Ballroom closed, commission hears of objections to road paving

Published 5:25 pm Tuesday, August 27, 2013

By Fred Guarino
The Lowndes Signal

The Hayneville Plaza Ballroom has been closed until further notice. And the Lowndes County Commission has learned of objections to paving two of the county’s dirt roads.

In addition, the county is seeking help to keep an Alabama Forestry Commission Office in Lowndes County and learned of two possible industrial park expansions into the county.

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Commissioner Carnell McAlpine announced at Monday night’s regular Lowndes County that sometime in the later part of July there was storm damage to the Hayneville Plaza.

And he said the Plaza Ballroom has been closed until renovations and repairs can be made. However, he said, the damage should have no affect the other tenants at this point.

During the consent agenda portion of the meeting, a rental contract was approved for Deep Woods Barbecue Grill at the Plaza.

County Engineer David Butts reported that letters were sent out regarding work to be done pave a portion of Lakeberry Road, Lakeberry Lane, Debeck Road and Fleeton Road, all dirt roads.

The roads are all of an approximately $400,000 Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs Grant funding project for which Butts said the county will have to provide funds for any cost over the grant amount.

Monday night, however, Butts said two landowners, who were not named, don’t want the Lakeberry Lane and Lakeberry Road parts of the project to go forward. He said they also do not want to provide the county additional needed right-of-way.

“We sent letters out to the landowners to let them know we are going to be doing the project and there may be additional right-of-way that we may need,” Butts said. “And they have the option of donating the land, we purchase the land or get condemnation.”

He said only two landowners responded. But he said he “preferred not the name them” until efforts to work it out their objections have been exhausted.

At Commission Chairman Robert Harris’ request, County Attorney Hank Sanders reported on the legal steps necessary to continue the project though condemnation.

He said the land must described, then an offer made, which would include the value of land less value of improvements, and a petition made to the courts.

Sanders said the process could take “several months.”

Commissioner Joseph Barganier said the Alabama Forestry Commission closed its office in Lowndes County about three years ago, but kept the land, building and equipment on Lowndes County Road 45 (Fort Deposit).

He said about 10 days ago he received world that the building and land will be sold, along with several other offices throughout the state.

Barganier made a motion that was seconded by Commissioner Dickson Farrior that the commission contact state and national representatives to try to keep the office in Lowndes County, which was approved unanimously.

State Forester Linda Casey said the land and building for the Forestry Commission Office located in Fort Deposit is being appraised, “We do not have any approval yet to even sell it,” she said. “But it is one of 20 offices the Forestry Commission is looking at as a potential sale to help keep us from reducing head count (employees) any further.”

She said in 2010 after looking at fire load or fire risk, those with low risk was closed. And she said the Lowndes County office in Fort Deposit was one of six offices closed. But she said the State Forestry Commission continues to service the county from Montgomery.

She explained that the Alabama Forestry Commission has seen its budget cut from $35 to $20 million including state and federal funds. And she said the Forestry Commission has cut more than 70 jobs.

She said the Forest Commission has no desire to move equipment out of the county. “All we need is a place to store it,” she said, and to keep it covered. But she said, “We don’t know what else to do… we’re struggling right now to survive.”

Thomas Ellis, co-owner of Priester’s Pecans in Fort Deposit and a representative of the Lowndes County Economic Development Commission, told the County Commission about two possible industrial expansions in Lowndes County that could bring up to 380 jobs.

However, he declined to name the companies involved at this point.
Under the consent agenda, the commission approved a contract to house state inmates at the county jail for $15 per day, approved a rental agreement with Deep Woods Barbecue Grill and an appropriation of $1,000 to the Lowndes County Youth Sports (a Pee Wee type football) Program.

The commission heard from Marcus Williams and Justin Dean of Mutual of Omaha, who said they could save the county 11 percent on employees’ life insurance and offer employees opportunities for additional insurance.
Harris said the commission would take their proposal under advisement.