Sheriff’s budget cut $118,000 to cover inmate health care; approves 772 agreement

BLOUNT COUNTY COMMISSION

Following an hour-long executive session announced to discuss the good name and character of employees and other individuals, and the safety of persons and facilities, the Blount County Commission resumed its regular session, and passed a motion to remove an additional $118,000 from the 2018 Sheriff’s Department budget.

The amount, according to the motion, is to be placed in an escrow account to use as an offset, should it be needed, to cover costs of inmate health care during the 2018 fiscal year. Any amount remaining at the end of the year will be returned to the county general fund, according to Disrict 3 Commissioner Dean Calvert, who made the motion. Such costs have risen greatly in recent years, totaling approximately $400,000 in 2017, compared to a budget of only $230,000.

“Where’s the $118,000 coming from?” Blount County Sheriff Loyd Arrington asked the commission following the vote. Calvert answered in so many words that the sheriff’s department could decide itself what items to reduce, or that the commission would do it for them.

That action following executive session was preceded by a discussion during the regular business meeting of several alternatives being explored to control the ballooning costs of inmate medical care. Four avenues of inquiry were mentioned as an alternative to the insurance carrier now used: (1) health/medical care provided by St. Vincent’s Blount, (2) health care insurance provided by a specialty private insurer, (3) health care insurance provided through a program available to counties through the Association of County Commissions of Alabama (ACCA), (4) hiring a nurse practitioner to provide direct medical care to inmates for many cases, and triage of the most serious cases for hospital care.

772 agreement

After an uneventful public hearing, the commission unanimously approved a three-way development agreement between B&K Foodmart LLC, the town of Hayden, and the commission itself.

The agreement provides financial payments from public tax monies as an incentive for private companies to locate in desired areas for economic development and public benefit purposes. According to the agreement’s terms, B&K Foodmart will receive no more than $100,000 in rebate of taxes over a period of up to five years. The gas station and foodmart are expected to create at least eight full-time jobs and generate $115,000 to $125,000 per month in taxable sales and 75,000 to 80,000 gallons of fuel sales per month. The B&K Foodmart building also includes spaces for two other businesses not a party to the development agreement.

Sources of the tax rebate include one-quarter cent county general sales tax on tangible personal property sales at the retail site, one-half cent tax per gallon on the sale of fuel at the retail site, and one-quarter cent town general sales tax on tangible personal property at the retail site.

The agreement must also be approved by vote of the Hayden Town Council following a public hearing to be held there Oct. 24.

In other actions, the commission:

 approved requesting Oneonta to designate parking spaces along Third Street (north side of courthouse) and Second Avenue (Ala 75 in front of courthouse) as one-hour parking to improve convenience for the general public.

 approved matching funds for a FEMA pre-disaster mitigation grant for a new generator at the courthouse; cost of project estimated at $50,000.

 passed a resolution authorizing the chairman to execute an agreement with the Alabama Department of Transportation (DOT) related to continued partial funding of the county public transit system by the Federal Transit Administration for fiscal years 2018, 2019, and 2020.

 approved revised agreement between Blountsville, the commission, and DOT reflecting the additional amount of $60,000 allocated by DOT to the project to widen and improve the U.S. 231/ County Rd. 26 intersection in Blountsville.

 approved the agreement between the Middle Alabama Area Agency on Aging (M4A), Locust Fork, and the commission to support the aging program and homebound meal deliveries with an allocation of $10,000.

 appointed county administrator John Bullard as alternate M4A board member.

 approved 2018 County Information Management System (CIMS) license agreement charges with Diversified Computer Services for $650 monthly with annual fee of $525, and authorized chairman to execute.

 renewed the juvenile detention contract with St. Clair County for a single bed for short-term detention for $25,000, and authorized the chairman to execute.

 contracted with Hope House for random drug-testing services for county employees according to following schedule: $45 for employees holding commercial driver’s licenses, $28 for non-CDL employees, and $28 for breath alcohol test.

 approved an appropriation of $7,500 for the Agri-Business Center to offset the lack of inmate labor.

 accepted county engineer’s recommendations on the following speed limits for roads in District 4:

35 mph on Sand Valley Road

30 mph on Tucker Mountain Road

25 mph on Standridge Trail

Dean Calvert statement

At the end of the regular business meeting, Calvert read the following slightly edited statement into the minutes.

“Leadership is a big responsibility, but as commissioners and leaders of this county, it is extremely big. The relevant question is not how much money we can get to spend today, but rather, what and how we can more efficiently use taxpayer money today, in order to prepare for tomorrow. We must plan well, have a vision and be creative in order to be very effective. We as commissioners are measured by the effectiveness, efficiency, and productivity that take place during our time in office. With that being said, our goals must meet the needs of the people we serve….we must have some kind of performance measure in place for all departments in this county to see what is working and where work needs to be done. When looking at this, we need to look at how efficient the department is working – first with their resources, second the activities of each department, and last the results. Are they meeting the needs?…We are responsible for the taxpayers’ dollars and have to answer to them. Therefore, we should strive to correct any problems that we see, and prevent any problems that could arise in the future.

“Our county is not perfect such as funding and maintaining roads and public safety are just two. Why are there two major problems? Because in 1901, the people of Alabama were tired of the government getting together once a year to raise taxes, (and) they decided as one voice to do something about this. The government added (an) amendment to the constitution that would make it almost impossible to raise property taxes and (assure?) less government involvement. Today, Blount County is one of the least expensive places to live. Because of this, only 11.5 percent of Blount County tax dollars goes to the roads. How do we fix this? We start with good economic development to bring in more revenue, such as new businesses, and work together to find other revenue available. We all know we cannot spend more than we bring in. Theodore Roosevelt said: ‘Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.’ And I say to each commissioner that hard work and persistence will bring good investments to our county.” Quorum and future meetings

Commissioners of all four districts and the commission chairman were present at the business meeting. The next scheduled work session is set for Thursday, Nov. 9. The next scheduled business meeting is set for Monday, Nov. 13. Both will be in the commission boardroom at the courthouse in Oneonta.