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Commission approves co-signing $1 million loan with BWWMH

The Marengo County Commission approved co-signing a $1 million loan with Bryan W. Whitfield Memorial Hospital for a five-year period on Tuesday.

The motion was presented and approved on the condition that BWWMH approves the use of a portion of the hospital’s indigent fund, which is used to provide care to patients who cannot pay themselves, to pay the monthly interest. At the end of the five years, if the hospital is not in a position to pay off the loan, then the entirety of the indigent fund will be used to make payments on the debt.

Tombigbee Healthcare Authority Board Member Allen Bishop and Chairman Rob Fleming approached the commission to affirm that the hospital’s partnership with UAB and Doug Brewer’s residency as CEO are both going smoothly.

Fleming said that Brewer is “turning things around for us and getting things headed in the right direction.”

Commissioners Jason Windham and Freddie Armistead and county attorney Woody Dinning all praised the work that Brewer has done in the hospital as well, with Dinning saying, “It is the difference between night and day.”

The decision to co-sign the loan came after an executive session.

Circuit Judge Vince Deas also came before the commission expressing concern at the Alabama Administrative Office of Courts’ (AOC) refusal to fund an additional juvenile probation officer’s salary. He said he was currently down to one JPO, Virginia Norman, who is handling about 60 juveniles on supervised probation.

He said that after speaking with Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Lyn Stuart, $27,500, or half of a JPO’s salary, was offered. Deas said Stuart agreed to meet with the council to explain the court’s decision.

“The bottom line is ‘how does that affect our at-risk youth in Marengo County’? That’s what I want to get to,” he said.

Deas also informed the council of the District Attorney office acquiring approval for a Children’s Advocacy Center to be housed in Demopolis. The center will service Greene, Sumter and Marengo Counties.

Though Deas has been trying for years to get approval, he has only now been successful because counties are required to provide a building and a board before getting approval, which he admitted is hard for Marengo County.

“We just can’t up and magically create stuff,” he said.

He also said the 17th Circuit is the last in the state to get a center and that the state will provide $12,000 for the center at the end of next year.

Deas projects that it will self-sustaining through grants once it is up and running, but requested that the commission at least match the state’s funds, to be considered at the next budget hearing.

The commission also approved once again hosting the 17th Judicial Drug Task Force that covers the 10th and 17th judicial districts of Alabama.

“We’re being more successful every day and every week that goes by,” said Clint Sumlin, commander of the 10-county regional task force.

This opens up the task force to receive $197,000 in funding from the Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program, after the commission approved the grant resolution. Sumlin said approximately $10,000 would be set aside for compensation of additional administrative duties required since the transition to a regional task force.

Other items discussed by the commission are as follows:

• approving the liquor license application for Dixon Mills Chevron.

• hiring Ronnie Clarke as a deputy in the Sheriff’s Office and Kara Rohr as a clerk in the Probate Office. Probate Judge Laurie Hall also reported that the recently-introduced position of Chief Clerk has been filled by Emily Yelverton.

• scheduling the budget hearing for Aug. 30 at 5 p.m. The hearing is open to the public.

• approving the Tobacco Tax CD for the highest rate between Sweet Water State Bank and First Bank of Linden after both rates are submitted.

• Probate Judge Laurie Hall announced that the Probate Office will be closed on Friday, Sept. 28 while they switch to a new computer system, but online services will still be available and late fees will be waived.

The Marengo County Commission meets on the second Tuesday of every month at 9 a.m. in the Marengo County Courthouse in Linden. Meetings are open to the public.

(This article originally appeared in the Saturday, August 18 issue of the Demopolis Times.)