New ‘benign’ revenue sources, separation of top county jobs, unit system in the hopper

Commission eyes local legislation...

In a work session devoted primarily to more or less routine items, one item wasn’t. Commission Chairman Chris Green introduced the discussion of local legislation – ends desired by the county that will require action by the Alabama Legislature to achieve – by summarizing two ‘benign’ revenue raising measures to bolster the stressed county general fund. The two measures were a lodging tax and a county tax on alcoholic beverages, other than beer, both being taxes that “won’t hurt anybody,” he said.

Then he addressed larger matters, noting that the commission had voted in February of this year to split the probate judge and commission chairman duties – now combined in a single job in the county administration

(Green holds both) – into separate jobs. He said the commission had proceeded no further with that initiative since February, partly because of the problem of how to pay for another full-time county administrative job out of the already challenged general fund. That hurdle must be addressed.

“I have never opposed that step, but it’s a big issue that needs to be carefully thought out and planned,” he said. He added he had devoted a great deal of time and thought to formulating such a plan, adding that he would provide materials to commissioners to consider in the January meeting. The plan will provide for splitting the probate judge/commission chairman job and moving the county toward the unit system, he said.

In a nutshell, the unit system would consolidate county road maintenance under a single superintendent with a single road crew and equipment fleet, and would change the commissioner job from full-time to part time, with their primary responsibility being financial and administrative management, rather than road repair.

District 4 Commissioner Gary Stricklin applauded Green for addressing the matter, saying he was encouraged that Green would provide a plan for the commission to consider and to initiate discussion.

District 1 Commissioner Allen Armstrong took the opposite view, saying,“There is nothing wrong with the system we’ve got now,” emphasizing the word system. He added that lack of money is the problem and that wouldn’t change by changing the form of county administration.“Jefferson County has the unit system. It’s not working for them. They can’t even keep the grass mowed,” he added.

Green responded that 55 of 67 counties in Alabama operate on some form of the unit system.“We have to work smarter; we have to manage better,” Green said. He added that the plan would pass through three stages in the course of being considered. The first is discussion and action by the county commission. The second is action by the state Legislature. The third and final step would be for the citizens of the county to express their judgment in a referendum, he said.

The subject is not expected to be on the agenda for further discussion until January. Matters that will be on the agenda for action in the commission’s Monday, Dec. 8, business meeting include the following items:

• conducting a public hearing on the 10- year Solid Waste Management Plan at the beginning of Monday’s business meeting.

• appointing five board members to the new West Blount Fire and Medical Services District, recently authorized by voters.

• reassigning probate office employee Lisa Baker to the Economic Development Council as a community development coordinator, and backfilling the probate job with a new employee.

• passing resolutions to select a project engineer and consultant for Community Development Block Grant water projects.

• approving the 2015 holiday schedule for county employees.

• awarding or rejecting sealed bids for District 4 assets: one Ford truck and one mobile office unit.

• declaring surplus two Blount County Transit System buses.

• considering a recommendation for veterinary treatment of animals at the Blount County Animal Adoption Center.

Concerning upcoming meetings, Green noted that the Economic Development Council’s first annual stakeholder meeting is Thursday, Dec. 4, at 6 p.m. in the dining room at St. Vincent’s Blount.“This is an important meeting. If you have an interest, please come,” he said.