Unit system would manage county as a single entity instead of four separate ones

Background summary of proposed act

The Blount County Efficiency in Government Act is a draft legislative act to authorize a referendum on converting Blount County to the unit system of government. It specifies organizational details of the unit system. The summary generally follows the paragraph order of the proposed act. Content is condensed for brevity; language of the act is quoted directly from time to time, but is paraphrased in other places for convenience. Occasional explanatory material is added. General

The effective date of conversion, if passed by Blount County voters in the proposed referendum of November, 2020, would be in November, 2024, on the date county commissioners take office following the general election of that year. The four-year period between the referendum and the implementation date would provide reasonable time for deliberate, planned transition.

The county commission shall continue to employ a qualified, professional county engineer who shall devote his/her entire time to the maintenance and construction of county roads, bridges, and other public facilities and county engineering projects.

The county commission shall also employ a qualified road maintenance superintendent who shall manage, under the direction and supervision of the county engineer, the daily work of county road crews. County Engineer

The county engineer shall employ and supervise all workers and assistants to maintain county roads, oversee the construction of new roads as directed by the county commission, perform technical engineering tasks, and oversee the road program on the basis of the county as a single unit, without regard to separate districts or voting precinct lines.

The county commission shall fix wages and salaries necessary for road management, including that of the county engineer. The county engineer shall enter into a surety bond, premiums to be paid by the county.

The county shall provide the county engineer with an office and all equipment and materials necessary to perform his duties. The county engineer shall be the custodian of all road equipment and related materials owned by the Commission.

On or before each Dec. 31, the county commission shall consider for adoption an annual County Transportation Plan prepared by the county engineer. The commission may adjust the transportation plan or increase its funding when not in conflict with the general laws of the state. The county engineer shall also maintain a recommended Five-Year County Transportation Plan equitable to each commission district for any given five-year period.

The authority of the county engineer shall be limited to expenditure of funds allocated by the commission to carry out the annual County Transportation Plan. The county engineer shall make written requisition to the county administrator for all budgeted items needed.

The county engineer shall inspect all items purchased by the county for use on roads and bridges before accepting delivery and authorizing payment. Any deviation from standards shall be reported to the county administrator and the county commission. Blount County commissioners

County commissioners shall serve four-year terms, be elected by single member districts, and be considered part-time positions. The compensation and benefits of commissioners shall not be reduced from levels paid prior to the adoption of this act. Thereafter, compensation shall be adjusted as provided in state law.

Effective with commission terms beginning in November 2024, the Blount County Commission shall operate as a unit system, and shall set policies and priorities for the construction and maintenance of all public roads, bridges, and public facilities within the county. Each commissioner is authorized to inspect the roads of his/her district, hear suggestions and complaints of citizens, and report recommendations to the commission. Each commissioner shall confer with the county engineer concerning the problems of his/her district and assist in securing rights-of-way and with public service generally. Blount County commission chairman

A full-time chairman shall be elected in the general election of November 2024. Anyone who is a qualified voter of the county and has resided in the county for one year prior to the date he/ she would take office is eligible. Term of office shall be six years. The elected chairperson shall take office at the same time as members of the Blount County Commission following the November 2024 general election. Effective on that date, the Blount County probate judge shall no longer serve as the chairman of the county commission. The initial compensation for the commission chairman shall be the same amount paid to the Blount County revenue commissioner on the date the newly elected chairman takes office. Compensation of the probate judge shall not change until the January 2025 term of office begins.

The elected commission chairman shall serve as the presiding officer of the Blount County Commission; serve as fiscal agent and legal custodian of county funds; sign all warrants drawn on the county treasury or any other disbursement of county funds; execute approved contracts; and oversee activities of the county administrative staff, county administrator, county engineer, and all other county departments not under the direct supervision of an elected official. Conclusion and ballot language

This act shall take effect only if approved by a majority of the qualified voters of Blount County who vote at a referendum held for such purpose. The election shall be held in conjunction with the general election in 2020.

The question presented on the ballot shall be, “Do you favor the adoption of the Blount County Efficiency in Government Act, act number XXXXXX of the 2019 regular session of the Alabama Legislature, that would transition the Blount County Commission from the district system of county government, with full-time commissioners, to the unit system of county government, with part-time commissioners, providing that county road maintenance and construction be managed by a professional engineer, and providing for a full-time, elected county commission chairperson. Yes No Rationale

The points below do not appear in the draft of the Legislative act. They are quoted from the commission resolution that appears as a preamble to the proposed draft.

“The Blount County Commission recognizes the potential long-term benefits of centralizing county road departments into a single unit so that resources and equipment can be more fully utilized for maximum efficiency.”

“The Blount County Commission further recognizes that such a change in county government is of the magnitude that it would be appropriate for the citizens of Blount County to consider the strengths and weaknesses of the current district system and the strengths and weaknesses of the unit system and make a decision based on their preference in a general election.”

“Therefore, be it resolved by the Blount County Commission that the Blount County legislative delegation be requested to pass a legislative act… in the 2019 regular session of the Alabama Legislature…that would provide for a referendum in the general election of 2020 allowing the citizens of Blount County the opportunity to make the decision to change to a unit system in Blount County or remain operating under the current district system.”