TUSCUMBIA — The Colbert and Lauderdale County road departments have received an unexpected windfall in the form of a $196,000 check from the Public Park Authority.
The authority is the group that administered the 2-cent gasoline tax that raised revenue for the construction of two Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail courses in Colbert County, and the Shoals Marriott Hotel and Spa in Florence.
The law that created the Public Park Authority (PPA) stated that once the bonds were paid off, any excess money would be distributed equally between Colbert and Lauderdale counties for paving, former Colbert County commissioner and PPA member Rex Burleson said.
"Those bonds were retired in November of last year," Colbert County Administrator Roger Creekmore said.
Once the bonds were paid off, Colbert County discontinued the 2-cent gasoline tax, Creekmore said.
Burleson presented the check Tuesday to the Colbert County Commission during its regular meeting.
Burleson said the gas tax was originally expected to be paid off in 2033, but was paid off Nov. 20, 2018.
"We paid it off about 15 years early," he said. "This was one of the greatest projects that has been in the Shoals area since TVA, as far as the jobs and industry it brought to this area."
The golf courses and hotel have also brought more tourists to the area, Burleson said. He said visitors have come from all seven continents and all 50 U.S. states.
He thanked Retirement Systems of Alabama chief David Bronner for giving the Shoals the opportunity to build the courses and hotel.
The Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail is a project conceived by Bronner and RSA. Bronner also wanted the golf trail to have companion hotels.
Burleson said the PPA was disbanded once the bonds and other expenses were paid off.
"We weren't anticipating this money," Creekmore said. "There are always more road projects than there are revenues. I'm sure the Road Department will make good use of the money."
Colbert County Engineer John Bedford said he had heard if there was a reserve left over it would be designated for roadwork in the two counties.
"I never knew what the amount would be," he said. "It's a nice windfall. We can definitely put it to good use."
Bedford said he'd like to use the money to match federal dollars, if a source of those funds can be found.
Lauderdale County Administrator Brenda Bryant confirmed the county also received a check. She said it was placed in a Road Department account.
Lauderdale County Engineer Eric Hill said the money is not earmarked for a specific project at this time.
"We'll make sure it goes to good use," Hill said. "We do a large paving project every year. Money like this can easily be spent on paving."