Local residents bring concern to Commission

Published 9:26 am Thursday, June 14, 2012

A number of citizens were present at Monday’s County Commission meeting to argue for and against a proposed boat ramp on the Patsaliga River.

At last month’s Commission meeting, the Commission approved an application for a Land and Water Conservation Grant that would provide the county with funds to build the ramp at Highway 106 over the Patsaliga.

Shelby Vickery and Susan Barrow, who both own property near the site, expressed concern about what might happen if the ramp was installed.

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They had pictures from nearby bridges, Pigeon Creek in Butler County and Hazlett Bridge in Covington County, showing vandalism and litter.

“That’s what we don’t want to happen down there,” Vickery said.

“We don’t want it trashed up,” said Barrow, who lives adjacent to the river. “That’s what I’ve got to look at.  They’re going to party over there.”

Both also said that in the past, items have been stolen from their property.

“I think county time and money would be better spent somewhere else,” Barrow said. “It would be another problem for Sheriff West.”

Others in attendance, like Archie Russ, said that he doesn’t fish from the river because of the threat of trespassing charges from landowners.

“The older generation also can’t pull a boat up and down the bank,” he said.

Commissioner Michelle Stephens also advocated for the ramp, saying that citizens have a right to fish from the river.

County Engineer Benjie Sanders said that the grant has not been awarded yet, only that a preliminary application has been made.

“There will have to be a public hearing if we are awarded the grant,” said Commission Chairman Ricky McElwain.

If such a public hearing becomes necessary, the date will be announced at a later time.

In other business, the Commission heard from Sanders about the next steps concerning ATRIP, the Alabama Transportation Rehabilitation and Improvement Program, which awarded the county over $2 million to replace four bridges on the Petrey Highway.

Sanders said another round of funding is due in the fall, and he recommended putting the county’s projects that weren’t approved for funding into consideration for the next round.

Revenue Commissioner Sherry McSwean also gave the Commission an update on taxes for 2011.

“We had the tax sale on May 24, and all the taxes that are going to be paid have been paid,” she said.

McSwean reported that taxes for 2011 were down from 2010 tax revenues, but that the county reached its projections.

“The county was generally down about seven percent,” she said.  Seven percent is equivalent to around $70,000.

“I do not anticipate revenue going up,” McSwean said. “It’s just a little decrease, but we’re steadily going down where we used to go up.”

In old business, the Commission addressed an issue with Charles Brunson concerning software for the Sheriff’s Department.

Brunson, who has partnered with Law Enforcement Custom Software, presented a proposal to the Commission at the May meeting for $3,000 per month for licensing and maintenance on computer systems for the CCSO.

Brunson was present at Monday’s meeting and said that he believes the issue isn’t between him and the Commission, but the Commission and the Sheriff.

“I’d like to bow out of this and try to answer any questions, but in my opinion, this is between you guys and the sheriff,” he said.

County attorney John Nichols said that the services would have to be bid under the state bid law, but Brunson disagreed because he said custom software was exempt.

The Commission told Brunson they would let him know about their decision at the next meeting in two weeks.

“I want to get someone out there to look at it and see what they can do,” Commissioner Merrill Sport said.