Budget, road repair concerns dominate County Commission meeting

Published 1:50 pm Sunday, March 5, 2023

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Tensions ran high during the Lowndes County Commission’s meeting on Feb. 27, as commissioners and citizens raised continuing concerns over needed road repairs and a possible budgetary deficit created by unpaid business taxes.

County Engineer David Butts presented commissions with a report, outlining a total cost of around $800,000 for much-needed repairs on Julian Town Road and Collerine Cutoff Road.

“I was able to knock down what we talked about in the last meeting,” Butts said. “If we did priming and sanding [on Julian Town Road] that was $126,000. So, I took that off. All of Julian Town Road will be $616,000. That leaves about $200,000 to do Collerine Cutoff Road, which most of that work is going to be gravel hauling and compaction.”

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Commission Joseph Barganier pointed out the price appeared higher than usual because the estimate included cost for project labor.

“Let’s point out this too, that in the past you haven’t been putting the price of the county workforce on the job,” Barganier said. “You haven’t been putting that on the price of the roadwork, but you are on this project. So, it actually makes the numbers look a lot higher than what it would for other roads we’ve paved in the past.”

Commission Robert Harris questions whether the commission should borrow money for road repairs, explaining that the commission should exercise caution in view of an impending budget deficit caused by unpaid business taxes from Saudi Arabia-based SABIC in Burkeville.

“We are probably going into a deficit,” Harris said. “At this particular time to borrow $800,000 for the stated purpose, I think we, in light of the deficit we’re going to be dealing with, that number [for road work] should be [considered] at a later time.”

According to Harris, the deficit he referred to includes $2.8 million in taxes owed and unpaid by SABIC.

Commissioners Dickson Farrior and Barganier stated their support for going ahead with road repairs, noting the repairs were much needed and had already been delayed too long.

“The tax collector (Roslyn Smith) has told me she’s doing everything she can do legally and there is a process she has to go through [to collect SABIC] taxes. I feel we will collect the money.”

Commissioners discussed road repairs, the possible budget deficit, and efforts to collect SABIC taxes at great length, eventually voting to move forward with road repairs on Julian Town Road and Collerine Cutoff Road for an estimated cost of $800,000.

In other business the Commission also:

  • Approved purchase of the lot next to the county engineer’s office for $7,500;
  • Discussed grant opportunities available to the county;
  • Heard a citizens concern from Michelle Davis regarding noise disturbance in her neighborhood;
  • Approved an appropriation from Commissioner Joshua Simmons for $500 to the Lowndes County Chamber of Commerce to support the First Annual Bloody Sunday Jubilee Celebration Festival;
  • Voted to hold $500,000 in discretionary money and $50,000 appropriated for the Organized Community Action Program (OCAP);
  • Passed a resolution prohibiting citizens not employed by Lowndes County from riding in county-owned vehicles;
  • Heard Simmons’s concerns over lawsuits filed against the county by passengers riding in county vehicles; and
  • Considered ambulance service needs presented by Emergency Management Agency Director Rodney Rudolph and requested Rudolph advertise for bids from ambulance providers.

The next County Commission meeting is scheduled for March 13 at 10 a.m. in the Commission Chambers of the Charles Smith Annex Building.