County Commission considers storm shelter, garbage service, septic system oversight

Published 5:48 pm Wednesday, May 8, 2024

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

At its regular meeting held April 22, the Lowndes County Commission considered information which may result in a much-needed storm shelter for area citizens.

Former Secretary of State John Merrill is the director of public policy and strategic markets for Waggoner Engineering. He presented the commission with details of pre-disaster mitigation grants available through the Department of Homeland Security congressional subcommittee.

“This is money administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA),” Merrill said. “Because Lowndes County is an underserved part of Alabama and our nation, you qualify for, with this project (a storm shelter), $2 million.”

Email newsletter signup

Merrill told commissioners that a match is not required and, when not needed for a shelter, the structure can be used for other purposes — a Sheriff’s office or a dialysis center. There are, however, limitations in place regarding secondary use of the building constructed with the grant money, specifically, whatever equipment occupies the building must be stored to create space for shelter during a major disaster.

According to Merrill, the county qualifies to apply for the grant through modification of a previous application. Congresswoman Terri Sewell and Senator Tommy Tuberville are committed to support the county, should commissioners elect to apply.

Merrill presented commissioners with contract options for the firm’s assistance with the application and constructing the shelter. Commissioners voted to choose a pay-as-you-go fee option which would limit out-of-pocket expenses for the County if it did not receive a grant award.

Lowndes County Unincorporated Wastewater Program (LCUWP) president Carmelia Arnold petitioned commissioners, asking for permission to appoint alternate board members to share in the board’s work. 

She also reported that the program secured a $1.5 million American Rescue Plan (ARPA) grant from the Alabama Department of Public Health. The funds, she said, are for the kickoff and operations of a Lowndes County Residential septic Program for Lowndes County residents.

Arnold told commissioners that the boards current office space in the Lowndes County Health Department Office lacks a lock to secure program documents.

“Our door has no lock on it,” Arnold said. “We’ve been there for over a year. Because we have this grant, we have to, as an employer, we have to keep our records secure. We need a lock on our door.”

As part of her appeal, Arnold asked commissioners to consider a resolution requiring anyone installing a septic system on residential property in the county to present plans to commissioners before work begins.

“We have been appointed by the Commission, but other organizations continue to work around us,” Arnold said. “We don’t have oversight and we have to keep track of ll the septic systems being installed. We’re asking commissioners to pass a resolution that all septic systems and related activities that are being installed at Lowndes County residences, that they will have to present [plans] to you before they get started.”

Arnold told commissioners she had requested information about installed septic systems but had been unable to get information from ADPA. The commissioners did not vote on the issue but did instruct Arnold to make additional inquiries for information.

In other business, the commission:

  • Accepted a bid for garbage disposal from Martin Environmental to use existing garbage carts to collect household garbage for $31 per month, $93 per quarter;
  • Discussed a recent train derailment and news of a spill at SABIC which seemingly did not reach appropriate county and local officials;
  • Heard a petition from Ester Mushatt to repair the cattle gap damaged by public traffic through her family’s private property;
  • Discussed the purchase of a building which formerly housed the law offices of attorney Jerry Thornton for use by Broadband, a multi-county internet commission. After discussion for and against the purchase, commissioners voted 3-2 to purchase the building for $275,000, ultimately deciding to purchase the building for county use, not necessarily for Broadband occupancy;
  • Appropriated $1,000 to the Fort Deposit Arts Council with coming from Commissioner Joshuia Simmons and $500 from Commissioner Joseph Barganier, $5,000 to the Hayneville Library from Commissioner Dickson Farrior, $1,000 to the Collirene Volunteer Fire Department and $500 to Jackson-Steele Elementary from Commissioner Charlie King; and
  • Approved minutes for February and March.

The commission will hold its next regular meeting May 13 in the Charles Smith Annex Building inside the Lowndes County Commission Chambers beginning at 10:00 a.m.