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Commission elects officers, approves introduction of bill regarding sanitary sewerage systems in Lowndes

By Fred Guarino

The Lowndes Signal

The Lowndes County Commission elected a commission chairman and vice chairman on Wednesday, Nov. 14 and approved the introduction of a bill to be enacted by the state legislature  regarding connection to public or private sewerage disposal systems.

The Nov. 14 meeting followed the swearing in of re-elected County Commissioners Joseph Barganier and Robert Harris earlier that morning by Lowndes County District Judge Adrian D. Johnson.

With Barganier, Harris and Commissioners Carnell McAlpine, Dickson Farrior Joshua Simmons all present, McAlpine vacated his position as chairman and turned the chair of the meeting over to County Attorney Hank Sanders.

Sanders asked form nominations for chairman which were made by Farrior for McAlpine and Simmons for Harris.

When the nomination of Harris was brought to a vote Harris and Simmons voted “yes” with Barganier, Farrior and McAlpine voting “no.” That action failed to pass.

When the nomination for McAlpine was brought to a vote, Simmons and Harris voted “no” while Barganier, Farrior and McAlpine voted “yes.” McAlpine  was approved by majority vote.

When Sanders asked for nominations for vice chairman, Barganier moved to appoint Farrior with a second from McAlpine. And when the matter was brought to vote, Harris and Simmons voted “no” while Barganier, Farrior and McAlpine all voted “yes.” Farrior was approved by majority vote.

Commissioner Farrior moved to reappoint Sanders as county attorney and Jackie Thomas as county administrator and to renew the contract with David Butts as county engineer.

Harris asked Thomas to read a letter of legal representation from Chestnut Law, and Simmons asked Thomas to read a contract for professional services from Miller Smith LLC.

Harris said the county needed to look at other attorneys. He said the county has a budget of $100,000 for the current attorney (Sanders).

Thomas responded that the current attorney does not receive $100,000 per year, but that much is budgeted.

Harris asked that the commission wait and review two contracts that had been presented before going forward with the motion.

Barganier seconded Farrior’s motion to hire the attorney, administrator and engineer. When the matter came to a vote, Harris and Simmons voted “no” while Barganier, Farrior and McAlpine voted “yes,” and the motion passed with majority vote.

Sherry Bradley of the Alabama Department of Public Health appeared before the commission to request commission approval of a bill to be enacted by the State Legislature authorizing the county to require properties  to connect to public sanitary sewerage systems where available and where not available to connect to private disposal systems conforming to the rules and regulations of state board of health.

According to the proposed bill, upon failure of a property owner to connect within a reasonable time, the county may connect the property with the expense assessed against the property.

The proposed bill was unanimously approved.

Bradley told the Signal she appeared before the commission “for the purpose of introducing an “Act” that will help pave the way and improve proper sewage disposal conditions in Lowndes County, especially in the unincorporated areas of the county by way of the Bureau’s USDA project.”

She said it  will also allow the County Commission to obtain wastewater grant funding from USDA and other agencies. “
Bradley said, “After asking many well thought out questions, all commissioners voted unanimously to move forward with the Act which demonstrates their commitment to bettering Lowndes County.”

The project Bradley referred to is called the  “Lowndes County Unincorporated Wastewater Program.”  It is a program that has 75 percent USDA funding with a 25 percent match.

Bradley recently explained the proposed project to Lowndes County residents at a meeting of the Lowndes County Improvement Association.

She said 100 residents would be put on this program and they must own their land (heir property is approved).

She said there would be a minimum one-time down payment of $500.00 for a conventional onsite system (which cost approximately $5,000 – $7,000 dollars) and $1,000 for an engineered system (which cost approximately $10,000 – $12,000 dollars).

“Each plan runs $20  per month that goes for maintenance of the system,” Bradley said.

She also said, “The Bureau of Environmental Services will maintain the disposal systems for life.” And, “The bureau is currently seeking partnerships that will assist the homeowners with their one-time down payment, (but) to qualify you have to have zero income (SSI qualifies).”

County Engineer David Butts reported to the commission that Lowndes County Road 6 has been let for bid for a project that will cost $558,761.71 with county’s portion being $111,752.34.

Under the consent agenda, the commission unanimously approved:

  • Minutes for September.
  • Payment of invoices.
  • Appropriations to OCAP of $100 with $20 coming from each commissioner, to Lily Baptist Church of $500 from Barganier, to Life Changing Community Outreach of $300 from Barganier, and to Lowndes County Community Health Advisory of $1,900 with $300 from Barganier and $400 from other commissioners.
  • A supportive/nutrition contract for senior citizens with the South Central Alabama Development Commission.