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Progress has been made on the Rockford Utilities Board building, located at the intersection of U.S. Highway 231 and Circle Drive near Dollar General, with the board going into executive session during its last meeting to discuss the building status. Photo by Christa Jennings
By Christa Jennings
Senior Staff Writer
During its July meeting, the Rockford Utilities Board discussed the progress of its facility, updates on the sewer plant and more.
With all members present, the meeting had a late start, being called to order at 7:18 p.m. July 19. Board Chair Ronnie Brown mentioned in the meeting that he had spoken to the board attorney, Nancy Kirby, and let her know that she would not need to be present for the meeting.
Regarding the sewer plant update, member Ronnie Joiner reported that he spoke to Ed Morris and that he was advised everything is in process. Member Raymond Abrams asked Utilities Superintendent Wade Brown is the Alabama Department of Environmental Management, or ADEM, had been back in contact with the board, and Brown said that it had not.
Per the board’s unofficial minutes from last month’s meeting, visitors Lynn Castleberry and Mr. and Mrs. Dunlap were present to ask questions regarding the status of the Utilities Board’s new building. The building is located at the corner of U.S. Highway 231 and Circle Drive near Dollar General.
Specifically, it was noted that they were wondering where the entrances to the building would be, especially since they live in the area. Chair Brown advised that the board would know more once the building was built.
Following that discussion, further regarding the building, the unofficial minutes report that Brown called for an executive meeting, or executive session, from 7:30 to 7:45 p.m. However, there was no record of a vote by the board to dismiss from its public meeting to enter into executive session.
Per Alabama’s Open Meetings Act, a motion to convene an executive session must be made, and the vote of each member to go into executive session must be recorded in the minutes, with the motion needing to pass by a majority vote.
Additionally, the motion for convening an executive session must also identify, with specificity, which one of the nine permissible grounds for calling the executive session applies.
The noted reason for the executive session being called during the July 19 board meeting was “building status.”
However, according to the state’s Open Meetings Act and the Code of Alabama Section 36-25A-7, an executive session is never required, but is authorized under limited circumstances. There are only nine possible grounds for convening an executive session, and those are general reputation and character, employee disciplinary matters, pending or threatened litigation and mediation/arbitration, security matters, criminal investigations, purchase or sale of property, matters of commerce or trade, public employee negotiations strategy, and administrative hearing matters.
The permissible reasons for convening an executive session are written as narrowly as possible to “ensure that an executive session is only allowed in very limited circumstances,” with there being limited applicability in each area of the nine grounds mentioned.
In other business during last month’s meeting, Chair Brown asked the board about potentially moving the monthly meetings from the third Tuesday to the third Monday and also changing the time from 7 p.m. to 6 p.m.
The board unanimously approved changing the Utilities Board monthly meeting from the third Tuesday of each month at 7 p.m. to the third Monday each month at 6 p.m.
Utilities Superintendent Brown also mentioned Randy Hammond coming before the board months ago to inform the board about a gas grant that was available for replacing gas valves. Brown said that he had paperwork for Chair Brown to sign so that it could be turned in, with it being noted that it would be to replace 26 or 27 valves.
Also during the meeting, Superintendent Brown reviewed various needed repairs and costs for those, as well as pricing for installation of a new meter on an individual’s property.
With the approved change in the meeting schedule, the next monthly meeting of the Rockford Utilities Board will be held at 6 p.m. August 15.