According to news sources, the Association of County Commissions of Alabama (ACCA) has filed a legal document with the Alabama State Supreme Court, arguing that a judge’s order to halt the construction of a state bridge in Gulf Shores violates the constitutional separation of powers. The order, issued by Montgomery County Circuit Judge Jimmie Pool on May 17, stopped the $120 million bridge project and could set a precedent for lawsuits against other public works projects in Alabama. The ACCA contends that Pool’s ruling represents an unprecedented expansion of judicial review of administrative decisions.
The ACCA argues that a governing body, like a county commission, must be able to exercise its discretion in allocating resources, and subjecting them to litigation based on disagreements could hinder their ability to make decisions. They claim that disagreements do not necessarily imply bad faith and that decisions must be legal and comply with the law.
The case involves a dispute between the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) director, John Cooper, and the Baldwin County Bridge Company (BCBC), owners of the Foley Beach Express toll bridge. Pool’s ruling referred to the proposed new state bridge as the “Cooper Bridge.” BCBC offered an alternative proposal to build two new lanes on their bridge, expand toll plazas, and make additional infrastructure improvements for Gulf Shores and Orange Beach. Orange Beach city officials support the BCBC project, while Gulf Shores city officials support the state bridge.
The ACCA’s involvement in the case signifies their concern that if Pool’s ruling stands, it could limit county commissions’ ability to allocate tax money and open the floodgates for more litigation against public bodies like county commissions. They believe that the judicial branch should not interfere with administrative decisions unless there is evidence of corruption, fraud, or bad faith.
Ultimately, the Alabama State Supreme Court will have the final say on the fate of the state’s bridge project. The ruling will determine whether a fourth bridge is built to provide access to Alabama’s beaches, as visitors currently have three existing routes.
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