Tears and Laughter: Wilcox didn’t get near first at everything last without poor leadership 

In all of the years I have been writing about Wilcox County I have learned that no matter how low the county ranks or how obvious the ineptness becomes, there will always be somebody wanting to speak in defense of local leadership. Everybody seems to be related, and there may be an unhealthy mix of cronyism. All anyone who is curious needs to do is look around. 

Every school in the county has challenges on some level. Two public school students have taken guns to school in less than a month. A fifth-grader at J.E. Hobbs Elementary threatened to shoot her teacher, and a 17-year-old was arrested for carrying a deadly weapon at Wilcox Central High School – for protection.  

Last week four vehicles were broken into at Roland Cooper Boat Ramp and a bomb squad out of Montgomery was called in to check out a suspicious package in a car parked at a gas pump at the QV. It was not a bomb and the QV did not blow up. It was drugs. Just the week before the QV had its glass doors shattered in the night for a pack of Newport’s. There was also a fatal hit and run in McWilliams, a man found dead beside his car on Highway 5, and two men found dead from gunshot wounds in Pine Hill. 

All this was happening while the entire country was flying flags at half-staff and the Wilcox County courthouse didn’t have one. There was a public outcry and a flag was erected the next day and has flown sporadically since, but leaders in a county where Uncle Sam pays for half of the groceries shouldn’t have to be reminded to fly the flag in front of the courthouse. 

Advanced Disposal is threatening to discontinue garbage pick-up starting next week if the county doesn’t pay the approximate $200,000 owed for services already rendered. There are questions as to where collected funds were distributed if not to Advanced, but even with all of this going on the Wilcox County Commission is yet to meet in October. 

The last meeting was a called meeting held back on September 29 – a Friday – at 5:00 pm, the time set by Chairman John Moton, Jr., who then did not show up. It was a necessary meeting because a county budget had not been a priority, yet had to be passed by the October 1 deadline. 

Three of the four commissioners who did attend the called meeting adopted the same budget as last year, minus the salary for the license inspector. This move eliminated the job held by current Wilcox County coroner, Mark Ramsey. It was a needed position for the county in that one of the responsibilities was to require mobile home owners to purchase current decals, but no citations have been written in over a year. The position held an annual salary of over $40,000 and no money was coming in to offset the cost. Past attempts to fire Ramsey were unsuccessful due to the saving votes of Chairman Moton together with Commissioners Ricky Powell and Charles Lawson. 

A regularly scheduled commission meeting should have been Monday, October 9, but since it was Columbus Day the chairman again changed the meeting to Tuesday at 5:30, and again he was a no show. Powell and Lawson weren’t there either. They are balking. They want the decision to remove the license inspector position reversed. Their absence was no coincidence. It was just another shining example of their poor leadership.

Amanda Walker is a blogger and contributor with AL.com, The Thomasville Times, West Alabama Watchman, and Wilcox Progressive Era. Contact her at walkerworld77@msn.com or athttps://www.facebook.com/AmandaWalker.Columnist

Tears and Laughter: Wilcox water problems continue

If you want to live off the grid and pretend you are in a third world country, there are places in Wilcox County that are rural enough to allow for such a lifestyle. There is though, it seems, a divide somewhere between where personal choice and responsibility ends and where the local government’s duty to provide begins.

Alabama News Network – Channel 8 out of Montgomery – came down and interviewed people in the Lamison community for a feature that aired July 21. They did an outstanding job of covering the story and talking with the residents in a way that has touched the hearts of everyone who watched. It is extremely sad to see anyone, especially children, living in a home with no running water. It is hard to accept that in 2016, there are still areas that have not yet been connected to a public water system.

This was not Alabama News Network’s first visit to discuss the water issues. They were here in February when the Wilcox County Commission first became split on forming a new water authority and they were here in May when they split down the middle over it again. But their most recent coverage created more reaction. Even an account executive with the network commented publicly that she wanted to start a movement to get water to those without. Other viewers joined her, expressing their interest and willingness to march in protest.

If you are part of a group planning to converge on Lamison and protest the reality of living in remote Wilcox County, you will need to split into groups because there are also residents toward Pine Apple and in the Grampian Hills community not connected with a water system either.

Financially, Wilcox County is broke. The Wilcox County Commission has poor credit. They are not solvent. They cannot borrow any money due to a failed and corrupt past that has been well documented. Therefore a new entity has to be created in order to apply for grants and qualify for loans. That is why a water authority has become necessary.

If it weren’t for the bad credit rating, the commission itself could apply for the federal grant/loan that could potentially pay 45% of the project which is estimated to cost over $5 million. West Dallas County offered to apply for the same grant/loan program, but their proposal was voted down. The mayor of Pine Hill, Roberta Jordan, also approached the Wilcox Commission offering to apply for the grant/loan saying they have the credit and their water pipes are closer to Lamison than those from the Wilcox County system, but her offer was refused.

The commission chairman, John Moton, has explained that the three commissioners – Joey Green, Marion McIntosh, and Ricky Powell – who are not yet willing to vote in favor of forming the authority are all stupid. They claim they do indeed want every resident of the county to have water, but that just promoting a problem unfortunately doesn’t replace the need for critical business judgement. A feasibility study may be necessary in order to determine if the number of residents served by the plan could pay the over $3 million loan portion without affecting the rates of existing water customers in such an already economically suppressed county. Sadly, even if a water authority is formed, it won’t be a quick fix. It will only allow for the grant application to be filed leaving residents without water access few choices but to wait and hope.

Amanda Walker is a columnist with The West Alabama Watchman, Al.com, The Thomasville Times, and The Wilcox Progressive Era. For more information, visit her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/AmandaWalker.Columnist.