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Commission delays vote on road weight limits, rejects motion to rescind censure of Harris

By Fred Guarino

The Lowndes Signal

The Lowndes County Commission voted unanimously to table a resolution to reduce weight limits on Lowndes County Road 40, Monday, Aug. 27, but rejected a motion by Commissioner Robert Harris to have the commission rescind a “censure” against him.

After hearing from Preston Jackson of Alabama Sand and Gravel and attorney Louis M. Calligas of Balch & Bingham of Montgomery, the commission voted to delay passage of a resolution to impose new reduced weight limits on Lowndes County Road 40 of 17 tons for three axle vehicles and 25 tons for five axle vehicles until its Sept. 10 meeting and to meet with the company about the issue on Sept. 4.

Jackson appeared before the commission regarding weight limits on Lowndes County Road 40. He pointed out that his company in Lowndes County is mining gravel for silica quartz with 33 employees of which 21 are local.

He said the company plans to be in Lowndes for about 23 years. He said the company pays a tax that equals about $30,000 per year which is allotted back to the county to maintain the roads.

Jackson said there are also plans to use a rail spur at the mine site so that none of the material will be trucked on the highway.

He said, “Alabama Sand and Gravel would be willing to help fix the road if you all didn’t reduce the weight limits.”

Calligas said Lowndes County Road 40 is the sole means of access for their operation.

He said, “If this resolution is passed and lowers weight limits. It would severely impact their business and ability to haul materials” toward Selma and back toward Montgomery.”

He said they would have to increase truck traffic or “stop operations all together.”

Calligas said passage of the resolution could mean putting a company out of business that chose to come to Lowndes County and to employ people who now live in Lowndes County.

He said, “We wanted to put this off so that we could meet and talk with you to address your concerns.”

It was pointed out that the weight limit resolution does make exemption such as two and three axle vehicles that transport agricultural commodities or products and certain concrete mixing trucks.

Despite an email from Sonny Brasfield, executive director of the Association of County Commissions of Alabama, Harris requested to be read into the minutes, the commission rejected a motion by Harris to rescind its censure against him that was approved on a three-two vote by the commission on Tuesday, Aug. 14.

In his motion to rescind, seconded by Commissioner Joshua Simmons, Harris also asked that his motion be sent to the public in the paper.

Harris’ motion to rescind failed to pass on a three-two vote with Commissioners Carnell McAlpine (chairman), Dickson Farrior and Joseph (Joey) Barganier all voting “no” while Harris and Commissioner Joshua Simmons voted “yes.”

The resolution to censure Harris passed on Aug. 14 with McAlpine, Farrior and Bargainer all voting “yes” and Harris and Simmons voting “no.”

The email read on behalf of Harris states, “During your call to the office, you asked about any law that may exist authorizing the county commission to take any affirmative action to ‘censor’ another member of the commission. I cannot find anything in Alabama law regarding authority for a county commission to impose penalties, such as a censor, against its members.”

Brasfield also said in his email that he was available to discuss the matter with Harris again if he liked.

Censure is defined as the expression of severe disapproval of (someone or something), typically in a formal statement.

County Attorney Hank Sanders said of censure, “There is no law on the book that says to do that. But the rules that you adopted says that a person should not do the things that we forth in there.”

He went on to say, “You are not imposing a penalty on this person (Harris) or taking away any rights or anything. You’re simply saying that he’s done these things and that he should not do them again. And, that you were calling it to his attention by censure.”

Sanders said, “I didn’t think that you need a law to do that.”

Sanders said he contacted the Association of County Commissions prior and had a conversation with general counsel Morgan Arrington.

Harris said policy does not speak about censureship. He said other language should be used or censureship taking out of it. He also said the commission could not create expenditures without approval of the commission.

The resolution to censure Harris was approved on Aug. 14 for “conduct which violates the Lowndes County Commission rules of procedure.” Among them, according to the resolution, were repeatedly involving the personalities of McAlpine, Farrior and Bargainer.

It directed Harris to cease and desist from such violations in future commission meetings.”

In other action, the commission unanimously approved an estimated $46,314 contract to fix the wing wall on Lowndes County Road 17 using emergency funding.

County Engineer David Butts said $37,000 would come from the federal emergency relief fund and $9,000 would come from the county.

Without the need for a vote, the commission added $53,000 for Mary Jane Jackson Road to the amount to be borrowed for road work on that road, Julian Town Road, Fredrick Douglas Road, Waller Road and Rudolph Road for a total amount of about $1 million.

Under the consent agenda the commission approved:

  • Appropriation to Black Belt Hicks Hill Volunteer Fire Department $500 from Harris.
  • Appropriation to Life Changing Community Outreach Ministry $250 from Barganier.
  • Appropriation to Calhoun Volunteer Fire Department $3,500 from Barganier.
  • Appropriation to Burkville Volunteer Fire Department $3,500 from Barganier.
  • Appropriation to Fort Deposit Volunteer Fire Department $6,000 from Barganier.

Connie Bainbridge, manager of community and economic development for the Central Alabama Electric Cooperative and a member of the Lowndes County Economic Development Commission Board, appeared before the commission regarding the possible offering of broadband services in Lowndes County and their 10-county area.

She said the company is looking seriously at the feasibility of connecting its substations with a fiber optic ring and providing broadband services to rooftops passed.