Sign issues raise tensions at meeting

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Tension could be sensed in the Hale County Commission chambers as commissioners discussed roads, bridges and water lines.

Jerry Harper from Penn Tank Lines attended the commission meeting to express concern for truckers traveling through construction in the Moundville area.

“I just want you all to consider helping us until we get the bypass fixed again,” Harper said. “We just want to be able to use County Road 46 as a temporary measure until the construction is done.”

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The road has been off limits to truckers since signs were recently placed prohibiting carriers through the neighborhood.

Commissioner Walter Allen said he knows residents who live on the road and have protested log trucks traveling the course.

“In my opinion it’s dangerous,” Allen said of the current route truckers are forced to take because of construction.

“That’s just a politic road,” Harper said. “People just don’t want log trucks on that road.”

County engineer Arzo Abrams said the project is not expected to be completed until the summer of 2006 so truckers have to take the unsafe detour for at least another five months.

With the high price of fuel, Commissioner Yolanda Watkins suggested the signs be removed and truckers be permitted to use County Road 46 for the time being.

The absence of the county attorney came into play when “Commissioner Joe Lee Hamilton Jr. said his main concern was not voting on anything that will get the commission in trouble.

“I have concerns because he won’t come to the meetings,” Hamilton said. “I don’t know what to do or what kind of trouble we’ll be in.”

According to a document obtained from the county attorney, Allen read it is the commission’s job to maintain and regulate the use of county roads.

Although Allen suggested talking to the road’s residents before passing the motion, it was passed three to one.

Another disagreement occurred when a pay raise for Carrol Robinson of the solid waste department, came up on the agenda.

“We would like to pay her an extra 50 cents an hour for her extra duties,” chairman Leland Avery said.

“Since when has counting money for solid waste become an extra duty,” Watkins replied as

Hamilton nodded in agreement.

“Where will this money come from?” Hamilton said. “I don’t see how we can keep hiring people and keep giving people raises when we have no tax-based collections.”

County Administrator Tricia Galbreath informed the commissioners the raise would be funded from solid waste profits and Hamilton countered by saying the county is losing solid waste customers.

The vote on the motion was tied 2-2 with Hamilton and Watkins against Knox and Allen when Avery used his probate vote to give Robinson the pay raise.

When Hamilton mentioned a resident concerned with problems in the Hale County water system, tempers flared once again.

Hamilton said residents are forced to wait 30-40 minutes to fill washing machines and bathtubs.

“We are going to have to do something for these people with this water,” he said.

According to Hamilton, Avery had told the resident there was nothing the commission could do to resolve the situation.

“If they aren’t doing everything they are supposed to be, we have to step in,” Hamilton said about the existing water board. “We have to govern what’s going on on all our boards.”

“We appoint the members, other than that we don’t have anything to do with the water authority,” Avery said.

“If I was probate, I would be here day and night trying to come up with a situation,” Hamilton said. “Not tell people I can’t do it.”

Watkins said the county is in desperate need of replacing pipes in Hale County.

“The pipes weren’t fit to be in the county in the 70s when they first put them in,” she said. “We’re in need of fire hydrants and everything that has to do with water in Hale County.”

No motion was put on the floor, no vote was called and the item was table until further notice.

After Avery read a letter from chairman of the DHR board of directors, conflicts arose once again.

“Caesar Tillman suggested these people for appointment or reappointment to the board,” Avery said. “I say we go with it.”

Allen and Knox agreed with Avery while Hamilton and Watkins thought differently.

“We just discussed that we are responsible for the people we put on the board,” Watkins said. “And we are going to just take the recommendations the chairman of the board made?”

After no further discussion, the commission had voted two for and two against, making Avery’s “yes” the tiebreaker.

With the Sawyerville building closing for renovations, Cynthia Burton from the Community Service Programs of West Alabama, asked the commission for space in or around the courthouse.

“We want to move in the county seat,” Burton said. “We are just looking for temporary measure for about six months to a year for now.”

Watkins suggested an extra room in the courthouse, but Avery said the county auditors need the space to work.

“The auditors can’t move back to where they were before?” Watkins asked. “The citizens in Hale County will need this assistance.”

“We just want to help them out and we need their help for our citizens,” Hamilton said.

The conversation ended when Avery told Burton, Watkins and Hamilton there was “no room in the courthouse to house it [CSP] right now.”

Before the meeting adjourned, the commission cancelled the Dec. 27 meeting and the next commission meeting will be held Tuesday, Jan. 10 at 9 a.m.