By Trent Moore
The Cullman Times
With construction ramping up in northeast Cullman County at the site of the Duck River dam, city officials are eyeing some increased security measures to keep curious on-lookers and trespassers out of the area due to safety concerns.
The City of Cullman, via the utilities board, is building a 640-acre lake with a 32-million-gallon-per-day capacity to serve as a secondary water source.
The approximately $68 million project is currently in the excavation phase, which officials say can create a dangerous environment with large cliffs and massive holes.
There have been numerous reports of people wandering onto the site to check out construction, and contractors have reported hearing gun shots as hunters use the nearby woods for target practice.
Birmingham-based Brasfield & Gorrie currently have crews on site as part of phase I of the project.
“At an engineering meeting the contractor voiced some concerns about people coming onto the site, not only when work is going on but also on Sundays,” city attorney Roy Williams said. “The purpose isn’t that we want to hide anything that’s going on, and if anyone wants to schedule a site visit and come out they can do so. But the contractor is very concerned.”
No trespassing signs are current posted around the property, while representatives from engineer-of-record CH2M Hill recommended building a fence around the site until construction is complete.
To deter trespassers the utilities board also voted unanimously to contract with the Cullman County Sheriff’s Office to provide sporadic patrols around the site, at a cost of $20-per-hour for overtime.
Anyone wanting to visit the site for a scheduled tour should contact the Cullman Economic Development Agency. A hard-hat and steel-toed boots must be worn on site.
“We’re happy to have people out but they need to follow the protocols,” project manager Dale Greer said.
With so much interest in the large-scale project, coordinator Susan Eller said the board may look to create a public viewing site near the construction area to allow a bird’s eye view of the progress.
“We may set up an area for the general public to go, look out and see,” she said. “That would provide a safe place where people could see what is happening.”
Though the current construction schedule currently calls for a 1-2 month dead period for work at the site in early 2013, CH2M Hill representative Steve Newton said they may tweak the schedule to keep the site active with another component of the project.
“We have a time period where there would be nobody at the site between phases, so we’ve looked at doing some interim construction by building the intake structure in that time, which needs to be done anyway,” he said. “We could go out to bid in early 2013 so we’d still have consistent contractor traffic out there, and there’s no real reason to wait.”
* Trent Moore can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by telephone at 734-2131, ext. 220.