Greene County Commission handled routine business at February meeting

At its regular monthly meeting on Monday, February 11, 2019, the Greene County Commission handled regular and routine business in under an hour. All Commissioners were present and there was little discussion or disagreement.
Paula Byrd presented the financial report showing that the County had $6.4 million in county banks and additional funds in a sinking fund for bond payments in the Bank of New York. She reported that most agency spending was in line with the budgets and since this is the fourth month of the 2018-19 fiscal year, which began October 1, 2018, that most agencies had spend about a third of their budgets. She presented several budget amendments to cover special cases like additional expenses for the November election.
The Commission approved a resolution supporting an increase in the state’s gasoline taxes, under review by the Alabama State Legislature, which would generate a significant increase in support and funding for county road improvement. The state gas tax has not been increased in 27 years since 1992 when it was set at 18 cents a gallon. An increase in this tax, based on fuel and road usage, would provide more funding for road improvement statewide.
The Commission approved the following items on their agenda:

• Approved the schedule of fees for securing alcohol licenses in the county. The amount of the fees is unchanged from last year.• Approved the Ad Valorem Tax Assessment for 2019, which is a routine matter that must be approved annually in the February meeting.
• Approved replacement of a $6,000 gas pump at the County Jail for use by the Sheriff’s Department. It was agreed that these funds would come out of the bingo funds since the Sheriff’s departmental budget for repairs to the jail was already committed and the pump while located at the jail is not part of the jail operations.
• Approved a contract with Terracon for maintenance and engineering services at the County Landfill.
• Approved a request from the County Engineer to employ 4 to 6 temporary workers for the Highway Department, which are included in their budget.
• Approved travel requests for staff and Commissioners to attend training related to their job performance.
The Commission also made several appointments to county boards. Darrow Jones was reappointed to the District 5 position on the Greene County Industrial Development Authority. Commissioner Cockrell requested tabling of the District 3 position.
Mary Snoddy was appointed to the District 1 position and James Williams to the District 5 position on the PARA Board.
Jimmy Hardy was selected for the District 3 position and Carolyn Branch for the District 4 position on the Greene County Housing Authority.
For the Greene County Library Board, Dan Edgar was selected for the District 2 position and Alicia Daniels Jordan for the District 5 position.
The Commission held an Executive Session to discuss legal matters and returned stating that no decisions had been reached that required action in the public meeting.

Commission invests in road re-surfacing and courthouse HAVC unit replacement; tables Forkland request for park property

In its regular meeting held, Monday, January 14, 2019, the Greene County Commission approved a resolution allowing the county to enter an agreement with ALDOT to resurface County Road 72. The county’s share of the financial investment in the project will be $348,945.01. The commission also approved replacing the HAVC unit on the main courthouse facility at a cost of $29,753.
The County Commission is hoping to have a Bill in the 2019 State Legislative Session that will bring some changes regarding the County Coroner. The proposed Bill would allow the coroner to have a salary, instead of just depending on fees; it would allow the coroner to get needed equipment and space through the county including a vehicle for transporting. At Monday’s meeting, the commission approved advertising the Coroner’s Bill.
A delegation from the Town of Forkland was present anticipating action from the commission regarding a request for the county to convey to the town the property associated with the Forkland Park. At the commission work session, the previous week, the Forkland Mayor, Charlie MacAlpine and members of the Town Council presented this request to the commission. At that session, Mr. MacAlpine explained that the park needs to be re-vitalized and the town is willing to take on this responsibility including the up-keep, but would like to own the property.Following an executive session, Commissioner Allen Turner, who represents Forkland, offered a motion to table the request, seconded by Commissioner Corey Cockrell. The motion passed.
An item added to the agenda was the request from the Sheriff Department for the purchase of a vehicle. Commissioner Turner moved to purchase a vehicle at fair market value not to exceed the requested amount. At the previous work session, Chief Deputy Jeremy Rancher, presented a proposal to the commission for the purchase of a used vehicle available at a cost of approximately $45,000. He stated that a normal patrol car would cost from $55,000 and above. He also said that the county needs six vehicles replaced, and it would help if the commission could provide one at this time.
In other business, the commission appointed Greene County Health Services CEO, Dr. Marcia Pugh, to the EMT Board, and approved the purchase of a full page ad in the annual Black History Edition of the Greene County Democrat newspaper.
The commission was scheduled to confirm appointments on various county boards, however, many of these positions were tabled for a later time. For the Industrial Development Authority Board, the commission did approve the re-appointments of Dr. Warren Burke and Mr. Luther Winn, from Districts 1 and 2 respectively. IDA appointments for Districts 3 and 4 were tabled. For the PARA Board, the commission approved Mr. Christopher Stepner for District 4. PARA Board appointments for Districts 1 and 5 were tabled. Housing Authority of Greene County Board appointments for Districts 3 and 4 were tabled. Ms. Anna Gray was re-appointed to the Library Board for District 4. Districts 2 and 5 appointments were tabled.
The commission approved the travel requests for the County Engineer and Assistant Engineer, and approved hosting the Association of County Commissions of Alabama District Meeting scheduled for February 4, 2019. The ACCA will cover food and catering expenses.
The commission approved paying Mr. Jasper Means $6,500 for the safe house foundation until funds from FEMA are received.
The commission approved the financial report and the payment of claims as proposed by the CFO, Paula Bird. Ms. Bird reported the following bank balances as of December 18, 2018: Citizen Trust Bank, $3,186.545.46; Merchants & Farmers Bank, $2,458,290.70; CD Bonds, $924,445.41. There was not a report for the Bank of New York.

Commission commits $126,000 for new equipment; Chairman makes committee assignments

County personnel view demonstration model of excavator equipment approved by Commission.

The Greene County Commission met in a specially called meeting, Monday, November 26, 2018 to handle some business matters that were not dealt with at the re-organizational meeting the prior week. The commissioners approved a request by County Engineer, Willie Branch, to purchase a mini excavator with mulcher attachment at a cost of approximately $126,000. According to Mr. Branch, this will replace the county’s Boom Mower. Branch indicated that he expects the equipment to arrive by the first of the year. Commission Chairperson, Tennyson Smith, issued committee assignments for each commissioner: Commissioner Lester Brown will chair the Education Committee; Commissioner Corey Cockrell will chair the Highway/Solid Waste Committee; Commissioner Roshanda Summerville will chair the Personnel Committee; Commissioner Allen Turner, Jr. will chair the Industry and Public Health Committee; and Commissioner Smith will chair the Finance/Public Safety Committee. In other business the Commission acted on the following: * Approved letter of support for Greene County Industrial Authority. * Approved Proclamation for World Aids Day, Dec. 1, 2018 for the Greene County * Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated. * Approved replacement of HVAC unit at Activity Center ( Extension offices). * Approved ABC License for Tobacco Permit for Dollar General store in Clinton, AL. * Approved Dec. 31, 2018 as an additional county holiday for this year. * Approved 2019 county holiday schedule. * Approved Ratification of Chairman’s actions regarding resolution for Alabama Workers’ Compensation Self Insurers Fund. * Approved following employee travel request: Licensing Clerk to attend Licensing Conference in Prattville, Jan.16-17, 2019; CFO to attend Annual Governmental & Accounting Forum, Dec. 6-7, 2018 in Hoover, AL; CFO to attend Continuing Education in Bessemer, Dec. 11-12, 2018; H.R. Personnel to attend Legislative Conference, Dec. 4-6, 2018 in Montgomery; Board of Registrars to attend Registrar’s Conference Nov. 16 in Montgomery. The meeting was officially adjourned.

Status Conference held in State AG lawsuit against bingo operations in Greene County

Special to the Democrat by: John Zippert, Co-Publisher

On Friday, September 28, 2018 there was a legal status conference in Eutaw on a lawsuit filed in October 2017 by Alabama Attorney General, Steve Marshall, against all electronic bingo operators in Greene County. The State of Alabama seeks to end the “public nuisance of unlawful gambling in Greene County by ending the use of slot machines and other gaming devices at five ‘casinos’ in the county”. State Attorney General Steve Marshall has filed similar lawsuits against electronic bingo in Houston, Montgomery, Lowndes and other counties, which like Greene, have passed Constitutional amendments to permit bingo. “This lawsuit is a clear and profound threat to economy, health and welfare of the people of Greene County,” said Attorney Michael Trucks of Fairfield who represents The Center for Rural Family Development, Inc. DBA Green Charity, one of the defendants in the case. Trucks pointed out in his interview with the Democrat that Greene County voters passed Constitutional Amendment 743, which permits “bingo and electronic forms of bingo to operate in Greene County”. He also indicated that Greene County’s Amendment 743 is the only one that specifically permits “electronic forms of bingo”, which the State of Alabama argues are illegal slot machines. Circuit Judge James Moore of Fayette, Alabama, is hearing the case since local Circuit Judge Eddie Hardaway had to recuse himself from the case. At Friday’s hearing, Judge Moore asked all of the plaintiffs and defendants in the case, the operators and charities connected to the five bingo establishments, to attend the legal conference to discuss the status and scheduling of the case. John L. Kachelman III, Assistant Attorney General, on behalf of Steve Marshall, Attorney General, represented the State of Alabama. Lawyers representing Greenetrack asked that the three main charities supporting its operations, E-911, Woman to Woman, Inc. and Greene County Association of Volunteer Firefighters be added as defendant to the lawsuit. Other lawyers asked to add the main beneficiaries of bingo fees through the Greene County Sheriff’s office including the Greene County Board of Education, Greene County Commission, Greene County Health System, Greene County municipalities and others, who receive monthly support from the bingo operations, as defendant in the lawsuit, so they could speak to the damages to their constituents and services from ending electronic bingo in the county.

Judge James Moore asked all the parties to recommend additional defendants in 14 days. He will decide which defendant groups to add to the lawsuit and give additional time to serve those entities with the lawsuit and time for them to give a response. Attorney Trucks said that he did not expect this process to be completed until early in the new year of 2019. Commenting on this lawsuit, County Commissioner Lester “Bop” Brown of District 1 said, “ I have been warning for a long time that we cannot count on bingo funds forever. There is a simple way to deal with this lawsuit and that is to vote for the Democratic candidates for Governor, Attorney General, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court on November 6.” “Walt Maddox, Democratic candidate for Governor, Joe Siegelman, Democratic candidate for Attorney General, and Bob Vance, Democratic candidate for Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court all support Amendment 743 and will not interfere or try to stop electronic bingo operations in Greene County. If they are elected on November 6, this lawsuit will be withdrawn. “Anyone who is concerned about the jobs and livelihoods of Greene County people working in bingo and the many organizations, county agencies and charities serving the people of Greene County, based on bingo funds, need to turnout and vote for the Democratic candidates on November 6. You are crazy if you don’t vote that way,” said Commissioner Brown.

Greene County Commission agrees to assist E-911 with parking lot

Highway 14 in Eutaw to be closed starting Monday, September 17, 2018 for maintenance work on Colonial Pipeline The Eutaw City Council approved closing of Highway 14 (Mesopotamia Avenue) where the Colonial Pipeline crosses, at the junction with Greene County Road 170, about a mile from the Interstate 20/59 Exit (Mile Marker 40). This closing will begin on Monday, September 17, 2018 to allow for maintenance and removal of a covering on Colonial Pipeline. The closing will last for ten (10) days. Eutaw Police Department will reroute traffic around this closure. This will require using Highway 11 to go to Boligee or to Highway 208 (Union) to reach Interstate 59/20. Traffic coming North from Meridian, will have to exit at Boligee (Exit 32) or Union (Exit 45) and make their way into the city.

 

At its regular September meeting on Monday, the Greene County Commission approved providing assistance to the E-911 program for the parking lot at its new building site on Highway 43 in Eutaw. The Commission also appointed Dorothy Bambarger to serve on the E-911 Board of Directors. The Commission approved routine matters dealing with its finances, payment of claims and budget amendments to complete its fiscal year at the end of this month. Financial reports showed $2,463,180 in Citizens Trust Bank and $1,923,635 in Merchants and Farmers Bank. An additional $919,946 in funds are on deposit with The Bank of New York in trust accounts for bond issues. Overall in the Budget Report Recap, the Commission has spent an average of 89.7% of annual funds budgeted, which is in line with eleven of twelve months in the fiscal year budget period. Based on the budget, some departments and functions are at differing levels but all are below budget. Paula Byrd, Financial Officer presented some budget changes in shifting funds between accounts, which were approved. The Commission also approved awarding a bid to Merchants and Farmers Bank to handle CD’s related to bond maturities. The Commission adopted a resolution requiring county workers to deal with employment concerns and complaints through their direct supervisor. In other actions, the Greene County Commission: • approved an ABC license for Docs Store and Grill in the Pleasant Ridge – Sipsey Community, owned by Matthew Eric Eads; • allowed County Engineer to advertise and hire an Equipment Operator; • vacated a 1,500 foot portion of Outland Road in the Boligee Community; • approved a Traffic Safety Grant from ALDOT; • approved EMA Performance Grant from the state; • approved recommendation of the Revenue Commissioner to employ an Administrative Clerk; • supported travel by the Engineer and Assistant Engineer to various training sessions in September and October. • approved contract for School Resource Officers in conjunction with the Board of Education and the Sheriff’s Department. The Commission also agreed to allow the County Engineer to provide a report on needed resurfacing and patching of county roads for future action by the Commission.

Commission acts on bridge replacement, bids and contracts County commission uses work sessions to prepare for official meetings

The agenda for the Greene County Commission’s meeting on Monday, August 13, 2018 was a carry over from the discussions of the work session held Wednesday, August 8. At these work sessions, the commissioners list and discuss pertinent business items from various departments as well as detailed district reports from each commissioner. Oftentimes, presentations are made by representatives from state offices, local municipalities, businesses and the community. These work sessions are open to the public and are scheduled the Wednesday afternoon prior to the second Monday commission meeting. No decisions are made at the work sessions. At the formal commission meeting of the month, the commissioners generally move quickly through the agenda, since they have had prior discussions on the items and are prepared to make decisions. This facilitates a quick and efficient process for the commissioners, but usually leaves the community persons in attendance lacking information and clarity on the particulars of those decisions. This situation perhaps warrants some discussion between commission and community. The Greene County Commission approved the following items at the August 13 meeting. Approved the finance report, budget amendments, and payment of claims as presented by the CFO Paula Bird. * Approved contracts and authorized Chairman Tennyson Smith to sign all necessary documents with Delta Computer Systems; Digital Information System and S&W Software. * Approved agreement with BKI for construction engineering for the bridge replacement on County Road 86, giving the Chairman authorization to sign all necessary documents.* Approved request of Engineer to solicit annual bids, which include such items as stone, gas timber, signs, pipe, asphalt, traffic strip, etc. * Approved submitting a request to the local legislative delegation to enact local legislation that treats the coroner the same as other elected officials of the county. * Approved the replacement of the air condition unit at the Eutaw Activity Center. Tabled authorizing the Chairman and Engineer to take steps to vacate portions off Outland Road. Approved ratifying actions of the Chairman in regards to ATRIP funding for Bridge over Little Buck Creek (County Road 86). Cash in banks as of July18, reported by CFO Paula Bird, was as follows; Citizen Trust Bank -$2,498,752.55; Merchants & Farmers Bank – $4,673,870.14;CD Bonds – $807,582.67; Bank of New York – $919,946.10.

County Commission agrees to opt-in PILT Class Action Lawsuit

At its regular meeting held Monday, July 9, 2018, the Greene County Commission approved joining the Payment In-Lieu of Taxes (PILT) Class Action Law Suit and authorized Chairman Tennyson Smith to sign all necessary documents. This law suit relates to payments due to a local government for federal lands within its borders. The U.S. Government does not pay taxes on land it owns in a county, therefore, Congress passed a law mandating the federal government to make substitute payments in lieu of taxes.
The statue explains the following: “PILT payments provide compensation to certain units of local government within whose borders lie lands that are owned by the federal government and which are therefore immune to state and local taxation. The statute sets forth specific formulas to calculate the amount of the payment that each eligible unit of local government will receive.”
Due to insufficient appropriations for 2015–2017, PILT recipients did not receive the full amount to which they were entitled under the PILT statute based on the Department of the Interior’s full payment calculation.
As a result, Kane County, Utah filed a lawsuit in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims in June 2017, seeking to recover its own underpayments and the underpayments of all other PILT recipients nationwide for the period 2015 -2017.
To participate in the class action lawsuit and collect possible amounts due them, each underpaid PILT recipient had to complete and submit a form “opting into” the lawsuit. If a county does not elect to join the class, they will not be included in the class action lawsuit—and will not receive any recovered funds. Counties will have until mid-September to opt into the class.
In other business the County Commission approved Commissioner Allen Turner’s re-appointment of Ms. Shirley Scott Isaac to the Greene County Health Services Board for District 3, as well as Commissioner Corey Cockrell’s appointment of Jonathan Woodruff to the E-911 Board for District 3. Commissioner Smith did not have an appointment from District 2 to the E-911 Board.
The commission also took action on the following:
* Approved Gas Tax Revenue Enhancement Agreement, authorizing chairman to sign all necessary documents.
* Approved Chairman Smith’s appointment to the Association of County Commissioners Legislative Committee.
* Approved budget amendments and payment of claims.
* Approved travel for one employee to the Alabama Association of Assessing Officials conference in Orange Beach, August 7-10, 2018.
Bank balances as of June 18, 2018, reported by the CFO Paula Bird, were as follows:
Citizen Trust bank – $2,610,588.56; Merchants & Farmers Bank – $4,677341.42; investment funds in CD’s – $806,571.43; Bank of New York – $918,088.04.

Bingo facilities distribute $367,525 for month of May

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Shown above Bingo Clerk Emma Jackson, Brenda Burke representing the Greene County Commission, Bingo Clerk Minnie Byrd, Greene County Sheriff Jonathan Benison, Greene County Health System CEO, Dr. Marcia Pugh, Assistance Chief Walter Beck, Probate Judge Julia Spree and Boligee Councilwoman Earnestine Wade.

 

On Friday, June 15, 2018, Greene County Sheriff Department reported a total distribution of $367,525 for the month of May from the five licensed gaming operations in the county. The recipients of the monthly distributions from bingo gaming designated by Sheriff Benison in his Bingo Rules and Regulations include the Greene County Commission, the Greene County Sheriff’s Department, the cities of Eutaw, Forkland, Union, Boligee, the Greene County Board of Education and the Greene County Hospital (Health System).
The following assessments are for the month of May 2018.

Greenetrack, Inc. gave a total of $67,500 to the following: Greene County Commission, $24,000; Greene County Sheriff’s Department, $9,000; City of Eutaw, $4,500; and the Towns of Forkland, Union and Boligee each, $3,000; Greene County Board of Education, $13,500, the Greene County Health System, $7,500.
Green Charity (Center for Rural Family Development) gave a total of $67,500 to the following: Greene County Commission, $24,000; Greene County Sheriff’s Department, $9,000; City of Eutaw, $4,500; and the Towns of Forkland, Union and Boligee each, $3,000; Greene County Board of Education, $13,500, the Greene County Health System, $7,500.
Frontier (Dream, Inc.) gave a total of $67,500 to the following: Greene County Commission, $24,000; Greene County Sheriff’s Department, $9,000; City of Eutaw, $4,500; and the Towns of Forkland, Union and Boligee each, $3,000; Greene County Board of Education, $13,500, Greene County Health System, $7,500.
River’s Edge (NNL – Next Level Leaders and TCCTP – Tishabee Community Center Tutorial Program) gave a total of $73,225 to the following: Greene County Commission, $24,000; Greene County Sheriff’s Department, $9,000; City of Eutaw, $4,500; and the Towns of Forkland, Union and Boligee each, $3,000; Greene County Board of Education, $13,500, and the Greene County Health System, $13,225.
Palace (Tommy Summerville Police Support League) gave a total of $99,330 to the following: Greene County Commission, $4,620; Greene County Sheriff’s Department, $36,930; City of Eutaw, $27,720; and the Towns of Forkland, Union and Boligee each, $4,620; Greene County Board of Education, $4,620 and the Greene County Health System, $11,550.

 

Retiring Revenue Commissioner, Goree, presents final report to County Commission

The Greene County Commission met in regular session Monday, June 11, 2018 and approved the year-end report from outgoing Revenue Commissioner, Brenda Goree. Goree stated that the document pointed out some minor errors in her operations and appropriate adjustments would be made. She also noted that this would be her last year-end report to the commission, since she is leaving office by the end of June. Barbara McShan will assume the position on July 1, serving the remainder of Goree’s term, which expires in 2020. Goree requested her retirement in 2017 and it will go into effect on June 30.
In other business the commission acted on the following:
*Approved a contract with Alabama Department of Transportation for preliminary engineering for bridge replacement on County Road 69 over McConnico Creek, with ALDOT paying 80% and the county paying 20% of the cost.
* Approved ABC License for Green Track Side Plaza (Chevron Service Station).
* Approved the placement of two high school interns for the summer. Commissioner Cory Cockrell proposed this arrangement at the commission’s work session, wherein he will pay the students through Next Level Leaders non-profit organization.
* Approved hiring one part-time bus driver for the Eutaw Nutrition Site.
* Approved Blue Cross Blue Shield contract for 2018-2019.
* Approved request from Society of Folk Arts & Culture for access to the courthouse restrooms for the 2018 Black Belt Folk Roots Festival.
* Approved resolution to add lodging tax collection to services of RDS, which is the Revenue Discover System that collects various taxes for the county, including sales and use, and beer and tobacco taxes.
*Approved the clean-up and re-purposing of the Montgomery Recreational Center in the Knoxville Community.
*Approved staff travel to various workshops and training.
*Approved payment of claims and budget amendments presented by the county’s CFO, Paula Bird.
Bank balances as of May 18, 2018, reported by Ms. Bird included the following: Citizen Trust Bank – $2,787,828.27; Merchant & Farmers Bank – $2,616,703.76; Bank of New York – $918,088.04; CD Bond Sinking Fund – $805,753.35

Greene County Commission holds April meeting

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Shown L to R: Commissioners Corey Cockrell and Michael Williams, Chief Jeremy Rancher, Sheriff Jonathan Benison, Officer Denise Armstead, Commissioners Tennyson Smith, Allen Turner and Lester Brown

The Greene County Commission held its regular April meeting on Monday, April 9, 2018 at the William M. Branch County Courthouse in Eutaw. The meeting was relatively routine and uneventful with not apparent controversies.
Paula Byrd, the County’s Chief Financial Officer gave a financial report for the county. Her report showed a total of $5,199,690 in bank accounts as of March 31, 2018, including $2.945,469 in Citizens Trust Bank and $2,254,221 in Merchants and Farmers Bank. The county has another $ 1 million in bond funds in various accounts.

Byrd reported that half of the fiscal year had passed since October 1, 2017 and most county agencies had spent 50% of their budgeted funds, which is generally in line with the forecasted expenses. Overall county agencies spent $1,650,745 (50%) of the $3,327,528 budgeted for this fiscal year.
The Commission approved $667,743 in claims paid in March including payroll and bills for supplies. $55,579 in automatic payments for various services was also paid during the month.
The Commission members and Sheriff Joe Nathan Benison and Chief Deputy Jeremy Rancher presented a certificate to Denise Armstead for completion of a course in operation and management of a jail from the State Department of Corrections. Ms. Armstead is employed at the Greene County Jail.
In other business, the Greene County Commission, also approved:
• a Sales Tax Holiday for Back to School items on July 20-22, 2108;
• use of the Courthouse restrooms for the Greene County Health System Foundation for a health fair at the Courthouse Square on May 12, 2018 from 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM;
• the County Engineer to hold a public hearing in regards to vacating County Road 128;
• the County Engineer vacating of an un-named road leading to Johnson Hill Cemetery; and
• travel for an Appraisal Department Employee for state training in Hoover, Alabama on April 9-13, 2018.
The Commission went into an Executive Session to discuss legal strategy and the good name and character of a person. The Commission returned from the Executive Session and said there was no official business to decide whereupon the meeting was adjourned.
In the public comments section, Iris Sermon, Director of 911 reported that the third week in April was National Radio Dispatchers Week and asked the Commissioners and the public to thank people who worked in these capacities for the county.
At the Commission’s work session, Wednesday, April 4, 2018, several commissioners expressed interest in raising ad valorem millage to assist the Greene County Health Services (hospital) as well as millage for the county’s highway department. Commissioner Allen Turner expressed a strong position in support of generating millage funds restricted for roads, bridges and other infrastructure improvements. No further action was taken in this regard.