Commission takes first step to approve new voter registration system

Bob Dooley of Keet Consulting Services addresses the Marengo County Commission in its Tuesday meeting. (WAW | Jan McDonald)

Marengo County commissioners Tuesday took the first step to approve a new system of voter registration services.

Bob Dooley with Keet Consulting Services in Pelham explained how KCS would gather all of the Marengo County data on voters and information on the precincts for house, senate, commission, council and city precincts.

Such information on their software would eliminate the Marengo County Board of Registrations having to spend months updating records when KCS could do it in 24 to 36 hours, said Dooley.

He told the Commission the one-time start-up fee for the service is $7,500 for the size of Marengo County, with a $500-per-month maintenance fee. There would be no contract.

If the county chose to forgo the start-up cost, the county would be charged $675 per month.

Board of Registrars member Barry Hunt told commissioners that “It’s taking a long time” to update all the county records using paper maps and spreadsheets. Bringing KCS on board “would certainly help us.”

Commissioner Freddie Armstead challenged the company to lower its start-up fee. At the end of the Commission meeting, and after KCS representatives had left, members voted to accept KCS’s proposal if Chairman John Crawford can negotiate a price reduction either for the start-up fee or the monthly charge.

The county approved a resolution for the redemption of Bonds for Series 2011-B Warrants taken out for the renovation of the courthouse and the annex. The move was made because for the first time the county can pay more than the minimum on the bonds, which now are set to mature in 2034.

Traffic from overloaded trucks is causing undue wear and tear on County Road 1. Commissioners voted to prohibit trucks weighing more than 25 tons from using the road and to post signs to that effect. Any company shown violating the restrictions would be fined a bill for repair.

The Town of Sweet Water will have a speed bump installed in front of the school subject to a formal request by the city. The town will purchase the speed bump for a cost of about $400, said county engineer Ken Atkins, and county workers can install it and put up signage.

Commissioner Calvin Martin asked if there were any way the county could finish paving roads that are now only

Justin Coleman was recognized for his completion of the Alabama Jail Training Academy. (WAW | Jan McDonald)

partially paved. “That’s something that we as commissioners need to look at,” said Martin.

Armstead said ADECA won’t honor a request to lump all the roads together in a grant, but the county could float a bond issue to pay for it.

Atkins agreed, adding that the cost of paving one mile of road is about $350,000. Funding sources for roads haven’t changed since 1992, he added.

In other action, the Commission will look into replacing the uncomfortable wooden chairs in the small courtroom.

Ricky Hall and Carolyn Rogers were reappointed to the E911 Board from Districts 3 and 5 respectively. Armstead will make his recommendation for District 1 at the January meeting.

Commissioners recognized Corrections Officer Justin Coleman for completing the Alabama Jail Training Academy.

Marengo County Commission approves $20M budget in Tuesday meeting

Phillip Spence, right, post surgeon for the Marengo County unit of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, accepts a resolution from Commission Chairman John Crawford Jr., passed by the Commission to proclaim Sept. 15 as POW/MIA Recognition Day. (WAW | Jan McDonald)

Marengo County will operate with $20,118,622.52 for the next fiscal year beginning Oct. 1 after the County Commission voted to adopt the budget Tuesday. Estimated expenses for the year are expected to be $17,369,274.28.

That will leave a difference of restricted funds of $2,749,348.24.

The Commission made it possible for Demopolis voters will have a chance to approve a 3 mil tax renewal for Demopolis schools by putting the issue on the December ballot.

Demopolis City Schools Supt. Kyle Kallhoff said the tax is renewed every 10 years and brings in some $225,000 per year to the school system.  He said the funds in the past have been used for nurses, transportation and School Resource officers.

Only ballots in Demopolis will have the tax issue.

Phillip Spence, post surgeon for the Marengo County unit of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, accepted a resolution passed by the Commission to proclaim Sept. 15 as POW/MIA Recognition Day.

The resolution “honors the commitments and the sacrifices made by our nation’s prisons of war and those who are still missing in action.

County Engineer Ken Atkins presented bids on road repair materials. Commissioners approved the lowest bidder for each item with the stipulation that the bids meet specifications.

Also approved at the meeting was a contract with the Dallas County Juvenile Detention Center. The contract, renewed annually, guarantees one bed per day.

Juvenile Probation Officer Darren Glass said if the county uses more than 365 days, it will be charged $60 per bed per day.

Commissioner Jason Windham forwarded a request from the Demopolis Industrial Development Board for a contribution toward the ribbon-cutting for Two Rivers Lumber Company, now set for Oct. 19.

Windham said the Marengo County Economic Development Authority and the IDB also are helping to pay for the event.

The Commission voted to contribute $1,000, but the money was made as a budget amendment to MCEDA, since the county cannot directly give to the company.

Probate Judge Laurie Hall told commissioners that the primary election went well, with only one complaint about moving a polling place.

Commissioner Freddie Armstead thanked all of Marengo County for the effort to help Hurricane Harvey victims. He said the Demopolis Fire Department especially went above and beyond to man the trailers that held the items that were donated.

In other action, the Commission approved:

  • Leaving the Tobacco Tax CD at Sweet Water State Bank.
  • The Grand Jury Report.
  • The first step in declaring Peace Lane a public road.
  • A consultant for work on Sparks Road.

Commission votes to purchase electronic poll books after debate

Marengo County Commissioner Freddie Armstead didn’t mince words at the meeting Tuesday morning when he let loose on the Republican-led Alabama legislature for requiring unfunded mandates to the state counties.

His comments arose when the commission was asked to pass a resolution to consent to the use of electronic poll books for elections in the county. Each poll book will cost some $850. The resolution needed to be passed at the July meeting since the primary election for the U.S. Senate will be in August.

“We don’t have the money. We don’t have the $13,000,” said Armstead.

Commissioner Jason Windham said poll books were used in Demopolis during the election last year on loan from the state to see how well they worked. “In my personal opinion, it makes (voting) twice as fast.”

Armstead said the primary reason for the poll books was to prevent people from crossing party lines to vote in a run-off election.

County attorney W.W. Dinning, Jr., agree that “It is no doubt it is politically motivated. He said the state is requiring counties to use electronic poll books, but the unfunded mandate lays the burden of paying for them on the counties.

“Why don’t we just tell them to go to hell,” joked Armstead. “It’s the Republicans putting something else on us to keep track of what you’re doing and to keep people from cross-over voting.”

After lengthy discussion the commission voted for the resolution and to purchase 12 poll books for the August election to be used at the polling places that have the most voters. The rest will be purchased before the mid-term elections in 2018.

Armstead also took issue that Revenue Commissioner Sharon Barkley was not at the meeting to explain the annual report to the state on insolvents, errors in assessments and taxes. He directed Meredith Hammond, the commission secretary, to have her attend the meeting.

Instead of Barkley, Whitney Niehoff, a clerk with the Revenue Commission, explained the report to commissioners and said that everything was reconciled in the department account.

In other action, the commission approved:

  • The Grand Jury report,
  • Keeping the User Fee CD at the First Bank of Linden
  • Going out for bids to pressure wash the courthouse, annex and jail. Bids will be opened at the next meeting on Aug. 8.

Commission approves voting machine contract, recognizes Tutt in Tuesday meeting

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Webb Tutt, left, accepts a resolution from Marengo County Commission recognizing his team’s accomplishment after winning the AISA Class 1A State Championship and finishing the season with an 11-1 record. (WAW | Jan McDonald)

After questioning a contract for voting machine maintenance, Marengo County Commissioner Freddie Armstead moved to accept the proposal.

ES&S Hardware Maintenance has held the contract to service voting machines for Alabama, but the state no longer pays for the upkeep. Each county now must pick up the tab.

Armstead’s objection was the automatic renewal clause stating the contract was “subject to a possible increase” in costs. The two-year contract costs the county $9,236.50. When he learned the maximum increase would be five percent, or $400, Armstead moved to accept the contract, which was voted on unanimously.

Probate Judge Laurie Hall said the contract is based on maintenance of each of the 21 machines. If the county doesn’t use all of them for an election, the cost will decrease.

The Commission also approved an energy study of the county’s facilities by Schneider Electric Energy and Sustainability Services of Birmingham. The initial study would be at no cost to the county.

Company representative Keith Harris said the study would be the first step in a possible contract with the county for a Capital Recovery and Reinvestment Program. It would guarantee utility savings for 20 years, and those savings could be invested back into county facilities.

Webb Tutt, coach of the Marengo Academy football team, accepted a resolution from the Commission for his team winning the AISA 1-A state championship with an 11-1 record for the season.

Also approved were a $350,000 Community Block Development Grant to tie the Thomasville water system to the Linden system and the Professional Engineering and Grant Administration service to oversee the grant.

In other action, the Commission approved:

  • The Grant Jury report
  • Denial of a claim
  • 13 holidays for 2017
  • Renewal of a contract with the Dallas County Commission for long-term housing of Marengo County juvenile offenders.

A bid for sealing and restriping the courthouse parking lot for $24,500.

Marengo County Commission expresses concern over jail’s condition

Responding to the latest Grand Jury Report presented at the Marengo County Commission Tuesday, Commissioner Freddie Armstead expressed deep concerns about the conditions of the jail.
“It’s our responsibility, and we’re going to have to do something and step in and make sure the facility is taken care in a way it’s supposed to be,” he said.
The Grand Jury enumerated several items that needed attention, which commissioners said have been ongoing. Among them were needed painting, floor repairs and better cleaning.
Closing Deep Creek Road in Nicholsville won a delay from commissioners until all utilities along the road are removed.
Former commissioner Jerry Loftin asked that the road remain open, and a contingent of residents of the road were on hand to support his comments.
The commission tabled any action on closing the road until the electrical, water and telephone lines are moved. Only Black Warrior Electric has an immediate plans on relocating the lines, according to Commissioner John Crawford.
Commissioners also approved the preliminary signing of an agreement to explore the paving of Gandy Ferry Road in Demopolis, which is the access road to Spillway Park.
County attorney W.W. Dinning Jr. said signing the agreement in no way obligates the county to put up the 19.6 percent in matching funds.
In other action the commission approved:
• Final contract change order for the Small Business Incubator.
• Hiring part time employee Benjamin Boykin to the county road department.