From the Courthouse to your House (May 2017)

“Watching County Road Restoration Funds Disappear Down the (Pot) Hole”

By:  David Money

     As this is being written on Friday, May 19th), the Alabama Legislature is today winding down the 2017 legislative session…with ZERO help for county roads. This is especially frustrating because county and city officials from all over the Wiregrass had come together in support of a plan that would have made a remarkable difference in our quest for economic development and improved road safety.  The effort that died in this year’s session actually began with meetings with legislators last summer and fall.  Then in December, counties statewide voted to endorse a program, drafted by the Association of County Commissions of Alabama (ACCA), that would generate a funding source with all the proceeds earmarked to restore county roads that are not eligible for federal funds.  As the ACCA District 11 board member (representing the nine counties in the most southeastern part of Alabama) I know firsthand the work and effort that went into crafting a piece of legislation that is both affordable and accountable.  It would use a three cents per gallon fuel tax increase to support a $1.2 billion dollar bond issue.  As has been stated, for the driver putting 20,000 miles per year on a vehicle averaging 22 mpg, this would result in a charge of about $1.25 per month (the price of a 20 ounce soft drink – one soft drink per month!)  Henry County alone would have realized $10.2 million dollars from this program – known as ATRIP2.  Our county engineer and his staff had already met with each individual commissioner to determine the roads in most need of work in each district.  We were prepared to put out proposals as soon as the legislation was signed by Governor Ivey (who remains a strong supporter of this legislation.)  We would have been one of the first counties in the state to begin shovel ready projects.  In addition to providing relief for Henry County, 20% of the proceeds were earmarked for the four towns in our county – each mayor strongly supported the legislation.  We were prepared to resurface 75 to 100 miles of roads in Henry County and its municipalities.  This kind of program is well beyond our reach with today’s revenue.  All of the local officials in our area went on record in support of this effort.  And we were encouraged when the bill was finally scheduled for a floor vote. 

     So what happened?  When that day came and the bill reached the floor of the House of Representatives in April, it was pulled before a vote could ever be taken.  In the aftermath of our disappointment, the ACCA reported that the effort was unsuccessful for three reasons: First, the members of the Democratic Caucus in the House collectively led a filibuster and prevented a critical procedural vote (called the BIR) that is necessary to move a bill to the floor.  Second, a group of north Alabama Republican legislators who ran on the platform of ‘no new taxes’ refused to support the bill despite its many accountability provisions.  And, third, the mayors of Alabama’s five largest cities sought to change the established formula for distributing gas tax revenue because they wanted to shift more money into their cities. 

     These factors influenced a few (including some of our local legislators) to find reasons to step away from the bill when we had the opportunity to get it passed.  Because of this, the citizens of Henry County are left right where we were this time last year when the 2016 session ended: driving on badly and quickly deteriorating roads with no money for repairs.

     I’ve received four calls this morning (May 19th) from citizens complaining about the conditions of our roads (two of those calls were about County Road 55.)  Three of the four callers stated that they would have gladly paid the small increase for improved roads.  They expect and deserve accountability.  And they would have gotten it.  It was my plan to publish regular updates to publicize the roads that were to be resurfaced as well as the projected cost for each road.  We would have then identified each month the road(s) that would have been the next ones to be resurfaced.  EVERY PENNY of the new ATRIP2 funding would have gone to roads…no salary increases…no new equipment…all to roads that needed it most.    

     So what’s next?  I personally believe this issue is too important to die simply because the session has ended.  There’s the possibility of a special session being called this summer and the hope, if there is one, that Governor Ivey will place the infrastructure issue in her Call. If that happens I urge you to contact your legislator and enlist his support of this critical legislation.  I know of no other answer.  I welcome – no, encourage – anyone to show me a plan whereby we can resurface the roads you drive on every day without the resources to pay for it.  Let’s get our heads out of the sand and do what’s needed in Henry County.

30 Day Update:

  • March probate activity was as follows: one will probated, one adoption, three involuntary commitments, two guardianships, two administrations, one legitimation, one final settlement, two miscellaneous hearings and eleven marriage licenses issued.
  • Citizens with last names beginning with ‘H’ or ‘O’ have five days remaining to renew your tags. If your last name begins with ‘I’ or ‘M’ you will renew in June.
  • May 1 – several businessmen met with Representative Grimsley to urge his support of the ATRIP2 program to generate much needed funds for county road improvements.
  • May 4 – we presented Henry County Youth Leadership pins to HHS participants.
  • May 11 – we observed the National Day of Prayer with a very meaningful service in the upstairs court room.
  • May 5 – Wallace College Foundation Board members assisted in the ribbon cutting ceremony for the very impressive Health Science Building on the Wallace campus.
  • May 15 – the Henry County Road Department made its final pass through the tornado damaged area in Sunset Acres – our sincere appreciation to all who have helped.
  • May 17 – we presented Henry County Youth Leadership pins to ACA participants.
  • May 18 – we presented Henry County Youth Leadership pins to AHS participants.
  • May 21 – we attended the retirement reception for Phil and Katie Craddock at Headland United Methodist Church.
  • May 21 – we attended the celebration of the 20th birthday of the Haleburg Senior Citizens Center.
  • May 22 – HCHR board meeting
  • May 23 – we held the commencement dinner honoring the nine participants of the 2016/2017 Henry County Youth Leadership Program. We also welcomed back the participants from Class # 1 and introduced the participants for Class # 3.

Dates to Remember:

  • May 31 – E-911 board meeting – Headland E-911 office
  • June 6 – Wallace College Foundation Board meeting – Dothan
  • June 7 – ACCA Workers Comp Board meeting – Montgomery
  • June 11/14 – APJA Summer Conference in Orange Beach
  • June 18 – Father’s Day
  • June 20 – May Administrative meeting – 9:00 AM – Probate Court Room
  • June 20 – May Commission meeting – 10:30 AM – Probate Court Room

From the Courthouse to your House (April 2017)

“From the Eye of the Storm to the Hearts of the People”

By:  David Money

     Just before noon on April 5, 2017, the White Oak Creek area of north Henry County was hit by an EF-2 tornado.  Sadly, there were at least nine homes destroyed and more than twenty others that received extensive damage – primarily in the Sunset Acres and Calhoun Drive areas.  But we are grateful that there were no deaths or reported injuries.  There are many people, churches and organizations to thank.  At the risk of omitting some who have been a part of this effort, I’d like to mention a few.  Henry County Engineer Chris Champion, EMA Director Ronnie Dollar and Sheriff Will Maddox and their staffs were on site immediately – clearing roads, securing the area, assessing damages and making sure that needs were being met.  District Three County Commissioner Jay Calhoun and his family brought food to those involved.  The Calhoun family and the Crawford Bush family offered their land to place the tons of trees and limbs that had to be removed from the storm damaged area.  Calvary Baptist Church and the Henry County Court House made safe places available for those who didn’t have one.  First Baptist Church paid for motel rooms for some of those temporarily displaced while Dale Ezzell and other members of the Abbeville United Methodist Church offered housing for volunteers who came in from out of state.  Disaster teams from Ridgecrest Baptist in Dothan, Watermark Church in Ashford, the Judson Baptist Association and other churches from across the area have been there to help residents cut trees off their houses and take them to county road right of ways.  Various power companies and other utility companies worked together to restore power and communication systems.  Local volunteer fire departments from around the county were on site immediately and stayed as long as they were needed.  Many groups from across the state either joined the effort or offered to do so. 

     Several of us toured the area with Alabama EMA Director Art Falkner the day after the tornado.  The threshold for a federal declaration is $7M.  The estimated damages fell far short of that number meaning that Henry County will bear the blunt of the expenses incurred in removing all the debris.  Houston County Commission Chairman Mark Culver – as well as the Houston County Commission and their Road and Bridge Department – are to be thanked for sending men, trucks and equipment to assist us with the tons of debris that had to be removed.  With a small road and bridge staff, we are limited with what can be done in other areas of the county while we tend to the immediate needs in the lake area.  I thank you for your patience in regard to the needed road repairs in your area until we can get back on schedule. 

      In situations like these, it takes a well-coordinated effort from all involved as well as an understanding of the importance of communication and working together to make things better for all those affected.  On behalf of the citizens of Henry County – and especially those residents who were directly affected by the storm – a very special ‘thank you’ to everyone who worked to make an unfortunate situation better.  We are most appreciative of those who brought food for the residents and the workers, those who have given financially and all who have prayed for the welfare of those who were in the path of the tornado.  It truly represents the giving spirit of the residents of Henry County and the Wiregrass region.  Thank you.

 

        30 Day Update:

  • March probate activity was as follows: one will probated, one adoption, three involuntary commitments, two guardianships, two administrations, one legitimation, one final settlement, two miscellaneous hearings and eleven marriage licenses issued.
  • All citizens with last names beginning with ‘F’ – ‘G’ – ‘N’ who failed to renew their tags in April will be subject to a penalty in May. If you last name begins with ‘H’ or ‘O’ then May will be your month to renew your tags.
  • March 31 – attended the Wiregrass Forum in Ozark to get an update from our legislators
  • April 4 – attended an information meeting at the new Alabama Power emergency staging area (the former Gathering Place in Headland.)
  • April 5 – an EF2 tornado strikes White Oak Creek area of northern Henry County
  • April 6 – we toured the area damaged by the tornado with the state EMA director and began to make restoration plans.
  • April 7 – attended Child Advocacy program in Dothan
  • April 10 – took the HCYLP students to the Hyundai plant for ‘State Industry Day’
  • April 13 – D-1 Commissioner Benton Beasley and I spent most of the day in the State House to lobby for funding for Henry County roads
  • April 19 – took the HCYLP students to the Capitol tour and a legislative session as part of State Government day
  • April 20 – hosted more than 75 Henry County 11th graders for Student Government Day
  • April 21 – hosted about 15 Lakeside Christian home school students for court house tour
  • April 27/28 – attended Alabama Probate Judges conference in Tuscaloosa
  • May 3 – Henry County Engineer Chris Champion, Commissioner Henry Grimsley and I attended ‘County Days’ at the State House (again to lobby for Henry Co road funding.)

 

         Dates to Remember:

  • May 4 – National Day of Prayer on the west lawn of the court house – 11:00 AM
  • May 5 – Abbeville Chamber monthly meeting at GSWCC – 12:00 noon
  • May 5 – Wallace College Health Science Building dedication – 10:00 AM – public invited
  • May 5 – Abbeville Chamber ‘Yatta Abba’ Street Dance – Downtown Abbeville – 6:00
  • May 6 – Abbeville Chamber ‘Yatta Abba’ Festival – Downtown Abbeville – 9:00 – 3:00
  • May 9 – May Administrative meeting – Probate Court Room – 9:00 AM
  • May 9 – May Commission meeting – Probate Court Room – 10:30 AM
  • May 12 – AUMC Dinner/Auction for Missions – AUMC – 5:30 PM
  • May 15 – final pass for debris cleanup from tornado damage (Sunset Acres/Calhoun Dr.)
  • May 20 – Headland Chamber Daylily Art/Garden Festival – Headland Sq. – 10:00 – 3:00
  • May 23 – HCYLP Commencement Dinner – AUMC-FLC – 6:00 PM
  • May 29 – Memorial Day (please remember those who have sacrificed for our freedom)

STORM DEBRIS PICKUP UPDATE

May 9, 2017

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Abbeville, AL – Due to the severe storm damage that occurred in northeast Henry County on Wednesday, April 5, 2017, the Henry County Road Department will be picking up tree and limb debris.  Residents that live in Sunset Acres, which includes Lakeview Drive, Sunset Drive, Laurel Drive, Magnolia Street, Dogwood Circle, Hillcrest Drive and Holly Drive along with residents that live on Calhoun Drive may place tree and limb debris by the road for pickup.  No household or demolition debris will be picked up.

The road department will make the final pass through the area the week of May 15th.  Any debris left after May 15th will be the responsibility of the property owner.

Any questions concerning this may contact the Road Department at 334-585-2735.