O.B.’s bridge build could stall over property procurement
Army Corps of Engineers is still processing a permit for the project
By John Mullen
A breakdown in negotiations between the City of Orange Beach and property owner George Barber has put the proposed Wolf Bay bridge’s status in limbo.
“At this point in time, we have not been able to come to a deal with Mr. (George) Barber that we feel like justifies building the bridge,” Mayor Tony Kennon said. “We’re just going to put it on hold until he reevaluates and, in his reevaluation, decides that he can work with us on what we need to make it a possibility. We need all of his property to come into Orange Beach and that’s no secret.”
Barber is a major landowner where the northern footing of the bridge will land and is also the owner of the massive Barber Marina just east of that landing site. The Barber family is also the owner of Barber’s Dairy based out of Birmingham for many years.
“There’s no bad faith or ill will with Mr. Barber it’s just that there’s differencing of opinions on what’s best for each of us,” Kennon said.
The other major property owner vital to the project is David Lawrenz and his property is already in the city limits, Kennon said. According to tax records, the Century Plaza Company is listed as the owner of several parcels as well.
Kennon says his city will still pursue the bridge but wants to make sure it’s a good investment.
“It’s important for Orange Beach to have a deal that benefits us and justifies building a $70 million bridge,” Kennon said.
“It’s not to say that Mr. Barber is right or wrong or we’re right or wrong. It’s just that at this point we don’t feel like we have a deal that is in our best interest and justifies it. We’re going to put it on hold and continue and negotiate and see if maybe in the future something can happen. But right now it’s on hold.”
Kennon said the background work on the bridge will continue including the design which is about three-quarters done and already paid for. The Army Corps of Engineers is still processing a permit for the project.
“They told us nine to 12 months every nine to 12 months,” Kennon said. “I guess when the Corps does it the Corps does it. I don’t know what to expect but they keep saying nine to 12 months. It really is absurd that you’ve got money to build a bridge that you need and you can’t get the Corps to get the permit done. It’s really ridiculous.”
City Suplemeting Fiber Optic Options
During the Aug. 20 regular council meeting the city council voted unanimously to give $350,000 to Island Fiber to hire additional crews and speed up the process to get it beyond the handful of homes currently served. It was also announced at the meeting the city would have a townhall session at the Orange Beach Event Center on Oct. 1.
“The agreement that the city is willing to work with Island Fiber that will help him stand up additional crews in order to build out Orange Beach within the timeframe we are talking about,” Councilman Jerry Johnson said. “It’s an economic development plan to where he can build out every neighborhood in Orange Beach by December of 2020. Whatever neighborhood you’re in he’s coming eventually.”
The city will also pay Island Fiber $1,000 for the first 1,200 homes hooked up to the service.
Island Fiber’s current plan is to head east from Burkhart on the south side of Canal Road and go all the way to Bear Point. Once there it will turn its attention to Bear Point itself where Franco estimates he can the 1,200 to 1,400 homes and lots done within about 90 days.
The additional crews will be deployed along State Route 161 and its adjoining neighborhoods and also on Canal Road west of 161 and the its neighborhoods. There are three packages available with 100 megabytes a second costing $65 a month, 200 MB at $99 a month and 300 MB at $150 a month. Custom packages pulling up to a full gig will also be available.