Archived Story

Commission erupts

Published 12:39pm Friday, November 2, 2012

Several commissioners offered well wishes and congratulations to Charles Shaw as he attended his last meeting as District 2 commissioner Thursday.

“We are going to miss Charles Shaw,” said District 4 Commissioner Emma Jean Thweatt. “He doesn’t look at Republican or Democrat, black or white. He does what’s right for the county.”

Commissioner Frank Tapley had something else to say.

Tapley raised the question of illegal dumping as a discussion item during the special called meeting.

Tapley said he was recently notified by District 3 employees of trucks going through locked gates to dump seven to eight loads of dirt.

Tapley said he then contacted County Engineer David Moore and the Alabama Department of Environmental Management.

“Those were county trucks, and they were in my district,” Tapley said. “They were not District 3’s trucks. I contacted ADEM, but they didn’t know anything about a permit. Mr. Moore said that he had advised them to take it to District 3’s shop because it was valued at like $200 a load, and we can use it on our dirt roads.”

Tapley said the dirt was not taken to the District 3 shop.

“That wasn’t done – that’s the reason I say it was illegal,” Tapley said. “I didn’t know it, and it was in my district. The law says you can’t give away anything of value. He’s (Moore’s) going to investigate it more, and I want something done about it because I have to answer to the people in my district.”

Shaw responded and said the dirt was hauled to District 2’s shop and then dumped on North Central.

“Yes it was hauled to a place where we had dumped rocks and gravel before,” Shaw said. “There’s nothing hazardous to it. We cleaned up our shop last week and hauled it to North Central just two miles from the shop. It saved the county money driving there and not to your shop.”

Tapley said his district would have removed the dirt.

“We would have been glad to come get it because we need it,” Tapley said.

Shaw stated that he did not believe illegal dumping was the real issue.

“It’s not about the gravel,” Shaw said. “For a year and a half – a year at least, you’ve tried to find anything possible against me. You’re mad I voted for Thomas Radney (to be county attorney). You were mad with him, and now you’re mad with me. You’re bringing up everything possible that you can.”

Tapley also raised the issue of expense reports in the special called meeting, stating that Commissioner T.C. Coley was issued a check for traveling to the commission meeting.

“I asked the auditors if I could get paid for attending the commission meetings,” Tapley said. “And they said, ‘No, Mr. Tapley – that is illegal.’”

Coley said he submitted the mileage because he was using his own personal vehicle for county business.

“The reality is that until recently several commissioners had county vehicles,” Coley said. “Outside of one brief period I never had a county vehicle. I always felt that if I didn’t have a county vehicle and I was coming to the same meetings they were and not getting that benefit of the gas or anything they were getting, I should have the right to be reimbursed.”

Coley said the previous county administrator cleared this practice years ago.

“If there’s an issue, maybe I should have asked the auditors the way you did,” Coley said. “But I asked the previous administrator before I ever submitted that. If it had not been considered approvable they would have stopped it at that point. If there are some issues that need to be addressed, I’ll address it however I need to.”

County administrator Blake Beck said he believes the expense check meets the necessary requirements for issuance.

“I believe the expense report is within scope of law,” Beck said. “Generally commissioners are allowed to be reimbursed for mileage on official business if they’re using their personal vehicle.”

In new business, the commission unanimously appointed Williams Burns Sr. to the Jackson’s Gap Water Authority.

Union Volunteer Fire Department Chief Tracey Johnson spoke before the commission to ask for funds to help in securing an assistance to firefighters grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Johnson said the grant would be $331,000 and would allow for the purchase of communications equipment.

“It will provide us operation channels in the case of natural catastrophes,” Johnson said. “Our county has seen two tornados in the last few years. Interoperability communications has been one of our major flaws. We are trying to fix that problem.”

Johnson presented the commission with a copy of the grant application but said the volunteer fire departments have not yet received this grant.

“Currently we have not received this grant,” Johnson said. “In the event we do we’ll need somewhere near $33,000 for a matching fund. We’re not asking for everyone to match that fund. We’re just asking for assistance.”

Commissioner Dwaine Holt proposed the commission appropriate $4,000 from each of the five districts’ discretionary funds to volunteer fire departments to aid in securing the grant. Coley amended Holt’s proposal to include the appropriation of $2,000 per district in discretionary funds and $10,000 from the reserve fund, which was approved by the commission.

“This grant, as with any grant, won’t provide everything, but it will give us a foundation and a starting point,” Johnson said.