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Dialysis for Lowndes County residents, road repairs and concerns highlight commission meeting

By Fred Guarino

The Lowndes Signal

Dialysis transportation/treatment, road projects and commissioners’ concerns highlighted the Monday, Jan. 28 meeting of the Lowndes County Commission.

Pastor Franklin Nettles of Calvary Church, located at the old BancorpSouth location in Burkville, appeared before the Lowndes County Commission Monday to ask about transportation for Lowndes County dialysis patients who receive treatment in Selma.

Nettles said Hayneville transports patients for the treatment once a month to Selma, which he said “is not doing our citizens any good.” He asked if there was anything else that could be done.

Nettles said members of his church go for dialysis about three days a week and are spending $20 to $30 per trip. And he said a lot of the patients are having to change doctors.

Commission Administrator Jackie Thomas told Nettles to contact Bobby Armstead, executive director of West Alabama Public Transportation in Demopolis. However, Nettles said Demopolis and Hayneville refer him back and forth to each other.

Commissioner Dickson Farrior ask Thomas to contact Armstead herself. He also asked if there was a way to get dialysis treatment in Lowndes County.

Commissioner Robert Harris reminded the commission that a company called DaVita was going to locate in Hayneville and make a $1.2 million investment in the county, but were “deterred.” He said he has contacted DaVita, but they left the county with ill feelings. He said the commission “has got to make the environment conducive enough for them to want to come back.” And he said there are about 55 dialysis patients in Lowndes County.

In January of 2014, according to a letter from Damon Green, division vice president for Renal Treatment Centers-Southeast LP, the company declined to make some $400,000 repairs to fix defects in the Hayneville Plaza building in lieu of paying yearly rent. Renal treatment Centers-Southeast LP is a subsidiary of DaVita HealthCare Partners Inc.

The county wanted DaVita to make the repairs in lieu of paying yearly rent until the cost to repay DaVita had been met.

Renal Treatment Centers-Southeast LP decided to end the lease agreement for DaVita saying, “After careful review and consideration the tenants (DaVita) elect not to perform such repairs to correct the defects at the premises and accept the landlord’s (county’s) request to terminate the lease…”

County Engineer David Butts said work on Lowndes County Road 6 has begun with preliminary efforts prior to paving.

He said the project to repair a culvert on Lowndes County Road 17 will be let for bid in April. That is an area that its currently limited to one-lane traffic due to a failing wing wall.

Butts said the county is trying to get road issues corrected on Lowndes County Road 45 (Blue Hill Road) through remaining funds for that project.

He said a county motor grader is in need of engine repair that could cost between $25,000 and $40,000.

Harris raised the matter of leasing motor graders in lieu of putting $40,000 to $50,000 into repairing a piece of equipment not worth more than $70,000 or $80,000.

Butts agreed to gather information regarding the motor graders.

He also said the county looking at three projects left to do before the year runs out.

Under the consent agenda, the commission approved an appropriation of $2,000 to Edgewood Tutorial Plus ($1,000 each from Commissioners Joseph Bargainer and Joshua Simmons.

The commission approved an appropriation to Hayneville Middle School of $1,500 with $500 each from Commissioners Simmons, Farrior and Carnell McAlpine.

And the commission approved the reappointment of Janice McCraney to the Butler County Water Authority.

Under commissioners concerns, Barganier asked for repair to be made regarding bumps on Lowndes County Road 4 that damaged a vehicle.

Harris asked that efforts be made to house the Lowndes County Economic Development Director Jim Byard Jr. in Lowndes County instead of Butler County.

He also asked the commission to consider for the next meeting efforts to increase property taxes in the county by 5 mills, which he said would generate $525,000 a year to provide needs and services.

Commissioners Harris and Simmons asked about the outcome of a lawsuit between the commission and defendants Karl and Helenor Bell, the Hayneville Plaza LLC, Aaron McCall and Charlie King Jr. regarding the original purchase of the Hayneville Plaza and the cost to try to the case. Robert Wood was dropped from the lawsuit.

While attorney Arlene Richardson, who attended the meeting and who represented the commission in the lawsuit along with co-counsel Jerry Thornton, could not provide a total cost nor her total attorney fees for the lawsuit, she said, “The jury found in favor of the county against all of defendants and associated a different amount of money per defendant. So, we were successful in our lawsuit and found liability on all of the defendants.”

Richardson estimated the cost at about $150,000 over a five-year period. However, according to Thomas the cost was about $176,000 for both attorneys.

According to court documents, the jury found for the plaintiff (Lowndes County Commission) and against the defendants as follows:

For wrongly disbursing public moneys or funds and for wrongfully receiving public moneys or funds assessed the plaintiff damages of $25,000 against Hayneville Plaza LLC and or assessed the plaintiff damages at $25,000 against Karl Bell, and or assessed the plaintiff damages at $13,177 against Helenor Bell and or assessed the plaintiff damages at $12,000 against Aaron McCall and or assessed the plaintiff damages at $1 against Charlie King (Jr.)

Further, the plaintiff (Lowndes County Commission) is claiming of defendants damages for breach of contract in that Hanyneville Plaza LLC did not loan or place in escrow $500,000 for the Lowndes County Commission.

The jury found for the plaintiff and against the defendant Hayneville Plaza LLC and or assessed the plaintiff damages at $1.

Richardson said the lawsuit is over unless someone files a post-trial motion or appeal.