Agri-Business Center, nuisance powers figure in work session discussion

The Blount County Commission discussed at length both the Agri-Business Center’s financial needs for the remainder of this fiscal year, and the commission’s inability to substantially control or regulate nuisance problems such as junkyards and neglected areas that affect the value of surrounding property. Neither subject appeared on the commission’s business meeting agenda for concrete action by the commission, but both are subjects of public concern.

County administrator Zac Marsh presented to the commission a cash flow analysis he had built covering Agri- Business Center expenses and revenues for the remainder of this calendar year. The analysis was prompted by Agri- Business Center board chairman Jeff Hallmark’s request last month for $22,000 dollars of funding support in addition to the $10,000 amount budgeted by the commission for the Agri-Business Center this year. Both the county commission and Oneonta provide annual subsidies to the Agri-Business Center.

Using anticipated revenues and expenses associated with events scheduled for the rest of the year, Marsh projected a substantial shortfall of about $35,000 in operational funds during the period in early September immediately prior to the next county fair. A minor shortfall was identified in mid-summer, but it was small enough that aggressive management could have probably averted serious operational difficulties.

The latter situation was deemed manageable without additional funding support.

The shortfall in early September was judged to require some additional funding mechanism to cover costs of the fair that would have to be paid before revenues from the fair become available at the end of September.

The commission discussed meeting with the Agri-Business Center board at its next scheduled board meeting to present its findings and offer the cash-flow analysis as a future planning and financial management tool.

No action has been taken in response to Hallmark’s earlier request for supplemental funding. A three-way meeting to discuss a sustainable solution to chronic Agri-Business Center financial needs, including the county commission, the City of Oneonta and the Agri-Business Center, was proposed at the last commission business meeting, but that three-way meeting has not been scheduled.

The cash flow analysis presentation to the Agri-Business Center board would presumably be the next step in the process to address funding needs and the long-term status of the Agri-Business Center. Junkyard in front yard

Steve Poer, a Highland Lake, raised questions concerning the need to look into a property where those living there are actively accumulating tires, debris, and an increasing number of vehicles in various conditions that have been left brought to the property and left there. Poer, who lives near the unsightly property, said that some of the vehicles may or may not have been brought there for purposes of repair, but they seem to be increasingly accumulating on the property. He said the property has been an eyesore and is becoming increasingly so. ”I don’t know if there is something illegal going on or not, but there are too many vehicles coming in at all hours of the night. I wanted to make the commission aware of it, and I think it needs to be investigated,” he said.

Commission chairman Chris Green told Poer that, unlike municipalities which can regulate such nuisance situations by means of ordinances, the county has no similar regulatory power to regulate property lying outside town boundaries. He suggested Poer refer the matter to the health department to look into garbage and sewage disposal on the property, and said he would refer the complaint to the county license inspector to determine whether the property owner is operating with a valid business license.

Green further explained that counties can petition the legislature to pass legislation providing for home rule or limited home rule for counties. Such power would give them additional regulatory powers over nuisance matters. That power, however, would be subject to a vote of the people to endorse limited home rule, and citizens often oppose such measures as unjustified government intrusion upon their rights.

Poer observed that such situations can significantly affect surrounding property values and implied they should be addressed by local government.“I didn’t move from Vestavia Hills to Blount County only to have a junkyard start operating in my front yard,” he said.