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.

A phone scam gone wrong

Scam artists targeting Marengo County didn’t do their homework, and Sheriff Richard Bates enjoyed it greatly.

Laura Bates, the sheriff’s daughter, had just gotten off the phone at her dad’s house and asked him, “Daddy have ya’ll got a warrant on me?”

It seems the phone call was from the “Marengo County Warrant Division,” and the man on the line told Laura there was a warrant for her arrest for not showing up for jury duty.

Bates, realizing it was a hoax, had her call back the number the scammer had given her and listened in on speakerphone. It sounded very legitimate, said the sheriff. The voice prompt listed a menu of offices to select, including the Warrant Division.

The Marengo County Sheriff’s Office is so small, “we do not have a ‘warrant division’,” said Bates.

When Laura, at Bates silent urging, asked “Lt. Daniels” if there were a warrant on her, “You can actually hear paper rustling in the background,” said the sheriff.

The scammer gave detailed instructions on purchasing a gift card to cover the cost of the fine plus the bail bond fee and where to deliver the card.

Laura then said she didn’t understand how everything worked and would put her father on the phone.

“Write down my name,” Bates told the scammer. “Write down my phone number. When you call the number, they will tell you that I am the sheriff of Marengo County.

“You idiot,” he said. “You called my daughter at my house.”

The scammer laughed and said he was just trying to raise some money to help his mother pay some bills.

Bates traced the phone to Montgomery, but the trail ended there.

While Bates realized the call was not legitimate, others in the county fell for the scam, he said. There was one couple who followed the instructions and took out a card for $1,900. Fortunately, the instructions the scammer told them to follow were incorrect, but the hoax was so real that the victims were convinced to pay up.

“I tell everybody, we do not tell anyone to get money to pay fines,” said Bates. “The most important thing for people to remember is not to send money.”

Marengo for Texas initiative to help Harvey victims

Local leaders have begun efforts to provide relief to those affected by Hurricane Harvey after the storm flooded Houston and several parts of East Texas last week. Regarded as the most expensive natural disaster in U.S. history, Harvey killed dozens and displaced tens of thousands.

Marengo County dignitaries have combined efforts to formulate a relief endeavor through a Marengo Cares for Texas campaign.

As of Wednesday, trucks are parked at both Vowell’s Marketplace in Demopolis and Papa’s Foods in Linden, affording local people the opportunity to place items of need in the vehicles that will be bound for Texas.

“We’re inviting everyone to come out and help with raising of supplies for victims of Hurricane Harvey in Texas,” Marengo County Commissioner Freddie Armstead said. “What we’re trying to do is get water, baby food and baby supplies and anything of that nature.”

No monetary donations can be made at the sites, but other gifts such as canned foods, bottled water, baby wipes and diapers are all accepted.

“If anybody brings money, we’d just ask them to go in the store to buy a gallon of water and bring it back as their donation to help people out from the storm,” Armstead said.

Armstead also called on leaders of local churches as well as elected officials and other area dignitaries to rally the community effort.

“This is not an individual or political thing. We’re just trying to helps someone in need right now and we felt like if we were in this situation they would help us also,” Armstead said.

Donations can be dropped off in the trucks daily between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m.



Marengo Sports Hall of Fame seeking nomination packets

As the Marengo County Sports Hall of Fame prepares for the gala tenth annual banquet and induction ceremony to be held the second week in February of 2018, the selection committee is looking for additional nomination packages of sports figures with connections to Marengo County.

The packages should include a letter of recombination, a bio setting out personal information on the person such as work and family, plus, of course, a sketch of his or her experiences, activities and honors connected with that person’s athletic history.  In addition, the package should include a clear photo, either in uniform or civilian head and shoulders picture, suitable for insertion in newspaper stories, banquet program and etched into the plaque to be presented to the honoree at the banquet.

The nomination package should be mailed or delivered to Tom Boggs at his law office in Demopolis, P.O. Box 784, or to Tony Speegle at 1012 Jacob Drive in Demopolis.

New technology to improve Marengo polling places

Probate Judge Laurie Hall Tuesday demonstrated to the Marengo County Commission the new electronic poll book that will be used next week during the primary election for the U.S. Senate race.

The commission approved the purchase of 12 poll books at its July meeting for use at the polling places that have the most voters. The rest of the needed poll books will be purchased before the mid-term elections in 2018.

Hall explained the new electronic system will eliminate the black book and the need for poll workers to write down each voter’s name. The system also will prevent voters from crossing party lines in the primary and runoff elections, she said.

Training for poll workers on the use of the new system already is underway.

Public comments took up most of the meeting as commissioners heard economic updates, concern over roads and a request for support for the Liberty Learning Foundation.

Paul and Kim Duhe, who moved to the county almost six years ago, expressed their concern over the condition of County Road 33 and asked when it would be repaired.

Kim Duhe said the “Band-Aid” approach to fixing the road hasn’t worked. Traffic cones have been set up at one spot, and traffic now is forced to one lane since the cones take up most of the roadway. The situation is especially critical since the site is on a hill.

“It makes my stomach hurt” at the thought of a head-on collision with a log truck,” she said.

County Engineer Ken Atkins said the cones had been moved since his crew placed them. He said they would be relocated. Work on the road cannot be done until the rains slack off, he added.

This year 750 students in second and fifth grades throughout the county will take part in the Liberty Learning Foundation program. LLF representative, Becky Saunders, told the Commission that the program now is in 45 Alabama counties and has been a part of the Demopolis school system for five years.

The program provides 12 weeks of lessons and support in sponsoring what Saunders called a “rock star approach to teaching civics.”

Total cost for the county students in $25,000, or $36 per child, she continued. The foundation, a non-profit organization, receives generous corporate funding but still needs local help.

“We want support from the community because it means so much to the children,” she said. The Liberty Learning program is a way to “teach, inspire and empower” future citizens of the United States “to be the next great Americans.”

Saunders asked the commission to consider financial support for county schools. Commissioners familiar with the program in Demopolis said it was a worthy program, and the Commission will consider including it in the budget for next year.

Economic Development Authority Chris Bontrager said during his first four months in the position he has been evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of the office and how best to promote the city.

He revealed a new logo for the county that shows prospective businesses where Marengo County is located and said a new website is being developed that will provide links to local sites.

Bontrager said he has been talking with major industries in the county to find out their problems and concerns and solve some of their problems.

“It’s been very enlightening,” he said.

While new business recruitment is just getting started, one out-of-state prospect is excited about expanding to the county if internal conditions can be met.

The commission voted unanimously for a tax abatement for an expansion of Two Rivers Lumber Company as the initial construction is completed. Bontrager said the developers realized such expansion was in the fledgling company’s best interests.

The new project will add another 35 jobs, bringing the total to 90. It reflects a capital investment of $5.76 million. The abatement covers all non-educational taxes and all sales and use taxes on new equipment purchases.

In other action, the commission accepted the low bid of $6,485.52 from Phillip Myers to pressure wash the courthouse, annex and jail. Members also appointed Fred Moore to the West Alabama Mental Health board, filling the spot vacated by Al Garrett.

A budget hearing was set for Tuesday, Aug. 29, at 4:30 p.m.

Marengo County 4-H S.A.F.E. shooting sports programs begin new year

School is back in session and the new 4-H year is in full swing!  Youth ages 9-18 have several opportunities to participate in 4-H Shooting Sports in Marengo County.  We offer 4-H Clubs in the areas of Rifle (BB and Air Rifle) and Archery.  Certified instructors lead the clubs, and equipment is available for use. There is no cost for the clubs. 4-H Youth will learn basic firearm safety as well as life-skills such as teamwork, patience and personal discipline.  At the end of the season, club members will have the opportunity to compete with other 4-H youth from across the state. Clubs will meet at the Marengo County Extension Office in Linden, AL.  The address is 2400 East Coats Avenue. For more information, call Beth Yates at 334-750-4964.

Opportunities include…

4-H Basic Rifle Class– Mondays in September from 5:00 pm-6:30 pm. This class will cover the basics of rifle safety and marksmanship.  Call 334-295-5959 to sign your 4-H youth up for this class and find out more details.

4-H BB Rifle Club– First Monday night of the month from 5:00 pm until 7:00 pm when school is in session. (October-March)

4-H Air Rifle Club– Thursday nights from 6:00 pm-7:30 pm when school is in session (October-March)

4-H Archery Club– Tuesdays in January after school from 3:30 until 5:00.

Deer management workshop set for Aug. 18

An “Intense Deer Management Workshop” for Blackbelt area landowners is planned for Friday, Aug. 18, at the Blackbelt Regional Research and Extension Center in Marion Junction,

Registration will begin at 9 a.m., and the program will start at 9:20 a.m.

Program topics will include: Understanding the relationship between deer, deer populations and habitat, how invasive plants kill good habitat and what to do about them; habitat management to provide what deer need year round; the management of food plots, including what, when and where to plant; how to conduct camera surveys and interpret data, and the effectiveness of predation and predator management.

A registration fee of $20 is required in advance. Seating is limited, and lunch and breaks are provided.  To properly plan for lunch, please call and RSVP before the deadline of 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 16.

This program qualifies for Continuing Education Credits, (5) PLM hours, SAF and CFE, 3 hours CAT (1), and one hour of CAT (2) credits.

Maverick takes third place in Southern Nationals

The Maverick 12U travel softball team based out of Demopolis competed in the NSA Southern Nationals in Foley July 25-29. Maverick brought home third place after a 3-1 loss to the Lady Bombers of North Alabama punctuated the tournament.

Maverick competed for some 14 hours on the final elimination day of the draw, playing three games consecutively to close the proceedings. Maverick wraps its spring/summer season with five championship round appearances in 10 tournaments totaling 47 games to their record.

Maverick is set to resume fall playing September as it looks to best its marks from the previous season. More information on the squad is available on Facebook at Marengo Maverick.

The team is coached by Cobey Rowley, Bill March, Jake Rich, Randall Smith and Brian Brown.

The team consists of:

Haylee Rowley – P

Ashton Moorer – P

Cloie Henry – C

Kyla Brown – 1B

Tsianina Autery – 2B

Emily Schroeder – SS

Audrey Marsh – 3B

Lauren Smith – LF

Stevani Foster – CF

Weezie Hughes – SS

Mallory Sluder – RF

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.

Myrtlewood man charged with murder

The Marengo County Sheriff’s Department along with the Linden Police Department worked to arrest Joseph McDonald Miles May 31 on murder charges. Miles, 26 of Myrtlewood, is charged with the murder of Chadrick Kornegay, 46. The shooting death occurred May 30 in Kornegay’s front yard in Half Acre.

Kornegay was shot in the chest and later died on the scene. Marengo County Sheriff Ben Bates said the murder is the first in the county this year.