Commission creates Blount County Economic Development Council Inc.

The Blount County Commission Monday unanimously passed a resolution sanctioning the formation of a non-profit corporation to handle economic development related activities in the county. It is to be called The Blount County Economic Development Council Inc.

By the same vote, the commission endorsed a 10-page advisory draft of articles of incorporation for the entity, thus taking two significant steps toward creating the kind of formal economic development organization that has presided over the economic growth of neighboring counties in recent years, as well as others throughout the state.

The next steps, according to Commission Chairman Chris Green, will be to get concurrence from stakeholders, particularly mayors of county municipalities, by the time of the next commission meeting in January, with a functioning board of directors in place within a three- to six-month time frame.

“We’re intentionally not rushing this process because we want to get concurrence from those affected so we can move forward together,” Green said.

In its resolution, the commission cited three circumstances underlying formation of the organization:

•Currently, 67 percent of the local workforce must leave the county to work each day.

•Many young people who graduate from Blount County schools each year must leave home to find employment in other counties, other states.

•Meaningful employment is critical to personal fulfillment of individuals, stability of families, and the future prosperity of the county.

The advisory draft to be provided to the Economic Development Council sets out a recommended proposal for structuring the board of directors. The initial directors will be named in the proposal itself and will be business or

civic leaders who are residents or employed
in Blount County. Successor directors will be
elected as follows:
•four by the Blount County Commission –
one from each district
•one by the Alabama Power local business
manager for Blount County
•one by the Blount County Realtors
•one by the various county banks
•one by the Blount County Farmers
•one by the Blount County Healthcare
•four by county mayors – one from each
commission district, appointed by mayors of
that district
•one by the Blount County Commission
•one by the Blount County Economic
Development Council Inc.
The remaining articles give the organization wide powers to promote business retention, expansion and recruiting in the county,
and to carry out routine activities of a corporation in its operations.
Sen. Clay Scofield, representing the
northern portion of Blount County, was
instrumental in clearing the way for the
entity to be formed and was present at the
meeting for its creation.
“I really believe there’s nothing more
important than this,” he said. “The key idea
here is inclusion. Every region in Blount
County is included. We’ve done that intentionally. We must have a locked-arm
approach in recruiting jobs for the county. I
look forward to continuing to work with you
on this.”

Removal of roads from state inspection list

The commission passed a final resolution to remove certain roads from the list of roads inspected annually by the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT). All are roads that were constructed or maintained using federal, state, and/or county funds and whose condition is used to determine the county’s eligibility for annual state/federal road funding. ALDOT has a procedure for removing from the list certain roads that have exceeded their design life.

Saying the list was “not for publication,” commission sources declined to identify those roads. However, The Blount Countian reported from the commission meeting of Oct. 21 that nine roads were proposed for removal from the ALDOT list. Those roads were county road (CR) 41, CR 38, CR 34, CR 48, CR 11, CR 45, Fat Dunn Road, Mt. Hebron Church Road, and Swann Bridge Road. The list could possibly have changed since the October meeting. Naming of road accessing U.S. 231/Ala 79 river bridge

Based on suggestions submitted by groups associated with the Locust Fork River and the surrounding area, the county administrator recommended “River Park Trail” as the name for the road leading to the approaches to the bridge. The commission concurred unanimously.

All commissioners joined the commission chairman in reassuring local landowners Allan and Susan Bryan that the commission and local law enforcement would do everything possible to address his concerns. Bryant had expressed concerns about possible vandalism and “putting a stop to things that are going on” at the site, for which the county has recently agreed to assume ownership from the state. In other actions, the commission:

•approved the regular 2014 state holiday schedule without modification for courthouse operation and for all county employees.*

•reappointed District 1 Commissioner Allen Armstrong and District 4 Commissioner to the Metropolitan Planning Organization board.

•approved a budget amendment of $18,000 to District 1 for insurance recoveries on landfill damages.

•approved a budget amendment to District 4 for insurance reimbursement in connection with damage to guardrails on CR 15.

•approved advertising for replacement to fill job of Emergency Management Agency director, to become vacant with the retirement of current director Max Armstrong in early 2014. Appeal from District Attorney Pamela Casey

At the end of the regular meeting District Attorney Pamela Casey asked to be recognized to address the commission. Beginning with the comment that public servants have been entrusted to protect county funds and property, she noted that she had become aware of rumors that “county funds have been taken.” She asked the commission to notify her office as well, if there is a situation where the Sheriff’s Department is contacted to investigate such an incident.

“If a dollar is missing that belongs to the people of Blount County, we all need to work together on it,” she said. “When we don’t talk about it, it looks like a cover-up.”

Green replied: “If there is a suspected crime by a county employee, our responsibility is to report it to the sheriff. He investigates and he is the one who makes a determination if a crime has been committed, and refers it for further action.”

In follow-up interviews, Revenue Commissioner Gregg Armstrong told The Blount Countian that there was an incident of missing money at the satellite courthouse in Hayden about three weeks ago. After a preliminary check to determine if money was actually missing and not just misplaced or lost by mistake, he said, the matter was referred immediately to the sheriff for investigation. He said an employee was suspended and has since resigned.

“My goal is to operate with complete integrity,” Armstrong said. “Our books and my office are open to the public at any time. My first job, when we knew funds had come up missing, was to determine whether it was because of an error. You have to first rule out the possibility of it being a legitimate error, and we checked every possibility. The day we realized it wasn’t an error, we contacted the sheriff. I want to emphasize that to this point, nobody has been found guilty of anything. When an investigation involves an employee, they have privacy rights, and you can’t speculate about something still under investigation.

“We’re going to make sure every dime is handled properly,” he continued, “and that’s what we have done. If there is a case where an employee has not acted properly, we won’t tolerate it. But understand: no one has been found guilty to this point.”

Blount County Sheriff Loyd Arrington confirmed his department was asked to investigate the incident, and that the investigation is still in progress. He said a determination that theft occurred has not yet been made, adding that the results of the investigation will be provided to District Attorney Casey, whatever the outcome.

Green summarized the county’s response to the incident. “We’ve all worked together on this, and we wanted to make sure that our concerns were handled the right way, and that’s what we have done. No one is making any attempt to cover up anything. So far, nobody has been found guilty of anything. That’s what we’ll continue to do – handle this carefully and properly until a conclusion is reached.”

The Blount Countian later confirmed that the amount of money thought to be missing is $2,598. Quorum and future meetings

All commissioners and the commission chairman were present at the business meeting. The next commission work session will be Thursday, Jan. 9, at 9 a.m. The next commission business meeting will be Monday, Jan. 13, at 9 a.m. Both meetings will be in the commission boardroom in the courthouse in Oneonta.

* Blount County 2014 Holiday Schedule
Wednesday, Jan. 1 New Years Day
Monday, Jan. 20 M.L King/R.E. Lee Birthdays
Monday, Feb. 20 President’s Day
Monday, Apr. 28 Confederate Memorial Day
Monday, May 26 Memorial Day
Monday, June 2 Jefferson Davis Birthday
Friday, July 4 Independence Day
Monday, Sept. 1 Labor Day
Monday, Oct. 13 Columbus Day
Tuesday, Nov. 11 Veterans Day
Thursday Nov. 27/ Thanksgiving
Friday, Nov. 28 Holidays
Wednesday, Dec. 24/ Christmas
Thursday, Dec. 25 Holidays