Rescinds $70,000 MBCF funds; passes resolutions on local legislation, school sales tax holiday

Blount County Commission

By a 3-1 vote Monday, the Blount County Commission rescinded its previous approval of about $70,000 worth of Moving Blount County Forward expenses incurred in connection with road improvements on Joy Road made last year by District 1 Commissioner Allen Armstrong. According to discussion at Thursday’s work session, the action was apparently taken in connection with accusations of Armstrong’s failure to observe an informal agreement among commissioners regarding a proposed moratorium on personal criticism of each other or of the commission itself on social media.

The commission passed three resolutions on diverse matters Monday:

• a resolution supporting and urging passage of three local legislative initiatives, including (1) HB-557, a bill that would transition the county government of Blount County to a unit system of government with part-time commissioners, county road improvement managed by a professional engineer, and a fulltime commission chairman, subject to a referendum of county voters to be held in the general election of 2020; (2) HB- 185, providing for an exemption from pistol permit fees for active, retired, and honorably discharged military veterans; and (3) HB-564 authorizing the Blount County Commission to levy a 4 percent lodging tax to be used to promote tourism, maintain park and recreation projects, and maintain county covered bridges;

• a resolution providing for Blount County’s participation in the “Back-To- School Sales Tax Holiday” of July 19 – July 21.

• a resolution confirming commission compliance with the Alabama Department of Transportation specifications for safety improvements on county roads 34, 35, and 36, and adding a termination date of 9/30/2019 to the original funding agreement for project HRRR-0519.

The commission postponed passage of a resolution renewing for five years a franchise agreement with Otelco Telecommunications to continue providing Cable TV services, with final fee rates and further wording changes to be determined for action by the commission in its June business meeting.

In other actions, the commission:

• approved distribution to the public of New Construction/Property Development planning packets relating to subdivision requirements, 9-1-1 addresses, and health department permits.

• approved purchase of rubber tire wheel loader from Thompson Tractor for $178,000, to be paid from county-wide funds and accounted for as county-wide equipment.

• approved purchase of backhoe for District 4 from Thompson Tractor for $108,000, paid from District 4 funds.

• approved placing HVAC technician job on grade 8, step 14, and moving Buildings Maintenance Manager job to grade 9, step 4.

• considered two bids to replace sewer line at jail from the building to the public water manhole, and agreed to choose bid based on review of specifications and bid details, followed by selection of best option by District 2 and District 3 commissioners.

• approved update to policy 10.7.3 in Personnel Policies and Procedures Manual to allow for reimbursement, with appropriate documentation, if rooms at conference rates are fully booked.

• approved 50 percent FEMA reimbursement of March 14 tornado clean up costs from county general fund, to be refunded to general fund if/when FEMA/ state reimbursements amounting to 87.5 percent of costs are received.

Appointments/budget amendments

The commission:

• made two appointments for six-year terms to the Blount County Water Authority: Mark Staton to the at-large position, and Rickey Pridmore to the Mt. High position.

• approved three nominations for the Board of Equalization: Larry Stone and Jo Ann Moss of Oneonta and Bobby Lowe of Hayden.

• approved budget amendments for $10,045 for the purchase of a vehicle for the engineering department; for the Animal Adoption Center to purchase cat cages for $13,770; and for the coroner for $800 received from the sale of a 2005 Dodge Caravan.

Other matters

The commission approved:

• purchasing a server for the County Information Management System (CIMS) for $2,295, to be paid from fund 11, county-wide.

• transferring a 1997 Ford truck from District 4 to the Information Technology/ Data Processing Department.

• transferring a 2008 Ford Explorer from the engineering department to county-wide inventory.

• renewing the contract with Avenu Insights & Analytics (formerly Revenue Discovery Systems) at the current rate and authorized the chairman to execute.

• issuing a bid request on the Homeland Security grant for the Family Services Center for an automatic door locking system to comply with federal regulations – to be reviewed by Community Consultants to assure compliance and avoid penalties.

• renewing contract with the Alabama Department of Rehabilitation for office space at the Family Services Center.

• surplusing six sheriff’s department Ford Crown Victoria vehicles and authorizing sale by best means possible, to include a previously surplused Crown Victoria.

• holding a Community Development Block Grant public hearing at the June 17 business meeting.

• payment from the county-wide account for a District 4 truck to be plumbed for use with the new county-wide trailer.

• sending the IT/Data Processing department head to the CIMS conference, paid from county-wide account.

Engineering report

County engineer Dustin Stewart reported on the status of three major projects recently completed:

• Miller Road Bridge Replacement: completed with a project underrun of $105,987 on a total cost of $575,196.

• Larue Circle Bridge Replacement: completed with a project underrun of $1,500, due to backfill work of District 2 road crew, absorbing a cost of $40,000 to $50,000 if it had been done by the bridge contractor who installed the box culvert.

• King’s Bend Scenic Overlook Park: high-profile tourism destination completed after tortuous multi-year effort, with an underrun of $13,495 on the approximately $423,231 project. Much of the cost of the project, which preserved Cleveland’s supplementary water supply in the form of a water line attached to the repurposed bridge, was covered by a federal Transporatation Alternative Program (TAP) grant. In addition, a $600,000 allocation from the state for taking over the maintenance of the old bridge, saving the state the expense of demolishing it, was applied toward payoff of the ATRIP county highway improvement program outstanding balance.

Executive session

The commission voted to enter executive session to discuss pending litigation and/or issues that could lead to litigation. They returned after an extended meeting, took no further action, then adjourned.

Quorum and future meetings

All commissioners and the commission chairman were present at the May 20 commission business meeting.

The next commission work session is Thursday, June 13 at 9 a.m.

The next commission business meeting is Monday, June 17 at 9 a.m.

Both are in the commission boardroom at the courthouse in Oneonta.

Grand opening of the King’s Bend Scenic Overlook is set for 9 a.m. on Monday, June 24.