Commission holds first evening meeting
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By Christa Jennings
Senior staff writer
Since approving having meetings twice a month, the County Commission held its first evening meeting Tuesday.
All commissioners were present for the meeting. Other elected officials present for the meeting were Judge of Probate Richard Dean, Revenue Commissioner Debra Lamberth, Sheriff Michael Howell, Coroner Jack Brewer, and Superintendent of Education David Stover.
Aside from the elected officials and those with the commission, there were 13 others present for this first evening meeting.
Three individuals were on the agenda for public comment, Lee Brown to discuss County Road 40 and Carroll Penton and Lisa Moncrief to discuss the senior volunteer program. However, County Administrator Amy Gilliliand reported that all three individuals had canceled and were not present for those discussions.
In regular business, Commissioner Unzell Kelley mentioned the Community Development Block Grant for non-competitive funding through the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs, or ADECA. He discussed the funding for COVID-19 related matters and the previously approved projects for utilizing those funds.
However, because of ADECA’s stringent requirements for those particular funds, Kelley said that he wanted to withdraw his project for broadband funding for Central Alabama Wood Products. He added that he would instead like to reallocate those funds of approximately $7,000 to the purchase of air purifiers and filters.
Kelley explained that the funds should be enough to purchase four purifiers and filters. He said that exactly where the purifiers go and who will utilize them is to be determined.
After brief discussion, the commission unanimously approved the reallocation of those CDBG funds for that purpose.
In other business, the commission nominated and unanimously approved Commission Vice Chair Bertha K. McElrath to be a representative to serve on the Coosa Valley Resource Conservation and Development Council.
The commission also unanimously approved the Digital Information Cooperative Agreement and Resolution, which was approved on September 28, 2020, but was not received or signed at that time. It was recommended that the commission approve the agreement again for the new commission chair to sign.
In budget matters, the commission unanimously approved reallocating funds in Coroner Brewer’s budget by an amount of $595 so that he can attend the Medicolegal Death Investigation Course. This involved adjusting line items from office supplies to registration fees with no change in the overall budget.
Additionally, the commission unanimously approved reallocating funds in the Highway Department budget by an amount of $87,580 by adjusting other line items and adding those funds to the vehicle and equipment line item.
Similarly, the commission unanimously approved reallocating Highway Department budget funds by an amount of $6,360 by adjusting from the line item for building insurance to vehicle insurance.
In both instances County Engineer Tad Eason explained that the reallocation was only for transfers to make it a balanced budget. He said there was no change to the bottom line of his department’s budget by adjusting those line items.
In other business, the commission once again unanimously approved tabling the matter of proceeding with soliciting bids for a roof for the Department of Human Resources and Board of Education building because of still not having an agreement or specifications for that project.
Also during the meeting, EMA Director Sheldon Hutcherson reported that the county “made it through Ida with no reported damages anywhere.” He said there were a few trees down because of all the rain, but no major damage in the county.
Additionally, he informed the commission that they will have the county-wide full scale exercise on September 18 at Central Coosa schools, inviting the commissioners to come watch if they would like. He said this is the first full-scale exercise they have had in several years, adding that a full-scale exercise is required for the county to get many of the grants through EMA.
With no other business to address during Tuesday evening’s meeting, during discussion items by the commission, commissioners took the opportunity to respond and defend themselves against an opinion column published in last week’s edition. The column was in regards to the Weogufka Neighborhood Watch meeting with Westwater Resources and the lack of attendance by most of the commissioners.
Commissioner Kelley mentioned that two days to be informed about a meeting is short notice, “especially when the meeting had been planned for longer than that.”
“I generally don’t address these, but sometimes you have to,” Kelley said. “I only found out about that meeting from Mr. Melvin Palmer at our E-911 meeting, which I told him I had no knowledge of it. He asked if it was a commission meeting. I said it wasn’t a commission meeting, but that does not stop any other elected official – commissioner, probate judge, or anyone else – who may have a part in planning that meeting.”
Kelley went on to explain that he told Palmer that Probate Judge Dean sits on the Lake Martin Area Economic Development Alliance Board with him and that he may have worked with District 5 County Commissioner Lamar Daugherty to put the meeting together, but that he did not have any knowledge of it and could not really answer Palmer’s questions.
“Then on Tuesday [August 17], I will say Judge Dean did reach out to me and invite me to that meeting, but at that time I had something already planned in terms of taking my elderly mother to the doctor in Birmingham,” Kelley said. “We didn’t get back until late, so I wasn’t able to make it.”
“In terms of the Westwater Project, I think this whole commission has been very involved in that project,” he added. “It’s not something that we take lightly because there’s a lot of responsibility and liability the commission is obligating itself to financially, as well as all aspects of that project.”
Kelley also defended the commission as a whole and its stance on economic development.
He stated, “I just want to make sure the record is set straight in terms of the commission’s involvement with this project and where we stand on economic development. I think every commissioner is for moving Coosa County forward progressively. We may not always agree, but at the end of the day I think we all can agree that project will have some benefit for Coosa County, and hopefully that will spur on some other economic developments to take place in this county which will help continue to move us in the right direction.”
Kelley added that he has spent “countless hours” in meetings and phone calls dealing with economic development issues.
“Let me just say, I hope that some of our future decisions are made in mind of where we want to see Coosa County at, and I tell you, you cannot develop your county if you don’t have a good school system, so I’m glad to have our superintendent here, and I hope that there are efforts being made to basically move our school system in that direction, as well, because it does us no good to recruit a company in here if we don’t have a good school system that people want to send their kids to,” he said. “We have too many people in Coosa County who are sending their kids out of the county to be educated, but yet they’re in positions making decisions, or they’re in positions of influence and influencing people in terms of the perception of Coosa County and the decisions being made. I just want to put that out there. We all don’t always agree, but at the end of the day we have to compromise and get on one accord to move this county forward.”
Commission Chair Randall Dunham agreed with Kelley and stated, “I want to add to that. I commend all of the commissioners because I’ve been with them at every meeting they’ve called and every commissioner shows up, and I appreciate that. We’re on top of it. I appreciate what all the commissioners are doing.”
District 4 County Commissioner Ronnie Joiner added, “Like the chairman said, we’ve been at every meeting with these people ever since they started working on this project. The commission wholeheartedly went along and tried to promote this thing. We’ve been there. Just because we did not know about a meeting and we missed it, I don’t think we should be scolded about it. It’s not like we don’t care. We’ve been working on it hard.”
The next regularly scheduled meeting of the County Commission will be held at 9:30 a.m. September 14.