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Leader holding Riley to his word

The people of the Black Belt can’t wait on that commission, he said. "Let’s act now."

Lamar presented his proposal to a Black Belt group already in operation, the West Alabama Regional Alliance, at their meeting Tuesday at the University of West Alabama in Livingston.

Lamar is an accountant, a native of Birmingham, who grew up in Mountain Brook.

His foundation has completed a number of projects in Hale Counting including buying washing machines for elderly people, donating coats and sweaters to the needy, choir robes, and church organs and computers to churches, and helping establish the Chamber of Commerce in Greensboro.

Lamar is now proposing a Northern Black Belt Commission composed of the same counties represented by the alliance: Greene, Hale, Sumter, Marengo and Perry.

His proposal specified responsibilities for state government, local government and committed individuals in the commission.

Lamar envisions the commission presenting a plan directly to the governor by January 2004. "Yes, I seem to be in a hurry," he said. I’m just not a guy who likes to sit around and go to a bunch of meetings. I like to get things done."

His plan includes specific state funding for the Black Belt area, tax incentive programs, and lower taxes on grocery purchases in the region.

Local governments are asked to raise property taxes and tax timber sales, allocating the money to specific needs.

This Northern Black Belt Commission would audit the money be received from state and local government. It will create "model" organizations which can serve the youth and elderly in the five counties.

The commission would also assist county chambers of commerce in establishing computer classes, library enhancement, and helping residents to read and obtain GEDs.

There would also be incentives for teachers to come to the Black Belt to teach math , science, art and music.

Area hospitals would receive help in obtaining a level of competency.

Lamar advocates a delay in money spent on Interstate 85, but he wants a road built for better access to Mercedes from Greensboro and a road from Livingston to a point northwest of Demopolis which would join with Highways 69 and 80.

He wants to conquer the problems of the Black Belt by "punching a hole right in the middle of it. In the middle of the Black Belt is Demopolis….put as much as we could into Demopolis then people in the Black Belt can go inward or outward to get a job, to get opportunities."

He would also like to see a state department which just provides grants for cities with populations under 1,000.

Lamar would also like to see the purchase of two "Kids One" medical transport vehicles, which could be used in a network of four counties.

In other action from Tuesday’s meeting of the West Alabama Regional Alliance, the board of directors was elected. The board includes Jan Bullock, Phyllis Belcher, Raymond Steele and Danny Cooper from Greene County, Eleanor Cunningham, Eva Bryant Greene, Bill Bomar and Sonny Ryan from Hale County, Jay Shows, Cindy Neilsen, Ken Tucker and Kirk Brooker from Marengo County, Jenny Holmes, Tim Offord, Frankie Oglesby and Cynthia Maddox of Perry County and Joe Wilkins, Bobby Williams, Richard Holland and Mary Tartt of Sumter County.

Judy Martin and Kathy Leverett were honored for their work in helping establish the alliance.