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By Christa Jennings
Senior Staff Writer
During its evening meeting last Tuesday, September 28, the County Commission approved its budget for the 2022 fiscal year, including employee raises.
In reviewing the proposed budget, County Administrator Amy Gilliland also presented the commission with options and scenarios for possibilities to include with the budget. Those options included the commission absorbing all of the employees’ insurance increase or half of it, as well as offering across-the-board raises of 25 cents, 50 cents or 3%.
After discussion and review, Commissioner Unzell Kelley made a motion to approve the proposed budget with the commission absorbing the entire cost of the insurance increase and an across-the-board raise of 25 cents per hour. The commission unanimously approved the motion.
However, there was much discussion following the motion, with county attorney John K. Johnson saying that the commission had to include the budget amount in the motion for approval. Commissioner Kelley said that the commission had never had to do that before.
Following drawn-out discussion, Administrator Gilliland ran the numbers as requested, to include the employee raise and insurance costs, and said that the budget would be approximately $8,697,765.11.
Kelley then amended his motion to include that amount, and the commission approved the approximate budget of $8.6 million.
With that approved, the commission will absorb the cost increase of the insurance so that county employees will just continue to pay the amount they are currently paying.
Regarding the raise, Gilliland later explained that employees; including elected officials, if they so choose; will receive a 25-cent per hour pay increase. However, none of the county commissioners are accepting the raise, with all five of them opting out.
Gilliland further explained that the commission is also absorbing the insurance pay increase. Health insurance has increased $30 per month for single coverage and $75 per month for family coverage, but the commission approved absorbing those costs for the employees.
Regarding further details of the budget, she later explained that county life insurance and accidental death and dismemberment insurance changed to a new provider that will offer county employees more benefits at a 5% decrease in cost for the county.
Gilliland said that is paid by the commission and is no cost to the employees. Additionally, a vision plan will also be provided.
Level funding was also approved for each county department, with a few departments having a budget increase approved.
Concerning the approximate $8.6 million county budget, she said that residents are often not aware of the responsibilities that the county pays, such as all county buildings, departments and vehicles. This includes utility bills, water, garbage, phones, internet, gas, insurance on all buildings, equipment, vehicles, employees, and “the many obligations that are part of managing a county.”
“It is important to purchase gas and other items within Coosa County to strengthen the local economy,” Gilliland said.
In other business during the commission meeting, the commission unanimously approved removing a handful of items from department inventories and also approved the aforementioned transfer of the county’s basic life/AD&D insurance policy from Lincoln to Equitable beginning October 1.
Commissioners also unanimously approved the 2022 fiscal year contracts and once again tabled proceeding with the bid process for the roof of the Department of Human Resources and Board of Education building.
Also during the meeting, the commission heard comments from citizens regarding concerns with two roads – County Road 108 in District 4 and Buford Lane in District 5.
Wendell Jones was present to briefly review road issues along County Road 108 in the Hissop community, asking the commission to look into it.
Six residents were present from Buford Lane in the Stewartville area, near the Talladega County line, with Laine Keith addressing the commission on their behalf and presenting commissioners with a petition signed by residents of that road.
She said there are potholes in numerous areas of the road, adding that they have complained about the road conditions for two years and that nothing has been done.
Others present who live on the road included Gary McMillian and his wife, Dianne, and the Norris family.
Following the meeting, Mr. McMillian elaborated on the Buford Lane road conditions. He said that he and his wife have lived there 34 years and that these worsening problems have been going on for more than two years.
“We just want a good gravel road,” he said.
He said that at one point the road was in such poor condition that the United States Postal Service stopped delivering on their road. He said they had to go to the post office to pick up their mail.
Since then, mail service has resumed for Buford Lane, but he said the road is once again in horrible condition.
McMillian added that when they would call former Commissioner Todd Adams, he tried to get things done. However, he said no road work has been done on their road for two years.
He said the biggest issues are numerous potholes and the ditches needing to be cut. He explained that currently the ditches allow water to run out onto the road and wash it out.
He also mentioned the road being “grown up” and said that weeds on the roadside are so bad it makes it difficult to see. Ultimately, he said the road needs to be “graveled real good,” in addition to tending to the other issues, to help improve road conditions.
Also during the meeting, Gilliland announced that there would be a free dermatology clinic and skin cancer screening at the E-911 building in Rockford October 8, today, from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. She also reported that the Rockford Senior Center has started moving furniture and other items into the new Paul J. Perrett Senior Center building.
EMA Director Sheldon Hutcherson also reported to the commission that they had completed the county-wide exercise. He said they had great participation with 72 attendees and that everyone learned good lessons to help going forward.
The next regularly scheduled meeting of the County Commission will be held at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, October 12.