Palmer, timber industry being ‘singled out’

In reply to the article printed in the September 28, 2011, edition of your newspaper, I would like to make the following observations:

Your statement that the case filed by the Alabama Forestry Association and Todd Palmer against Blount County “pits the interest of county taxpayers who pay for road construction and maintenance against the right of an individual to use those roads to develop his property and make a profit…” fails to recognize that Todd Palmer is, himself, a Blount County taxpayer and entitled to certain rights. The truth is that Mr. Palmer pays approximately $16,000 in property taxes per year for the land he cannot use due to the inferior nature of road construction and maintenance by Blount County. Prior to ownership of these lands by Mr. Palmer, Blount County did not collect a dime of taxes from this property. Mr. Palmer’s taxes are like “found money” to the County’s coffers.

Why in the world would Blount County spend taxpayer dollars on the construction of roads that even the County Engineer admits are incapable of carrying 1/2 of the weight of a State constructed road? A reader of this paper only has to take a casual glance at Blount County roads to have them wondering what are we taxpayers getting for our tax dollars?

The truth is that there are few, if any, Blount County roads that are constructed to allow development of industry and commerce in this County and to supply much needed jobs to our citizens. The County, however, is more interested in attempting to control how people use their land and in preventing honest, hardworking people from earning a living than providing and developing proper infrastructure for the growth and development of the County.

As to the specifics of our case, the reason the Alabama Forestry Association and Mr. Palmer are suing the County is that Mr. Palmer and the timber industry are being singled out in establishing weight limits for road surfaces. Although very few, if any, County roads meet the quality necessary to carry the State weight limits, to our knowledge, only three County roads have had weight limits imposed for the road surface. All three of those roads with restricted weights just happen to be the three roads that border Mr. Palmer’s property.

Your article stated that according to “informed sources” only one permit request from Mr. Palmer was “denied” and that was on a particular sub-standard road maintained by the County. What the informed sources failed to acknowledge is that two permits requested by Mr. Palmer to access the three Blount County roads in question were considerably delayed by the County officials (one for seven months and another for eight months) prior to the permits finally being issued under threat of a federal lawsuit. However, even as the County officials issued the permits for the three roads with one hand, they were planning to revoke them with the other hand by enacting the selective weight limits on those three roads bordering Mr. Palmer’s property, and only those roads. I will leave it to your readers and to the Court to determine whether or not that type of conduct from county officials amounts to the permits being “denied.”

People and businesses that rely on a county road system have a hard enough time with overregulation by government without having new arbitrary rules and regulations imposed by the County that stop development and commerce from growing in Blount County.

Bob Austin