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New grant money on hold until Hale pays past dues

Future grants from the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA) for Hale County are in jeopardy until a dispute can be resolved between members of the county commission.

Two previous ADECA grants, a $400,000 sewer and housing rehab project and a $500,000 water, streets and roads project, have not been closed out because three commissioners want a pump fixed for a county resident that they say should have been done in the original project.

Until final invoices are paid on the previous projects, the county cannot apply for any other ADECA grants, said Probate Judge and Commission Chairman Leland Avery.

A pump for a septic tank needs to be installed for a resident in Royal Estates on Highway 69 South, said commissioner Joe Lee Hamilton. Avery said it would cost roughly $2,000 to put the pump in, and the work did not have to be bid out due to a health-related emergency.

“His septic tank floods over,” Hamilton said, “and they wouldn’t fix it.”

“By not closing this out by last March 31, we were ineligible to put in a grant (application) for $400,000,” Avery said. “…We’ve March 31 coming up this year and stand to lose another $400,000 of grant money.”

Fixing the resident’s pump was the only issue, Hamilton said.

Commissioner Lois Fields wanted to know exactly how much fixing the pump would cost. “It may be $1,600; it may be $2,400,” Avery said.

Commissioner Walter Allen made a motion to pay the invoices for the grants.

“The work was not done properly down there,” said commissioner Yolanda Watkins. “Why do keep bringing the motion up to pay it when you didn’t see sense for them to do what they were supposed to have done – when they were there in the beginning? People are still not getting services, and the money was brought in here to Hale County to do it.”

The county should figure how the money was used on the sewer project, Watkins said.

Avery asked that Allen rescind his motion, and a motion be made to pay for fixing the pump – then the commission can vote on paying the invoices.

Watkins still protested that the money was in the original project to fix the resident’s sewer problem. It would have taken $10,000 more to hook him up, Avery said. “They couldn’t fix one house when the money was down here?” Watkins said.

“Whoever received that bid on that project knew what the problems were before they went in and bid it,” Fields said. “They had the opportunity at that time to see whatever was needed to correct that problem for sewage. If they underbid it…that is their problem.”

“I just don’t see why it is such a big deal,” Avery said.

“Because the services have already been paid for,” Fields said, “and they didn’t receive services. That’s why.”

Avery said he couldn’t explain why the engineer did what he did.

“I know holding on to this is not good,” Hamilton said, “and those people (the contractors) are gone, and they have been paid. But, if we can fix Mr. Allen’s pump, I wish the commission would come together as a group and do it. That’s been three or more years now.”

In addition, there may be another resident in the same area as Allen that may need help, Hamilton said. “But, I don’t want to mess Mr. Allen up on politics….It’s not right for us to hold him under the barrel to prove a point.”

“I’ve been arguing for Mr. Allen for the last three or four months,” Fields said. “Nobody seemed to want to correct Mr. Allen’s problem….I want Mr. Allen’s problem corrected, but I can’t sit up here and say we are going to pay for this pump. We don’t know how much the pump costs yet.”

“I don’t know why you want to deny – go ahead and pay $2,000….We’re in a distressed county and to deny the citizens $400,000 already. We could have paved 17 miles of road.”

“You didn’t treat your citizens right,” Hamilton told Avery. “We came in and caught this problem.”

No other motions were made, and the commission meeting was adjourned with no action on paying for the pump or paying the invoices.