Body approves jail improvements, approves Rebuild Alabama road plan

Blount County Commission



The Blount County Commission approved a motion in its business meeting Monday to continue renovations at the Blount County Correctional Facility, consisting of the jail and sheriff’s department administrative offices, amounting to roughly $58,000, in addition to approximately $175,000 spent over the last two years refurbishing the facility.

Of the additional $58,000, $47,000 would be applied to replacement of virtually all of the jail’s 27-year-old galley (kitchen) equipment and $11,000 would be used to replace the air conditioning system and ductwork in the sheriff’s office. The commission and the sheriff’s department would share the cost of the upgrades, with the sheriff’s department contributing $15,000 to $20,000 and the commission bearing the remainder.

A second major action of the commission was to approve county engineer Dustin Stewart’s recommendations on allocation of Blount County’s supplemental funding from the Rebuild Alabama Transportation Plan. That plan incorporates fuel tax increases of 10 cents per gallon, approved by the Legislature this spring and implemented in three stages beginning this September with a six-cent increase, with additional two-cent increases implemented in September of 2020 and 2021.

The first part of Stewart’s recommendation was to continue the bridge replacement plan implemented using federal funds in 2016, averaging $300,000 to $500,000 annually to replace aging bridges. The second aspect was to divide each annual supplemental allocation evenly between two districts, alternating between district pairs over the next four years. This would allow larger projects to be done, and make managing them easier. In fiscal year 2020, for example, districts 3 and 4 would receive $300,000 each over and above their regular district road budgets, to upgrade and pave their roads. In 2021, districts 1 and 2 would receive $400,000 apiece, benefiting from the two-cent tax increase for that year. Districts 3 and 4 were chosen for the first year because districts 1 and 2 already have federal projects in progress.

In other actions, the commission:

• modified a request from Blount County 911 to assume ownership and management of the county’s high-capacity digital microwave communications network in order to effect significant improvements to law enforcement communications through the use of digital technology. While declining to surrender ownership, the commission approved a plan for a moderate- to long-term lease agreement, subject to negotiation with 911, to manage and improve the network unhindered, while reserving substantial capacity for use by the commission, should it be needed for public purposes not presently anticipated.

• approved restoring $66,795 in Moving Blount County Forward (MBCF) project costs to District 1, as a result of resolving a long-standing disagreement among commissioners on allocation of funds, display of MBCF signage, and use of funding sanctions as a punitive measure.

• authorized the commission chairman to print pamphlets under development in recent months that provide basic information to the public to aid in preventing illegal subdivisions.

• accepted District 2 Commissioner Mike Painter’s road reclamation schedule for the remainder of 2019: Fowler Springs Road, 2.08 miles – $57,300; Stevenson Drive, 1.2 miles – $31,204; Larue Circle (partial), .03 mile – $780; Roswell Creek (partial), .4 mile – $10,401; Lecroy Drive (partial), .06 mile – $1,560. Totals: 3.77 miles – $101,245.

• authorized the chairman to execute a $12,500 digital information cooperative agreement with the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) to pay $10,000 and the county to pay $2,500 for aerial photography to update revenue department mapping records.

• approved the following appointments to the Blount County Health Care Authority: place 4 – Rachel Gargus; place 5 – Joe Hughes (reappointment); and place 6 – Julie Knox.

• approved a request by attorney Dalton NeSmith to vacate an undeveloped road reserved on the plat known as J.E. and D.E. Wilson Lands Subdivision, on behalf of the estate of Randy Earl Copeland.

• approved report of insolvents, errors, and litigations for property taxes, a routine report submitted annually by the revenue department.

• approved recommendations by the county administrator and county engineer for annual bids. (See chart at right.)

Quorum and future meetings

All commissioners were present at the business meeting: Commissioners Allen Armstrong, Mike Painter, Dean Calvert, and Nick Washburn. Commission chairman Chris Green was present, along with administrative, engineering, and legal staff.

The next work session is Thursday, Sept. 5, at 9 a.m., followed by a budget meting, if necessary. The next business meeting is Monday, Sept. 9, at 9 a.m.

Remaining budget meetings are Thursday, Aug. 15, and Thursday, Aug. 29, both at 9 a.m.

A special meeting is set for Thursday, Aug. 29, prior to the budget meeting for final approval of the Rebuild Alabama Transportation Plan.