ATHENS, Ala. (WHNT) — People who live on the west side of Athens say they feel city officials continue to turn a blind eye to infrastructure issues in their neighborhood, so residents called a town hall meeting Tuesday evening to talk about these issues.
They say Luke Street and Strain Road in Athens still run on a century-old well system.
Those who live in this historically black community believe it’s been decades since the ditches and wells were cleaned and serviced by the city.
“We don’t get roads, we don’t get sidewalks, we don’t get on the sewer system…it’s really like they’re just trying to just drain us out or just wait until we die,” resident Kirk Parker said.
Just a few feet from this neighborhood, construction for new homes and developments is underway.
“You go to the east – new neighborhood. You go to the north – new neighborhood. You go to the west – new neighborhood. You go to the south – new neighborhood. Our neighborhood…nothing is being done,” added Parker.
According to a spokesperson for the mayor’s office, Mayor Ronnie Marks received an invitation to attend Tuesday’s community meeting about infrastructure/sewer issues. The spokesperson said he informed organizers that ALDOT was hosting a public interest meeting about plans for Cambridge Road at U.S. 72 on Tuesday at City Hall, and he would not be able to attend the Strain Road meeting.
City staff have met to discuss potential grants for both sewer and road improvements for Strain Road.
On Monday night, the City Council voted to apply for federal funding for planning funds to assess the possibility of connecting East and West Strain roads, which the state divided years ago with I-65. If the City is approved for this grant, staff would start the process of working with an engineering firm to conduct public meetings and look at the feasibility of reconnecting with avenues for both motor vehicle and pedestrian use.
The spokesperson adds if the community and city see a need to pursue connectivity based on the engineering plan, the city would then apply for federal funds for construction.
As for the sewer problems, Water Services is working on a survey to give to residents to determine the issues and the interest in the sewer.
If the City installs sewer, there will be a cost for the homeowner to tie in, and, there would be a cost for using sewer that would be reflected on the monthly utility bills.
“We know that we probably have a lawsuit that could be filed, but of course that takes time. We know that we can file with DOJ, but it takes time. We want to work toward something immediately for this community,” Limestone County NAACP Political Action Chair Diane Steele.
There is a potential grant to help cover the initial costs, but the City will not be eligible for that grant program (CDBG) until the current Vine Street project is closed out.