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Commission to continue meeting on January 17

By Fred Guarino
The Lowndes Signal

The Monday, Jan. 9 Lowndes County Commission meeting has been continued until Tuesday, Jan. 17 at 6 p.m.

The Monday meeting recessed until Tuesday, Jan. 10, and was recessed for a second time to Tuesday, Jan. 17 after two executive sessions without action were held regarding a legal matter with potential for litigation.

After both executive sessions, Commission Chairman Charlie King Jr. said no votes were taken and no business was done.

On Monday, the commission was requested to go into executive session to discuss what County Attorney Henry “Hank” Sanders said was a “sensitive matter regarding economic development” at the request of Ellen McNair of the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce.

At Sanders’ suggestion, however, the commission added as a second reason for the executive session a legal matter that “may have potential litigation implications.”

On hand for the Monday executive session were McNair, Lowndes County Economic Development Director Gene Crum, Helenor Bell, Karl Bell and attorney April Albright.

On Nov. 14, the County Commission voted to implement an economic development project with both Montgomery County and the city of Montgomery.

That action followed an executive session with Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange, Montgomery County Commission Chairman Elton Dean, McNair, Hollie Pegg of the Alabama Development Office and Crum all present.

Last June, the commission voted to approve a $3.5 million bond issue to purchase the Hayneville Plaza from Karl Bell as a hub center for the South Central Alabama Broadband Commission (SCABC).

On Dec. 15, the County Commission voted to seek a copy of a “buyers prospectus” showing the tenants and amount of the rent on the Hayneville Plaza building prior to its purchase by the county for used by the South Central Alabama Broadband Commission (SCABC).

On hand for the second executive session held in the extended commission meeting on Tuesday were bond attorney Wyatt R. Haskell of Birmingham, Albright by conference phone, and the Bells.

When asked if he could say anything about the executive session on Tuesday, Sanders said, “I can’t say a word.”

The commission voted unanimously to recess Tuesday’s meeting until Tuesday, Jan. 17, as Monday would be Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

On Monday, Lowndes County Emergency Management Agency Director Walter Hill appeared before the commission on behalf of the Calhoun Volunteer Fire Department to seek a letter of commitment from the commission for the Calhoun Volunteer Fire Department to get a United States Department of Agriculture grant to build a new fire department building.

Hill asked for the amount of “what the commission is committed to providing.”

He said the original amount of the grant being sought from USDA was $363,227.76 for the building structure itself. He said the Calhoun Fire Department’s annual budget amount of $20,000 included a $15,000 county commission commitment toward this and a $20,000 grant of other sources of revenue.

He said if the amount committed does not balance, the size of the building may be reduced and some of the items asked for might be cut back.

County Commission Administrator Jackie Thomas said, County Commissioner Marzett Thomas has committed $6,000 with $2,000 from Commissioner Joseph Barganier. Thomas said a letter would be written listing the commitment of $8,000.

Following Tuesday’s meeting, Commissioner Robert Harris asked commissioners to consider application examples for current use with regard to property tax being used by other counties.

He said about 160 people came out to claim current use after the county purchased the Hayneville Plaza building for use by the South Central Alabama Broadband Commission.

“It is actually going to hurt the county’s budget,” Harris said. “These people are wanting services here in the county but they don’t want to pay for it.”

Under the consent agenda, the council approved invoices for December, minutes, a $300 appropriation to the Elmore Bolling Foundation, the liability self insurance fund premium, an appropriation of $500 to the Special Olympics, a appropriation of $3,000 to the Student Tutoring & Enrichment Program, a $3,000 appropriation to the Burkeville Volunteer Fire Department, a $2,000 appropriation to the Life Changing Outreach Community, the appointment of Geraldine Ingram to the E911 Board, and additional appropriation from Barganier of $500 for a fire hydrant at the Calhoun Volunteer Fire Department.