing. ALDOT Multimodal Engineer Robert Jilla wrote a letter stating that this delay jeopardized the safety of the travelling public (letter attached below). The Probate Judge and Commissioners were presented with documentation of his failure to perform these and other duties, but no action was taken.
3) Neither was any action taken for failure to bond for nearly five years. But what did you expect Probate Judge Bill English to do? Had he notified the DA of the Engineer’s failure to bond, it would have implicated him and his own failure to ensure the Engineer was bonded. Mr. Hardee “served” unbounded for nearly five years He was not fined, he was not forced to vacate office. The record will show he received raises. Both County Manager Rendleman and Probate Judge failed to follow the Code of Alabama re: the bonding of the Engineer.
Ironically, DA Hughes was removed from office giving us cause to wonder why some office holders are held to one standard and others are held to another. We seem to allow our political leaders play dirty pool. Look at how the Republican party shamefully handled the local Senatorial race between Whatley and Hovey. Perhaps you know Robert Ham's ex-wife heads up the Lee County Republicans. We've previously discussed "interlocking directorates"; there will be more on this type of power concentration in later posts.
These facts do not inspire confidence in the Commission’s ability or willingness to follow State and County Regulations. They do not inspire confidence that taxpayers' money is used wisely. Allowing the Engineer to perform such acts as listed above, carelessly subjects the county to lawsuits which could potentially drain funds from much needed services such as the protection of the travelling public on the County’s highway system. It’s time for accountability. Lee County needs folks with integrity in the positions of Probate Judge, County Commission, and County Engineer.
The Commission and County Engineer have a ministerial, non-discretionary duty to maintain the highway system and protect the travelling public. To measure how well they’re doing, review the County Commission minutes for the last five years and note how many people have come to the commission with road problems. Odd how the Commission doesn’t have the funds to ensure that the County Highway Department scrapes and maintains our dirt roads, but they sure have provided manpower and equipment to clear and grub city properties for Opelika’s Mayor Fuller. Something is very wrong. On August 29, 2022 Bill English told Sam Price that the combined budget of Opelika and Auburn was twice the budget of Lee County. Why was the Lee County Highway Department clearing and grubbing property for Opelika? Why didn't Bill English say to Fuller what he said to Price and forbid Hardee to clear and grub within the city limits of Opelika? Fuller promised to pay for the fuel, where's the evidence that he did?
Now the County is the recipient of a 3 cent gas tax for highway maintenance. Money is needed for highway maintenance, but Lee County does not pave dirt roads, so will rural paved roads benefit from their share of that money? Are there plans to account for how and where the gas tax has been used? Rural folks will pay the 3 cent tax, but what is their share? It's sort of like the 20 year rotation for paving. It’s time for a new policy that focuses not just on urban Lee County but the rural areas as well. The Commission and Engineer will tell you their rotation to pave roads is every 20 years. Twice this decade, half of Moores Mill Road has been paved. Does this mean Mr. Hardee has reduced the rotation for all paved roads to every 10 years? Clearly not, what it surely proves is the 20 year rotation is not uniformly applied and the Commission and Highway Department say one thing and do another. Go figure.
This kind of information comforts no one; it depresses the spirit, but must be exposed for there to be any Hope of change. Beating a dead horse is not pleasant either, but one never knows when the other is convinced. Let’s give ourselves a chance to rest and return to specific evidence of the County Engineer's malfeasance in a follow-up post. Then pray for for for a just resolution.