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County considers community storm shelters
By Christa Jennings
During its April meeting, the Coosa County Commission had many discussions regarding the possibility of getting community storm shelters.
Currently, there are no officially designated storm shelters anywhere in the county, although some facilities are opened to the public during severe weather as “safer places.” However, that could change in the near future.
EMA Director Sheldon Hutcherson notified the commission that he had been notified of funds available from last year’s April 19 storm, as well as Hurricane Zeta on October 29. He informed commissioners of DR-4573 and DR-4554 Hazard Mitigation funds.
DR-4573 relates to Hurricane Zeta, while DR-4554 is for last April’s severe storms with straight-line winds and tornadoes. Both involve Hazard Mitigation Grant Program, or HMGP, funds that are now available to be applied for by the public assistance-declared counties.
According to each of the notices of funds, “FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program provides funding to state, local, tribal, and territorial governments so they can rebuild in a way that reduces, or mitigates, future disaster losses in their communities.”
The grant funding is available after a presidentially declared disaster, which applies to both storms last year.
Additionally, the notices inform the governmental bodies that “projects will be considered based on mitigation strategies in [their] local mitigation plan.”
When reviewing the information with commissioners, Hutcherson said that there is a 25% match for the county. He said the total county match for both grants would be approximately $75,000.
During discussion, he said that the county’s priorities are community storm shelters. He reviewed some information and cost estimates with the commission, such as the county trying to get three larger storm shelters for the county.
When asked about placement of the shelters, Hutcherson said that would be up to the commission and property owners or municipalities. Each shelter would need land where it could be established, electricity run to it, other essentials, and someone who could oversee opening the shelter as needed.
During further discussion, it was mentioned that if the county got three storm shelters then they could be placed in each of the county’s municipalities – Goodwater, Kellyton and Rockford.
Commissioner Unzell Kelley inquired about the county getting more than three storm shelters by getting smaller shelters. This would allow there to be more shelters spread throughout the county, but they would have less capacity and be able to hold fewer people in each of them.
After further discussion, the commission unanimously approved applying for both grant funds and to further discuss and determine the number and size of storm shelters later, as well as the potential locations for those.
In other business, the commission also unanimously approved and adopted a resolution offering Tier I retirement benefits to Tier II employees, which had previously been discussed and considered.
As required by Act 2019-132, the commission then submitted the plan to the Employees’ Retirement System, or ERS, to increase the member contribution rates for its Tier I plan members from 5% to 7.5% of earnable compensation and for Tier I plan members who are firefighters or law enforcement officers from 6% to 8.5% of earnable compensation.
The plan further reads that the commission “shall increase the rates as set forth above if and when the Coosa County Commission is unable to make its required employer contribution.”
In other business, the commission:
- Unanimously approved adding metal culvert work involving approximately 80 feet of culvert to the roadwork/parking lot project at Flagg Mountain, which would exceed the originally approved $3,250 budget by adding approximately $1,100 to it.
- Unanimously approved FEMA’s 4573-DR-AL funding agreement relating to Hurricane Zeta, with the county’s match for the funding being 12.5%.
- Unanimously approved allocating funds from the General Fund to the Highway Department utilizing reimbursed federal funds from the EMA Disaster last April in the amount of $257,449.45 with the budget increase going to the equipment line in the Seven Cent Budget.
- Unanimously approved purchasing two dump trucks off the Association of County Commissions bid list for the Highway Department, with the current trucks being 2007 models and having 500,000 miles on them.
- Unanimously approved purchasing up to three pickup trucks from the state bid list for the Highway Department, with the current trucks being 1988 and 1990 models.
- Discussed a new contract for scrap and electronics at the county landfill, but did not take action on the matter.
- Unanimously approved participating in the annual “Back to School” Sales Tax Holiday July 16-18.
- Unanimously approved keeping county levies for alcohol licensing the same for the county, with those currently being at the maximum levels.
- Unanimously approved the proposed administrator contract for new County Administrator Amy Gilliland, contingent on some changes suggested by Commissioner Unzell Kelley.
- Unanimously approved moving forward with the Simplifile agreement to accept e-filed documents in the probate office, contingent on review of the agreement, with there being no cost to the county for this.
- Unanimously approved allowing Judge of Probate Richard Dean to establish a bank account for the Simplifile funds.
- Unanimously approved nominated Mark Bice to the county Department of Human Resources’ Board to fill the vacancy left by the resignation of Marion Embry after almost 20 years of service, contingent on Bice accepting the position.
- Tabled proceeding with getting bids for the roof of the DHR/Board of education building.
The next regularly scheduled monthly meeting of the County Commission will be held at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, May 11.