Motion to give Fulton $50,000 to assist with sewer project payment shortfall fails

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A motion to give Fulton $50,000 as a one-time appropriation to help with its sewage system debt shortfall failed for lack of a second at Tuesday’s Clarke County Commission meeting.

Fulton installed a sewage system several years ago. Mayor Mike Norris explained that it initially paid for itself but a population drop, either through people dying or moving, caused a drop of about 43 residential customers, from 167 to 124. That loss of revenue coupled with significant increases in expenses, often as much as three times, has resulted in an annual shortfall of nearly $50,000 on the debt service for the project.

Norris had previously asked for help from the county and was at Monday’s meeting to restate the need. He called it a “dire need” for Fulton citizens, many of whom live on fixed and/or low incomes.

Commissioner Stan Hutto favored helping the town. “We need to look closely at possibly giving Fulton some money. The money was there [to service the debt] when it [the system] was built.”

The county initially thought it possibly could use federal Covid monies to help but found out they are for new projects, not old ones.

A suggestion was to use industrial development funds earmarked for economic development projects.

It was noted that 23 customers live outside of Fulton in the county, another reason to ask for county help.

Commissioner Jackie Ray Rush was reluctant, noting that all prices are up, “groceries, too” and questioned Fulton’s other utility rates which are lower than the county’s and some neighboring communities.

He questioned how the county could help everyone with every request.

Hutto said every request and every situation needs to be looked at.

“I think we need to help” with this project.

Hutto made the motion to give Fulton $50,000 this year and to look at the situation again next year. In the meantime, Fulton is to come up with a plan to try and lessen the shortfall, either through increased rates, grants or other revenue sources.

The motion died for lack of a second from either Commissioner Rush or Commissioner Bill Taylor. Commissioner Rhondel Rhone was presiding as chairman and Commissioner Tyrone Moye was absent.

“This isn’t over,” Rush said. “What is Fulton’s plan to try to help?” He said the commission also needs to consider how it can help others if it helps one entity.

Mayor Norris said he would prepare a plan for the commissioners.

Other business

In other business, commissioners:

 Approved a $947.50 invoice to Goodwyn, Mills and Cawood for engineering work on county road improvements.

 Heard the Rebuild Alabama Annual Report. County Engineer Jake Bailey said no monies have been spent but tax dollars are being allowed to accumulate for a paving project for County Route 30, the Nettlesboro Road.

 Bailey had an annual bid for traffic striping. None were received and he said projects will have to be bid out individually as needed.

 Approved probation period completions for Justin Leonard and Parker Woodson at the County Jail and for Jamie Newton and Savannah Bumpers at E- 911 and for Ka’Tyreio Watters in Road & Bridge.

 Retroactively approved the internal and external posting of the vacant chief clerk’s position in the revenue commissioner’s office since the vacancy occurred between meetings. Interviews are scheduled this week.

 Changed the mileage rate paid to employees to 58.5 cents per mile.

 Contracted with Larry McPherson to prepare financial statements for Fiscal

Year 2021. McPherson has done this for some time.

 Passed a resolution to not support any proposed legislation to eliminate obtain a concealed carry permit by the Alabama Legislature. The matter is likely to be on the agenda for legislators this session.

 Heard from Ana Franklin of Advanced Correctional Healthcare, Inc., which has the contract for inmate medical care at the Clarke County Jail. It was agreed that she, Sheriff DeWayne Smith, Administrator Christy Roberts and County Attorney Bruce Wilson need to get together to work out some of the items talked about.

 EMA Director Roy Waite offered the latest Covid-19 numbers. The Omicron variant is raging now and every county in the state is at high risk. In Clarke County, there have been 259 new cases since the first of the year. For the same period last year, there were only eight. He said it was a very contagious virus with a transmission rate much higher than other variants but less lethal. See a related story on Covid for more.

 When claims were presented, all were approved except one for $2,950 to the sheriff’s office for officer training. Commissioner Hutto noted the item and said that is usually paid out of the sheriff’s discretionary funds and should be now. His fellow commissioners agreed.

The next commission meeting will be at 9 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 25.

It was noted that Monday is a holiday, Martin Luther King’s and Robert E. Lee’s birthday and county employees will be off and the courthouse will be closed.

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