Hears courthouse renovation report; approves two crucial hires

Blount County Commission...

Courthouse improvements recently completed to the front entrance of the courthouse are just the tip of the iceburg.

At its monthly business meeting Monday, the Blount County Commission received a verbal summary of a detailed written report from Lathan and Associates Architects on renovations necessary to ready the 60-plus-year-old building to continue providing county government services to people of the county in the coming years.

Dimensions covered included continued renovations needed to meet federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements, in addition to improvements to overall building structural integrity. Also badly needing upgrades, according to Lathan and Associates specialists, were the following systems: heating/ air conditioning, plumbing, lighting, and electrical systems, as well as miscellaneous interior corrections and improvements needed to assure public and employee safety.

Paraphrasing the verbal summary, Lathan specialists said the building has exceeded the expected service life by as much as 50 percent for the systems evaluated. Further, they said that increasingly frequent and extensive maintenance time and costs, as well as the possibility of catastrophic failures are to be expected, suggesting that the need for renovation and replacement has already gone years beyond advisable limits. Many of the renovations can’t be made piecemeal because they will have to meet stricter codes than were in effect at the time the original systems were installed, they said.

As part of the discussion, Commission Chairman Chris Green, asked architects to make a special effort to improve the convenience of access for disabled citizens to the front entrance of the courthouse, now the single point for public entry into and exit from the building. In the ensuing discussion, commissioners and Lathan specialists discussed moving all parking for the disabled to the the south side of the building near the front, setting aside at least five designated spaces for parking in an area that minimizes the distance and ease of access to the front door.

Lathan specialist Howard Rasco agreed to study the proposed area carefully to make sure it could be constructed so as to meet all federal ADA requirements. In addition, the firm was charged to translate all findings from their report on courthouse deficiencies into a recommended master plan of action, with steps and proper sequencing of projects to assure maximum efficiency and negate the need for do-over work. A similar recommendation was requested for the Frank Green Building.

Two important hires and District 2 paving schedule

The commission approved a three-year employment contract and voted to offer the job of county administrator to John Michael Bullard, of Cleveland. The contract specifies initial compensation of $60,000 annually, with a $5,000 per year increase if and when he completes Association of County Commissions of Alabama (ACCA) courses leading to his being a certified county administrator. The offer is contingent on Bullard accepting the job and signing the employment contract.

The commission also approved a four-year employment contract for the job of county engineer and offered the job to Dustin Stewart, who has been acting county engineer since April 10 this year. Stewart accepted the job and signed the contract, with a salary of $105,403 annually, $31,621 of which is paid by the county. The remainder is paid by ALDOT. Stewart, a West Blount native who has lived in Oneonta since 2013, was accompanied at the meeting by his wife, Michael, and two of his three children, Sawyer, 8 and Aubry, 3. Following his introduction of family members and accolades by several commission members, he was treated to a round of applause, a relatively rare event in commission meetings.

The commission approved additions to the District 2 road paving schedule for 2017; added were West Road, Teal Road, and Covey Road; previously approved were Ashley Road and Souls Chapel Road.

In other actions, the commission:

• approved District 2 appointment of Melissa Bush to Blount County-Oneonta Chamber of Commerce Board for one-year term.

• passed a resolution naming Human Resources Manager Greg Glasscock as Blount County safety coordinator.

• passed a resolution approving use of electronic poll books in lieu of printed lists of qualified voters; resolution also authorizes commission chairman to request bids for electronic books from qualified bidders to be presented to commission.

• passed a resolution awarding paving bid for the Huffstutler Road project to sole bidder Whitaker Construction with a negotiated price of approximately $315,000; resolution further authorizes advance to District 3 of future Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) reimbursement for Christmas Day 2015 flooding, and allows district 3 to borrow from fiscal year 2018 budget, if needed, to complete the project.

• postponed action on a resolution awarding bid for U. S. 231/County Road 26 intersection in Blountsville, pending outcome of negotiations with the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) for further funding assistance.

• approved the Blount County Community Corrections Annual Plan.

• approved annual Delta Computer Systems computer software support agreement with nominal fee increase and authorized chairman to execute.

• authorized commission staff to seek approval from municipalities where aging centers are located to contract with the Middle Alabama Area agency on Aging (M4A) for 2018 funding; authorized chairman to execute agreement.

• approved amending agenda item in May 8 commission meeting that authorized a special appropriation to District 4 for $25,000 for repairs to Low Water Bridge from Capital Outlay Fund 200; amendment redirects funding from Fund 200 to Fund 100 and authorizes accounting entries to reflect the change.

• approved budget amendments to accommodate payments to all four District road budgets, Fund 11.

Moving Blount County Forward projects update

• County roads 13, 29, and 4 paving completed; striping will begin as soon as weather permits.

• County Road 7 paving completed; shoulder work begins today (7/10)

• County Road 28 reclaiming and patching completed; tar and gravel application to be completed today (7/10); residents should exercise caution due to presence of loose gravel for a time

• County Road 21 patching will begin week of 7/17

• County Road 57 patching will begin when County Road 21 is complete

• County Road 14 patching will begin after County Road 28 paving is complete

• schedule subject to change depending on weather

Quorum and future meetings

All commissioners and the commission chairman were present at the business meeting. The next commission work session is set for Thursday, Aug. 10. The next scheduled business meeting is set for Monday, Aug. 14. Both will be at 9 a.m. in the commission boardroom at the courthouse in Oneonta.

Bid openings for annual bids will be Monday, July 31, at 9 a.m. in the commission boardroom.

Effective Monday, July 10, all telephone calls relating to road issues will be directed to the engineering office. Until now, they have been handled in the commission office.

District 2 community meetings on road management – past, present, and future:

• Tuesday, July 18, at Grace Baptist Church on Ala 75 near Snead at 6:30 p.m.

• Tuesday, July 25, at Restoration Church of God in downtown Blountsville at 6:30 p.m.