Commission reaffirms hiring of attorney for lawsuit

Published 5:03 pm Monday, January 11, 2016

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By Fred Guarino
The Lowndes Signal
The Lowndes County Commission reaffirmed the hiring of attorney Arlene Richardson on Monday.
Richardson is representing the commission in an ongoing lawsuit against Charlie King, Robert Woods, Helenor Bell, Karl Bell and Hayneville Plaza regarding the purchase of the Hayneville Plaza.
In June of 2011, the commission voted to float a $3.5 million bond to purchase the Hayneville Plaza Building, which was appraised at $3.2 million, for use by the South Central Alabama Broadband Commission (SCABC) in connection with a a federal grant and private investors funded broadband project.
The difference between the bond amount and the cost of the building included a deposit into the reserve fund, capitalized interest, a premium for municipal bond insurance, underwriter’s discount, other expenses and insurance and additional proceeds.
In 2012, a $59 million grant to Trillion Communications from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration for the $86 million SCABC project in eight Alabama counties was terminated.
The commission recently sold the building to Bell Ventures for $125,000.
A lawsuit filed in 2013 by the commission against Karl Bell, Hayneville Plaza LLC and the South Central Alabama Broadband District (SCABC) was amended to include three additional defendants.
According to court documents e-filed by Richardson of Highland Home, the attorney currently representing the Lowndes County Commission, the lawsuit was amended on Aug. 5 to include Charlie King Jr., Helenor Bell and Robert Woods as defendants.
Richardson said at the time, “The statue that we are suing under now — because we amended the complaint under a different statue that — allows you to not only sue the public officer who (allegedly) caused funds to be dispersed in the manner that they were here, but it also allows you to follow the money that was dispersed to get that money back.”
During a motion hearing regarding the dismissal of defendants’ counter claim on Wednesday, Jan. 6, the hiring of Richardson was questioned.
Monday, County Commissioner Brenson Crenshaw made a motion to “reaffirm the hiring of Arlene Richardson as a county commission attorney,” which was approved by the commission with County Commission Chairman Robert Harris abstaining from the vote.
County Commission Administrator Jackie Thomas said during Monday’s meeting that the hiring of Richardson was not clear in the minutes.
She told The Signal, “She (Richardson) was hired, but they questioned it in court.” She said, however, Richardson was hired “legally, publicly.”
In other matters:
The commission hired Larry Adams as enforcement officer for the county’s garbage collection service with Harris again abstaining.
As Debra Harris reported the Black Belt Community Foundation is revamping its Community Associates Program and each community associate in each of 12 counties is being asked to raise $2,500, the commission unanimously approved a $2,000 allocation for Harris.
Due to the recent high water in the county over the holidays, the commission voted unanimously to compensate County Highway Department employees for their overtime work.
Also in light of the work being done to make repairs following the high water over the holidays, the commission voted unanimously voted to postpone the county’s ADECA (Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs) paving of gravel roads project until March.
The project includes Lakeberry Road, Lakeberry Lane, Debeck Road and Fleeton Road.
Crenshaw told County Engineer David Butts, “On behalf of the commission we would like to thank you and the employees for being out there Christmas morning from 2 o’clock and continue working Saturday and back out there again the week after.”
Butts thanked the commissioners and said the guys “wanted to get people where they could get in and out.”
Butts reported that Lowndes County Road 12 resurfacing is nearly complete. He said all that remains to be done are striping and pavement markers.
He said plans for resurfacing Lowndes County Road 23 are being corrected.
He also said traffic counts are being done for RAMP (Rural Assistance Match Projects) are resurfacing roads that will include Lowndes County Road 26, 33 and Blue Hill Road first and Lowndes County Roads 45 and 37 second.
Harris reported that half the road signs in his district are missing and asked Butts to make sure those signs are up. Crenshaw added that other signs in his district were gone and that stop signs were taken down it at intersections. He said, “We had a vehicle that ran through an intersection because the stop signs was gone.”
Butts said a stop sign being down is an emergency item. He said he would get with 911 to make sure road signs are ordered and put up.
Under the consent agenda, the commission approved:
•Payment of invoices.
*Appropriation to Lily Baptist Church Youth Department in the amount of $500.
Appropriation to Hayneville Public Library in the amount of $5,000.
*Appropriation to Braggs Better Community Organization in the amount of $1,200.
*Appropriation to Calhoun School band in the amount of $1,000.
•Appropriation to Lowndes County Community Health Advisor in the amount of $1,500.
•Appropriation to Edgewood Tutorial Plus Program in the amount of $1,000.
•Appropriation to Fort Deposit Public Library in the amount of $1,000.
•Appropriation to Fort Deposit Fire Department in the amount of $4,000.

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