the Greene County Commission’s regular session, held Monday, June 14, 2021, considerable time was spent adjusting the agenda before approval. Commissioner Lester Brown questioned why the purchase of an ambulance for the county’s EMS component was not on the agenda. Commission Chairperson, Roshanda Summerville responded that there is still ongoing discussions in that regard. Brown noted that the Commission could act on the allocation and then follow the required federal guidelines and state bid law requirements. Commissioner Tennyson Smith voiced his support for adjusting the agenda to include the ambulance purchase. This discussion was followed by a unanimous approval to add to the agenda consideration of purchasing an ambulance with funds from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). The commission later in the meeting revised this action to include a cap not to exceed $90,000 for the ambulance. Commissioner Allen Turner, Jr. proposed, as another addition to the agenda, payments of $2,000 each to several other county entities, including each Volunteer Fire Department, E911, and Rural Alabama Prevention Center (Greene County COVID group). Turner’s proposal was approved for the agenda. These added agenda items were considered as 3b and 3c and were subsequently approved. CSFO Macaroy Underwood emphasized to the commission that all ARPA funds must be spent in accordance with the federal and state guidelines. “When the commission gives money to a third party, the entity or agency must present documentation on how the funds will be spent. Use of the ARPA funds must comply with guidelines, or the county becomes liable for the repayment,” he said. The commission also approved a one time payment of ARPA funds to all employees working during the COVID pandemic, with $1,100 going to each full time employee and $550 for each part time employee. The commission noted that this would meet the guidelines since all county employees are considered as essential. The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 is a $1.9 trillion economic stimulus bill passed by the 117th United States Congress and signed into law by President Joe Biden on March 11, 2021, to speed up the United States’ recovery from the economic and health effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing recession. Greene County Commission received $787,734 for 2021. In other business the commission acted on the following: *Approved payment of services to Attorney Hank Sanders. *Approved ratifying asphalt treating from TTL, Inc. for road material used for County Road 133 at a cost of $2,976. *Approved replacing #2 air conditioner at the courthouse and one unit at the Eutaw Activity Center. *Approved opening Eutaw Activity Center to the public. *Approved ABC License for Boligee Food Mart. *Approved paying Grant Management LLC for administration of CDBG grant to pave dirt roads, not to exceed $32,000, to be reimbursed by ADECA. The commission acted on the following open board appointments: Mark Odom was re-appointed to the Board of Equalization; George Hall was re-appointed to the Water Authority Board; Margret Carpenter was re-appointed to the PARA Board from District 3; and LaJoycelyn Davis was appointed to the Library Board from District 3. In his finance report, CSFO Underwood noted the following bank balances as of May 21, 2021: Citizen Trust Bank – $5,382,919; Merchants & Farmers Bank – $9,539,751.48; Bank of New York – $450,170.64; total Investments – $1,088,674.22. In claims paid for May, accounts payable totaled $304,167.34; payroll transfer – $216,468.60; fiduciary – $38,718.90; electronic claims – $78,661.76. Underwood noted that 21% remains in the general fund budget. Commission Attorney, Mark Parnell, proposed that the commission go in executive session as a continuation of the executive session held at the commission’s work session, Wednesday June 9. He stated the purpose was to discuss matters that may relate to litigation. Several commissioners had questioned the appropriateness or legality of holding an executive session during a work session when the same had not been given public notice or formally voted on by the commission. This concern was not presented or discussed further in the open session. The commission did retire to executive session and the meeting was formerly adjoured upon their return to open session.
As of May 13, 2020 at 10:00 AM:
Alabama had 10,494 confirmed cases of coronavirus
with 442 deaths.
Greene County had 74
confirmed cases and 4 deaths
The Greene County Responders Committee has come together to plan a series of events over the next two weeks to honor First Responders and Frontline Healthcare Workers for their dedicated and selfless service during the coronavirus pandemic.
The Committee seeks to recognize the services, commitment and dedication of all police, sheriff deputies, firefighters, EMT’s. E-911 staff, and staff at the Hospital, Nursing Home and health clinics.
The salute to First Responders and Frontline Healthcare Workers will begin with a program at Noon on Thursday, May 14, 2020 on the Old Courthouse Square. Probate Judge Rolanda Wedgeworth will present a Proclamation to honor First Responders and Frontline Healthcare Workers. Other County and Municipal governing bodies and agencies will also present resolutions of support. Persons attending the program will be asked to wear masks and practice social distancing requirements.
After this short program, a group of fire trucks, with sirens blazing, followed by a caravan of local vehicles will drive through town to honor our first responders. They will stop at various places along the route to honor first responders and healthcare workers.
On Friday, May 15, 2020, the E-911 will sound their sirens at Noon to honor first responders and healthcare workers. Saturday, May 16, 2020 will be Mask Day and everyone outside their homes will be asked to wear a face covering, in the interest of safety. For Sunday, May 17, 2020, the Greene County Responders Committee is asking all church pastors to include a reference to honoring and thanking first responders and healthier workers in their sermons and church announcements.
The Greene County Responders Committee also plans a Special Love Program for Thursday, May 28, 2020, where all first responders and healthcare workers will receive a lunch and other expressions of love and support.
“The Greene County Responders Committee was set up in haste to respond to the pandemic emergency and the need to honor first responders and healthcare heroes,” said Anita Lewis, Committee Chair and Director of the Greene County Housing Authority. Spiver Gordon, President of the Alabama Civil Rights Museum, is Committee Organizer.
“We welcome other Greene County residents to join our Committee and bring ideas, support and funding to help us strengthen our salute to First Responders and Frontline Healthcare Workers. We want to develop other activities during the two week period to honor First Responders and Healthcare Workers,” said Ms. Lewis.
Other members of the Greene County Responders Committee include Mollie Rowe, Veronica Jones, Sandy Walker, J. E. Morrow, Latasha Johnson, Lorenzo French, Hodges Smith, Geraldine Walton, Shelia Smith, Rev. James Carter, Lester Brown, Joe Lee Powell, Elzora Fluker and John Zippert
Ms. Anita Lewis may be contacted through the Greene County Housing Authority office in Branch Heights at 205/372-3342.
The Greene County Commission held its regular monthly meeting on May 11, 2020, at 3:00 PM in the Greene County courtroom. The Commissioners and audience maintained six feet social distancing requirements and most wore masks. Four commissioners: Allen Turner, Chairperson, Lester Brown, Roshonda Summerville, and Corey Cockrell, were present, with Tennyson Smith absent.
Most of the meeting, including a lengthy closed Executive Session, was devoted to the issue of getting Greene County Sheriff, Joe Benison, to meet his financial commitment to the county budget, to pay additional staff above the basic staff included in the budget for deputies, jailers and other staff.
The Sheriff and the County Commission negotiated an agreement at the beginning of the year, for the Sheriff to reimburse the County for additional staffing above the basic staff included in the regular budget. The Sheriff agreed to pay these additional staff, who are on the County payroll, out of funding he receives monthly in fees from electronic bingo operators.
For the past two months since the beginning of March, the electronic bingo establishments in Greene County have been closed due to the coronavirus and no bingo machine fees have been paid by bingo operators to governmental, educational, healthcare and other charitable recipients, including the Sheriff’s Department, which oversees bingo under local Constitutional Amendment 743.
After the Commission’s Executive Session, the members voted to contact Sheriff Benison to require payment of the funds due under the budgetary agreement or terminate the additional staff, who are listed in an attachment to the agreement.
The Commission further agreed that the Sheriff could substitute and amend the list of names of staff to be reduced, but not the number, based on current conditions.
Another topic discussed at the meeting was to consider a 4 mil increase in property taxes that could be approved locally without the action of the Legislature. This discussion arose because the prior proposed 5 mil increase in property taxes, which included 3 mils for the hospital and 2 mils for the County and other agencies, was not submitted by the Legislative delegation for approval.
State representatives A. J. McCampbell and Ralph Howard, as well as State Senator Bobby Singleton, said that since only three of Greene County’s five commissioners signed the 5 mil request, they would not submit the proposal to the Legislature’s local legislation committee. They say their policy is to only move forward with local legislation that is unanimously supported by all County Commissioners. Commissioners Tennyson Smith and Lester Brown did not sign the petition for the 5 mil increase.
If the 5 mil proposal had passed the Legislature it was still subject to a referendum by all voters in Greene County, probably at the November General Election.
Commission Chair Allen Turner said he learned that the County Commission may be able to support up to a four mil increase in property taxes, under special circumstances, without Legislative approval. The County Commission tabled this item, to seek more information to determine if this is a feasible route to generate more revenues and support for the hospital and other county agencies.
In other actions, the County Commission approved a financial report, payment of current bills and claims and a travel request for the Assistant Engineer to attend a June 10-11 training in Prattville, Alabama
Spiver W. Gordon presents certificate to Rev. John Kennard, Guest Speaker at the 49th anniversary program. Several of the program participants joined them at the podium.
On Saturday, July 28, 2018, about 50 residents of Greene County, met at the Morrow-Brown Community Center in Branch Heights to celebrate the 49th anniversary of the July 29, 1969 Special Election. This election resulted in a victory for four African-American candidates for the Greene County Commission and two for the Board of Education, which meant Black control of county government for the first time since Reconstruction. The Special Election of 1969 was ordered by the U. S. Supreme Court in a case brought by Greene County indicating that local officials had deliberately left Black candidates supported by the National Democratic Party (NDPA) off the 1968 ballot. In the 1970 election, William M. Branch was elected Probate Judge and Thomas Gilmore was elected Sheriff of Greene County completing a sweep of almost all public offices in the county. The Greene County Special Election of 1969 was heralded as a great victory for the Voting Rights Act of 1965 in an Alabama Black Belt county that contributed marchers to the ‘Bloody Sunday’ and subsequent marches in Selma. A New York Times headline on July 30, 1969 proclaimed: Election of 6 Alabama Negroes hailed as ‘Giant Political Step’. The Alabama Civil Rights Museum under the leadership of Spiver W. Gordon sponsored Saturday’s program, which included a display of photos, and programs from the museum’s collection. Rev. John Kennard was the Guest Speaker. Levi Morrow Jr. spoke about the origins and planning that went into the construction of Branch Heights. District 1 Commissioner Lester Brown and others made remarks to commemorate the occasion.
County Commissioners and County Engineer show off the new Asphalt Distributor Maximizer 3 truck recently purchased. The 2017 model made by Rosco has a 1,950 gallon capacity and cost approximately $170,000. Standing L to R: County Engineer Willie Branch, County Commissioners Allen Turner, Jr., Lester Brown, Tennyson Smith, Corey Cockrell and Michael Williams. and Asphalt Distributor Maximizer 3 Truck
At its regular November meeting on Monday, November 13, 2017, the Greene County Commission re-elected Tennyson Smith (District 2) as Chairman and Michael Williams (District 5) as Vice Chairman. They will serve in office for the next year.
The Commission also reaffirmed Merchants and Farmers Bank and Citizen Trust Bank, as the county’s banking depositories, with the same signatories on checks. Regular meetings were scheduled on the second Monday of each month at 5:00 p.m. at the William M. Branch Courthouse.
The Commission received a financial report from Paula Bird, CFO for the month of October, which is the first month of the new fiscal year. Bird reported that the Commission had bank accounts totaling $4,572,811 and an additional $1 million in bond related sinking funds.
Bird recommended closing two accounts, the REHAB Grant account with $6,060 and the RSVP account with $4,966, which were no longer needed and transfer the funds to the General Fund Account. The Commission approved this transfer of funds.
The financial report indicated that overall the county had spent 14.7% of its budget, $1,636,824 during the first month. This is a little higher than the 8.33% expected but according to Bird there are some recurring expenses that occur at the beginning of the fiscal year that will even out by the second quarter of the year.
General Fund expenses were running at $416,466 or 13%, for the month, with the Sheriff’s Department and Jail exceeding the budget, due to overtime pay. The Commission approved paying all bills and claims for the month of October.
The Commission voted to instruct the County Engineer, Willie Branch, to consider County Roads 60 and 120 for resurfacing utilizing Federal matching funds. Only major and minor collector roads are eligible for Federal support.
The Commission also considered asking the County Engineer to resurface two miles of road in each County Commission District with county funds. Commissioner Corey Cockrell raised the concern that since his district, District 2, did not have many major or minor collector roads, which are eligible for Federal support, that his district should receive more paving of other roads.
The other commissioners were not impressed with Cockrell’s arguments and supported the original proposal for the County Engineer to designate two miles of roads in each district for paving.
In other actions, The Commission:
* Appointed Sheila Henderson (District 1) and Ron Edwards (District 3) to the DHR Board, which gives recommendations on welfare assistance policies in the county.
* Reappointed Margretta Bir (District 2) and Shirley Edwards (District 3) to the Hospital Board.
* Approved an alcoholic beverage license for Patrice Harris Kimble to operate DOCS Bar on the Lower Gainesville Road.
* Approved travel for Probate Clerk to Licensing Conference, January 10-11, 2018 in Prattville, Alabama.
* Approved Holiday Work Schedule for all county employees.
More than 250 people attended Tuesday’s countywide meeting at the National Guard Armory to discuss the recent decision of the Alabama Supreme Court deeming ‘electronic bingo’ in Greene County to be illegal. This decision made on an appeal by the State of Alabama on the 2010 raid which confiscated 825 electronic bingo machines from Greenetrack.The Alabama Supreme Court ruled that it has defined bingo as a game of chance played on paper cards and that the electronic bingo machines used at Greenetrack and other gaming facilities in Greene County are “illegal slot machines”.
This decision comes despite the 2003 vote by Greene County residents to enact Constitutional Amendment 743 authorizing electronic bingo. Greene County voters approved this amendment by an overwhelming vote.
Luther “Nat” Winn, CEO of Greenetrack presided over the meeting and introduced the county and legislative officials who spoke.
Winn said, “This decision by the Supreme Court is an illegal decision, they went against a Constitutional Amendment that we that we worked hard and legally secured for Greene County. The voters of Greene County have lost our basic right to vote and make decisions to help ourselves and build our county. The Supreme Court is taking 300 jobs from Greene County and millions of dollars of support for county government, municipal government and vital services. They have given us nothing in return. We are not going to accept this decision, we are going to fight it.”
Mayor Raymond Steele of Eutaw said,” This is going to be devastating for Eutaw and Greene County. There is no growth or new business in our area besides gaming. If the Supreme Court and the State take away bingo what will we have left. Do not touch Greenetrack until you bring us some jobs and revenues to replace it.”
Elmore Patterson, CEO of the Greene County Health System, warned that the hospital and nursing home would be forced to close without the jobs and revenues from bingo.
Hodges Smith speaking on behalf of the Greene County Firefighters Association said, “ We got tired of selling hamburgers and fish sandwiches to support our voluntary fire departments in Greene County. We supported Amendment 743 and went to the Alabama Legislature to get it passed because of the revenues that have been generated to support 14 fire departments across the county.”
Dr. Carol P. Zippert, District 1 School Board members said, “I cannot speak for the Board, but I can speak for the children of Greene County. We have not received enough funds from bingo but what we have received has helped the children of the county. This is a voting rights issue; the Alabama Supreme Court is taking our votes away. I had hoped that we had made some progress since the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s but it seems that our children will have to fight the same fights all over again to protect our rights.”
Lester Brown, Greene County Commissioner said, “ We need to support Amendment 743. It provides that matching funds for roads and bridges in our county. It provides jobs for our people. The Supreme Court wants us to cross a bridge with out the money to build it – that won’t happen!”
State Representatives Ralph Howard and Artis McCampbell who represent Greene County in the Alabama Legislature also spoke. “We have Constitutional Amendment 743, what else do we need to have? We need to stand up for the rule of law… it is worth fighting for,” said Howard.
Kennard Randolph, Blackbelt Outreach Coordinator for Congresswoman Terry Sewell said the Congresswoman was supportive of gaming in Greene County and would help in any way she could.
State Senator Bobby Singleton addressed the group and said he had been involved in the original debates over bingo in Greene County and helped insert the language for ‘electronic bingo’ in the legislation for the Constitutional Amendment referendum in 2003.
“This whole fight against bingo is a conspiracy between AG Luther Strange, the Republican Supreme Court and the Republican Party. There is ex parte communications between Luther Strange and the Supreme Court. The Republican Party wants to cut out all possible sources of campaign funds for the Democrats. They went after the teachers (AEA), unions, state employees, trial lawyers and gaming, “ said Singleton.
Singleton said he serves on the Governor’s Task Force on Gaming and he learned, “That this issue of electronic bingo in Greene County stands between the state giving the Native Americans exclusive rights to gaming in the state; a state lottery and other issues. I am fighting for the people of Greene County, not just Greenetrack. We need jobs at livable wages and revenues from gaming to support needed government and community services.”
Near the end of the meeting, Probate Judge, Judy Spree asked Winn what was his plan of action. Winn said, “ We are going to fight to protect bingo but if you know people in high places then contact them and ask them to help Greene County.
Others suggested using social media like Facebook to spread the word of the impacts of the Supreme Court’s decision on Greene County people. A more detailed strategy of resistance and fighting back was left to future meetings.
Noticeable absent from this countywide meeting was Sheriff Benison, who is the county official who supervises bingo under Amendment 743, makes the rules and administers the funds coming from bingo. Also missing were representatives of the owner-operators of the other bingo parlors in Greene County – Green Charities, Rivers Edge and Frontier.