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Debbie Wood appointed to statewide committee

VALLEY — State Rep. Debbie Wood, R-Valley, will have a seat at the table when decisions are made about how the state of Alabama will spend its revenue from the gas tax passed in March.

Wood was recently appointed by Gov. Kay Ivey to the Alabama Transportation Rehabilitation and Improvement Program-II (ATRIP-II).

When the state passed the gas tax, it also created an oversight committee to fund grant projects of local interest on the state-maintained highway system, which may include local roads and bridges essential to such projects.

“First of all, I am extremely humbled,” Wood said of her appointment. “The governor gets three appointments, and I am one her appointments.”

She said Monday that there are people in the Legislature who have been around longer than her, but she spent 16 years on the Chambers County Commission looking at ways to solve infrastructure issues.

“I feel very blessed, but I do feel like I bring a lot of knowledge to the table because of the experience I had with the county commission,” Wood said. “Safe, passable roads are extremely important in communities, and I will be working hard to make those happen.”

The committee will decide which municipalities will receive grant money from the tax dollars generated, with an emphasis on the economic growth, public safety and stability of the state, according to the bill creating the committee.

“It will basically encourage communities to work together,” Wood said. “If a municipality has a joint project with another municipality, it will be a top priority. If it is a county and a city adjoining to a state road, that will also be a top priority.”

She said it will encourage municipalities to pool money together to get the most it can with the funds available.

Although the committee focused statewide, Wood said she will continue to work for District 38 and try to bring a project or two back home.

“It is going to help our community, and I am here to help our district,” she said. “I will continue being a voice for our district on our board and understanding the needs for infrastructure.”

Wood also said safe and passable roads can be a problem in rural communities, which impacts economic development.

She said businesses don’t want to invest in a place where roads are not conducive to traveling. 

“You have to have safe, passable roads to help people get their product to and from as quickly as possible,” Wood said. “When you have delays due to infrastructure, they don’t want to stay.”

She said it’s an honor to be on the committee and to be trusted with the state’s money.

“We are charged with ensuring the money that is taken in is used in the best possible way,” she said. “I will be part of a committee making decisions based upon the needs of the state and making sure there is accountability.”

The grant funds from this committee can only be used on maintenance, improvement, replacement and construction of roads and bridges maintained by a county or municipality. 

Additionally, funds can be used as matching funds for federal road or bridge projects, the payment of any debt associated with a road or bridge project, or a joint project with multiple counties or municipalities.

The funds can’t be used to pay salaries of any county or municipal official, the purchase of equipment, or the maintenance or construction of public buildings.