$10,000,000 credit line, break in U.S. 231 bridge case, District 2 grave-digging top list of action items

Blount County Commission...

Blount County Commissioners voted unanimously in the monthly business meeting Monday to draft a request for proposals for a 10-year line of credit for $10,000,000 from local banks, to complete the first round of repaving projects included in Moving Blount County Forward (MBCF). Payments on that debt would be made from proceeds from the 1-cent sales tax increase recently approved by Blount County voters. County engineer Winston Sitton said later in the meeting that he is working on a recommendation for roads to be included in the first round of MBCF paving to begin in late spring or summer of 2017. The commission will also request proposals from as many as three bond companies, to compare costs of financing using the two different methods. U. S. 231 bridge (Bryan vs. Blount County)

Following an executive session requested by county attorney Jeff Sherrer, the commission voted unanimously to authorize county attorneys Sherrer and Scott Barnett “to attend continued mediation with a view to reaching a settlement.” The case involves the status of easements accompanying the U. S. 231 bridge property, which the county hopes to re-purpose as a possible river park, walking trail, and signature tourist destination. The bridge across the Locust Fork River is located on U. S. 231, just north of Cleveland. Allan and Susan Bryan, adjoining landowners, filed a lawsuit in 2015 contesting the county’s and state’s possession of the right-of-way conveyed at the time the bridge was planned in 1940. Sherrer informed the commission that a non-disclosure order was imposed to prohibit discussion of the case in open meeting. Grave digging discontinued

At the end of the meeting, District 2 Commissioner Mike Painter announced that District 2 will no longer dig graves for county residents. District 2 is the second district to discontinue the longstanding practice. Residents were not charged for the service.

“We will no longer be digging graves,” Painter said. “It takes away funds from what we need to do, and beginning now, we will no longer do that. This is my decision alone. It’s up to other commissioners to reach their own decisions on this,” he said.

District 3 Commissioner Dean Calvert discontinued grave digging in his district last year. Districts 1 and 4 still provide the service. In other matters, the commission:

• moved supervision of the animal control officer from the sheriff to the county administrator in connection with replacing the sheriff’s deputy, who recently resigned, with a non-law enforcement employee.

• approved a resolution requesting the Blount County legislative delegation to amend the Code of Alabama such that fees collected for the dumping of solid wastes in landfills be distributed 50 percent to the general fund of the Blount County Commission and 50 percent to the Blount County Commission, to be distributed to the Blount County Fire Protection Association for disbursement equally to all volunteer fire departments and rescue squads belonging to the association.

• approved a resolution designating a “severe weather preparedness sales tax holiday” beginning at 12:01 a.m. on Friday, Feb. 24, 2017, and ending at midnight on Sunday, Feb. 26, 2017; both state and county sales and use tax on certain supplies used in severe weather preparedness will be waived during this period.

• authorized the following appointments to county boards:

– Gail Bailey to the Blount County Economic Development Council Board (late appointment to three-year term).

– Jeff Hallmark, Don Roybal, and Chester Thomas to the Agri-Business Center Board (three-year term).

– Davida Miller to the Palisades Park Board (four-year term).

• authorized the following equipment transactions

– purchase of a backhoe for District 2 from an approved bid list, to be financed from Capital Reserve Fund 200 over the commissioner’s term of office.

– purchase of pickup trucks for districts 2, 3, and 4 from local or state bid list.

– declared surplus and authorized sale of six pieces of equipment for District 2 – 1988 dump truck, backhoe, 2006 pickup truck, 1998 pickup truck, forklift, and 2006 tractor.

– declared surplus and authorized sale of chipper, a countywide asset. Guests

Donnie McWaters spoke at the beginning of the meeting on behalf of Samaritans Global Ministries and First Responders for Christ. Both organizations’ mission is to respond with volunteer assistance to local residents in need. Both strive to identify people with needs, evaluate the need and the resources required, and make provisions for remedial action.

Jon Head, chairman of the Blount County Fire and EMS Association, spoke to introduce himself to new commissioners Nick Washburn and Mike Painter. He thanked the commission for its efforts to support county fire departments, referring specifically to the inclusion of volunteer fire departments in the MBCF 1- cent tax plan. He noted that despite fuel and other funding assistance, some departments “are just barely getting by,” adding that volunteers manning the departments are “high caliber folks” who meet the same certifications required of full-time professional firefighters. He recommended commissioners get to know the volunteer firefighters in their districts and become familiar with their needs and the full extent of their delivery of services in the county. Quorum and future meetings

All commissioners and the commission chairman were present at the business meeting. The next scheduled work session is Thursday, Jan. 5. The next scheduled business meeting is Monday, Jan. 9. Both are at 9 a.m. in the commission boardroom at the courthouse in Oneonta.