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Tempers Flare in County Budget Hearings Over Shortage of Revenues for FY 2018

Funding deficits caused tempers to flare at the Clay County Commission 2018 budget hearings last week on Thursday and Friday as Commissioners scrambled to make the necessary cuts needed to keep the county out of the red before the looming deadline.  After being informed the 2018 budget needed to be trimmed by over 150,000, Commissioners asked each department head to cut at least 5% of their budget. In response to this, Sheriff Ray Latham cut his department’s budget by some $63,000, which provided some cushion to those final numbers.

There also seemed to be a lot of confusion over the exact amount that needed cutting from the new budget, with the Commissioners saying that they were given two sets of figures. County Administrator Mary Wood and Administrator Assistant Nina Bell tried to explain that this was because they had went back and made the cuts the Commissioners had asked for on the second set of figures presented to them, but the numbers still didn’t seem to adding up, which added to the frustration of the day. At one point on Thursday’s meeting, Wood told the Commissioners that she had done all she could do to the budget, that they could do what they wanted. Wood wasn’t present for Friday’s meeting.

Probate Judge Dianne Branch addressed the Commission with her contribution to the cutbacks, stating that she would pay the newest hired employee out of her discretionary fund, which brought on a whole new set of arguments. There had already been a lot of controversy surrounding this hire in the past few weeks, because Commissioners were not happy that Branch had not followed the standard hiring procedures put into place by the county. After some discussion, Branch did agree to advertise the position for one week.

There were many topics discussed as Commissioners went down the list of line items, such as  transportation for the elderly, election expenses, the cost of workman’s comp per department, employee insurance, and the EMA Assistant role.

There was also the question of the high cost of utilities throughout the county offices. It was reported that the county spent as much as $120,000 yearly in utilities for all offices combined.  The electrical bill at the courthouse, which runs around $3500 monthly, and the natural gas bill, which can run as high as $560 a month in the coldest winter months that heats the courtroom. The Revenue Commissioner does pay 20% of all utilities for the courthouse. It was noted that the Annex electrical bill ran around $6000 a month and was open 24/7, due to the Sheriff’s Office and Jail, whereas the Courthouse was only open 40 hours a week.

Morrison stated they were just going to have to start looking into closing the courthouse at some point, due to several reasons.  “There just too many costs associated with keeping this building up and it’s going to get to the point where we have to cut some vital services to the citizens or we’re going to have to cut some expenses somewhere in the county. A money pit like that needs to be with the historical society, not a functioning building in my opinion,” said Morrison.

Ongoing construction inside the Annex

The Annex has recently added 13 offices to their facility, with ample space left for a couple of courtrooms, which could house several county departments, if needed.

Morrison said that after asking each department head to cut their budget by 5%, he was disheartened that the only department who had willingly done that was the Sheriff’s Office and these were vital services. ” How much more can you cut that? We just can’t hacking into this department. We’re going to have to come up with some creative solutions.”

“There was nowhere else to cut 5% from those departments. We can encourage the savings of utilities, but at the end of the day, we’re going to have to pay” said Bell.

On a final note before the vote was taken, Harris summed it up:” This budget is going to have to be cut and its not going to be pretty. Our job is simple, we take the money we get and do we can do. We may have to cut some things that seem  trivial to some of us. I think one of the things we need to do is look at cutting travel expenses and we’ll look into this a little later. I think spending 35-40,000 a year on travel and expenses and cut that. These cuts are going to be painful for some of us.”

 

“Next year, there’s not going to be a fund balance there if we are short,” Morrison added” I’m very disheartened to see our employees have to go back to paying their insurance because of how little they make. Next year, don’t come in here wanting us to make them pay all their insurance to make the fund balance work because that ain’t happening. We’ll just cut employees and take care of the ones we got.”

In the end, some of the cuts made included the following:

  • Eliminate courthouse security employees, saving $37,000. Security will be handled by the Sheriff’s Office on an as-needed basis.
  •  EMA Assistant position from full-time to part-time. (Commissioner Milstead abstained)
  • All county employees will now have to pay 20% of their medical insurance, instead of being 100% paid as it had been in the past. Family coverage will remain at 40% paid by county, with the employee portion at 60%.

The total county budget for fiscal year 2018 totaled $7,223,342.20, down from $7, 907,662.00 from 2017. This over $600,000 difference from the previous year is due to a steep decrease in revenues coming into the county from a federal and state level, which has led to these budget cuts.  But where the revenues shortage is really affecting is the General Fund,  where the budgeted expenses for FY 2018 total $2,900,032, and the revenues are only $2,800,012.

Commissioners cast their unanimous vote to accept the 2018 budget by a unanimous show of hands. This deficit of approximately $119,000 in expenses will be taken from the county’s reserve fund that they are required by the state to keep. However, this fund only has approximately $200,000 in it, so having to pull funds of this magnitude from it will almost deplete it.

Not to mention, if the county loses the lawsuit against State Senator Gerald Dial regarding a percentage of the county’s tobacco tax to be allocated to the Clay County Animal Shelter in the amount of $50,000, this deficit will go higher. This ruling is set to be handed down at any time by Judge Rochester at the Clay County District Court, but the budget had to passed, so it will have to be amended when the ruling comes in, The county did budget in the $5,000 to the Clay County Animal Shelter at this time.

“What we’re going to have to do is elect somebody into a state office who is going to help us generate income, because we don’t have that now. In the past, it’s just one thing after another getting taken away from us and now we’re down to this,” said Morrison.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Board of Education Meeting- Sept. 28, 2017

Highlights of agenda items approved at the September 28 meeting:

  • Approval of all financial reports from July and August 2017
  • Approval of Cleaning Service Contract with Peggy Mezick, who will clean the Central Office Bi-Monthly or 26 cleanings a year beginning Oct. 1, 2017 thru Sept 30, 2018.
  • Approval of contract services with Ivan Roman-Ocasio as part-time Adjunct ESL Teacher beginning Oct. 1, 2017 -Sept. 30, 2018.
  • Approval of contract services with Elda Pumpelly  as part-time Special Education Instructor.
  • Approval of Physical Therapy Services and Occupational Therapy services contract with Clay County Hospital beginning Oct. 1, 2017-Sept. 30, 2018.
  • Approval of 60 personnel action items.

Informational items

National School Lunch Week is Oct. 9-12, 2017
Fall Mini-Break is Oct. 9-10, 2017
The State did approve The Clay County Board of Education budget for FY2018 was approved by the State.
The next scheduled regular board meeting is Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2017, at 4:00 in the board room.

Childhood Cancer Awareness Month; Remembering Eli

Image result for childhood cancer awareness

As you may know, September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. So, before the month draws to a close, I’d like to tell you  a story about one of the greatest little cancer warriors to ever walk the face of the Earth, Elijah Sims. I know I’ve written about Eli before, but to me, he should be spoken about often, so no one ever forgets what this sweet child accomplished in his brief Earthly existence.

Eli was only 21 months old when he was diagnosed with Stage 4  Hepatoblastoma, and the cancer has metastasized to his lungs.  The prognosis wasn’t a good one, but Eli was a fighter, and he fought the disease with every fiber of his being, for well over a year. Eli passed just a few weeks after his third birthday.

It was a fight that was just too big for such a small child, but the warrior instilled in his little body didn’t know the difference.  His courageous battle won the hearts of so many, and because of that, a hero was born. A golden-haired little hero with a smile that could just seem to light up the world. A smile that would show no indication of the battle scars he carried inside. Eli’s very presence seem to warm you inside, kinda like a Heavenly aura surrounding him at all times. People were drawn to his sweet spirit and once you had been around Eli, your life would never be the same. His story touched so many lives in ways that we may never really know.

I know it seems weird to call a toddler a hero, especially when the horrific disease seemed to beat him in the end , but sometimes in life, there’s a bigger picture. You take a small child, who should never even have known any pain, other than a few scrapes and bruises, and watch him take on such a deadly disease and fight it with the strength of ten grown men, well now…that’s not something many will ever see in a lifetime and it changes you.

A true David and Goliath story, although the ending wasn’t quite the same, the efforts were instilled in your heart and you never quite forget it. And sometimes in life, that’s just the way it is. It’s a battle you were never meant to win, but yet how you handle it that serves as a lesson for others. A lesson of hope to many that if a small wisp of a boy can fight a huge cancer monster with unbeatable odds, that maybe you can take on whatever demons you are facing in life.

 

And as a parent myself, I can’t even imagine the pain that Jason and Kelcey Sims experienced as they watched the cancer eventually overtake the body of their sweet baby son. As a parent, it is our job to make your child never hurts. To put that band-aid on, kiss the boo-boo and make it all better. But the Sims never had this option. They had to stand by and helplessly watch as Eli underwent strong chemo treatments meant only for adults wreaked havoc on his little body. The hospitals, the needles, the courses of treatments, the pain that they couldn’t make go away. It just seems so unfair.

I’m not even sure if I could have handled it, but yet Kelcey and Jason clung hard to their faith that God would heal their son. And in the end, although it wasn’t the healing they had hoped for, it was still a healing. The best kind for Eli, one they could take comfort in, but it still doesn’t ease the ache in their hearts or their empty arms.

Childhood Cancer is simply unfair and must be eliminated. So, Kelcey wants to pass on some information and statistics to make the public more aware, in hopes that no child will ever have to suffer the way her son did. Parents, please read these carefully and be aware of any potential warning signs.

Kelcey Sims: “My goal is to just make people aware of the information about childhood cancer. As a nurse and someone being in the medical field for 10 years now even I didn’t know about the things I learned after Eli was diagnosed. I just want parents to be aware of the warning signs and to know it can happen to your child too! My goal is to make more companies and people want to research childhood cancer and put just as much effort into it as they do adult cancer. Here are some points I want to make people aware of:

  • Pediatric cancer is the #1 disease killer of kids in the US.
  • More American children die of cancer than of aids, asthma,cystic fibrosis, congenital abnormalities and diabetes combined
  • 7 kids die each day of pediatric cancer.
  • “0” , yes that’s ZERO screening methods are available so there is no way of preventing the cancer.
  • Each day 36 kids are diagnosed. 
  • Pediatric cancer is the leading pediatric disease killer, annually killing more kids than kidnapping, drug overdose, gun-related deaths, and drowning.
  • Less than 4% of our governments cancer research budget is allocated to children’s cancer research. 
  • 80% of pediatric cancers are metastasized/spread at time of diagnosis. ( at 21 no the old Eli was stage 4 with mets to lungs)
  • Only 3 new pediatric drugs were developed in the last 20 years compared to 23 drugs for adults in 2012.
  • 3 out of 5 childhood cancer survivors develop late physical and emotional effects, such as ptsd, infertility and vision loss, secondary cancers.
  • Average cost of cancer treatment for 1 child is $500,000.00. Out-of-pocket costs average $35,000.00 per child for treatment.
  • When a crib hurts a few children there is a massive recall and you hear it on the news. But when cancer kills 7 kids everyday no one seems to notice .
  • Childhood cancer awareness signs and symptoms: Continued, unexplained weight loss. Headaches, often with early Morning vomit. Increased swelling or persistent pain in bones, joints back or legs. Lump or mass ,especially in abdomen, neck, chest, pelvis, or arm pits. Development of excessive nursing, bleeding, or rash. Consistent Infections,  A whitish color behind pupil.  Nausea which persists or vomiting without nausea Consistent tiredness or noticeable lameness. Eye or vision changes which occur suddenly and persist. Recurrent or persistent fevers of unknown origin.  Eli had 9 of these 11 symptoms!!!!

Childhood cancer, two words a parent never wants to hear. An illness no child should ever have to endure. Let’s fight the fight and put an end to this heartbreaker. Eli was my HERO: an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles!”

Team Eli remains active in his memory and continue their crusade to end Childhood Cancer.  The 2nd Annual Team Eli Halloween Hustle Costume Run is a 5k Run/Walk for Adults and kids older than 12. Also, for the kids 12 and under they will have a 1 mile fun run/walk. The event will be held Saturday, October 21, 2017 from 8 AM-11AM at the Lineville park.

Team Eli hope to continue this event annually, choosing different organization to benefit each year. This year they have chosen The Make A Wish Foundation. This organization sent Eli and his family to meet Mickey Mouse at Disney World a few short weeks before his passing. They gave him joy in his last days and we would like to help them give that to someone else.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grand Jury List- September 26, 2017

 Here are a list of indictments handed down by the Clay County Grand Jury at this time:

Jessie Bishop-Burglary- 3rd Degree, Theft of Property 4, Use/ Possession Drug Paraphernalia, Harassing Communication, Theft of Property 3, Sodomy 1st Degree

Randell Ladario Brown– Reckless Endangerment, Resisting Arrest, Domestic Violence 2nd- Burglary

Daniel Paul Bumgarner– Use/Possession Drug Paraphernalia, Possession Controlled Substance

Andrea Machelle Clarke– Possession/Receive Controlled Substance

Joshua Cody Cullars– Theft of property 3

Oronda Torria Dinkins– Receive Stolen Property, Firearms-Person for

Woodrow Dougherty– Burglary 3rd Degree, Theft of Property 2, Possession Forged Instrument, Theft of Property 3

Wayne Ashton Dunkley-Driving w Suspended License, Possession Controlled Substance, Possession Marijuana 1st, Use/Possession Drug Paraphernalia, Resisting Arrest

Dillion Wayne Grizzard– Theft of Property 2

Richard Matthew Hall– Break/Entering Vehicle, Theft of Property 2

Audrey Andrette Heard– Criminal Trespass 3, Possession Controlled Substance

Darrin Marcel Leister– Theft of Property 1

Sherry Denise Mattox–  Possession Controlled Substance, Switched Tag, Failure to Display Insurance

Travis Hunter Maxwell– Possession Marijuana 2nd, Use/Possession drug Paraphernalia, Possession Controlled Substance

Alexander Bar Mcardle-Possession Controlled Substance, Possession/Receive Controlled Substance, Possession Marijuana 2nd, Paraphernalia Misdemeanor

Sonia Kay Morrow-Identity Theft (3 counts), Theft of property 3

Tre Reshun Newell– Use/Possession Drug Paraphernalia, Possession Controlled Substance, Possession Marijuana 1st

Brandon Wayne Parsons– Burglary 3rd Degree, Theft of property 2

Robert Dewayne Price-Assault 2nd Degree, Domestic Violence 3rd-Assault, Criminal Use of Defense, Resisting Arrest

Douglas Lee Robertson– Kidnapping 2nd Degree, Domestic Violence 3rd-Assault

John Thomas Rockwell– Possession Controlled Substance

James David Screws– Theft of Property 2

Christy Ann Shaddix– Promote Prison Contraband, Unlawful Possession w/ Intent, Use/Possession Drug Paraphernalia, Possession Controlled Substance, Possession Moonshine, Unlawful Distribution/Furnishing

Thomas Wayne Shaddix– Paraphernalia Misdemeanor, Possession Marijuana 1, Fail to Signal, Driving while Revoked

Christopher Ken Smith– Rape 2nd Degree  (2 counts)

Thomas Stanford– Possession Controlled Substance, Use/Possession Drug Paraphernalia

Torey LeSean Sterling–  Possession Controlled Substance, Possession Marijuana 2nd

William Jerome Trammell– Theft of Property 1, Burglary 3rd Degree (6 counts), Possession Burglar’s Tool, Theft of Property 4 ( 3 counts), Theft of Property 3 ( 2 counts),  Theft of property 2 ( 2 counts), Burglary ( 2 counts),  Breaking/Enter Vehicle

Joshua Darnell Williams-No Driver’s License, Speed less 25 mph, Paraphernalia Misdemeanor, Pistol in Vehicle, Possession Marijuana 1

Clay County Hazardous Weather Outlook for Irma

What may seem like a perfect rainy sleep-in morning for some should not be taken so lightly. Although Irma has weakened and will no doubt be downgraded to a Tropical Storm later this morning, the Eastern region of the state of Alabama remains under a Tropical Storm warning in anticipation of Irma’s arrival…and ultimately, her welcome departure.

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So, if you’re in Clay County, here’s what you can expect within the next 24 hours, give or take a few:

The highest impact time appears to begin at 12 noon today ( Monday) to as late as noon tomorrow.  This timing is dependent on many factors, such as the speed of Irma and course of track. You can expect wind gusts from 35-45 mph, ranging up to 55 mph and 3-5 inches of rain, with possibly locally higher amounts.

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Downed trees and power outages are likely, so be sure to have a plan of action in place. Make sure your cell phones are charged and you have plenty of bottled water onhand. You can also fill your bathtub with water for necessary household needs, such as toilet flushing.  You will need to have canned foods, or convenient grocery items, batteries, flashlights and candles is a must because you never know how long you will be without power, especially at this time with so many power crews out of state working the hardest hit area, there could possibly be a delay is having your service restored.

There is no tornado threat at this time, however, and this is just me speaking, you can never really rule out an isolated tornado.  Not trying to use scare tactics, just raise awareness.

I know there are many of you who want to help out when the damage starts rolling in, but please remember to WATCH OUT for downed power lines. So, if you see a tree down and want to grab your chain saw to cut, remember that it could be wrapped in live power lines and you could be electrocuted. DO NOT attempt to drive across downed power lines as well. Same scenario.

If you live in a mobile home, don’t wait until the storm is upon you to seek shelter! Remember that precautionary measures saves lives! There are several local shelters that will open after lunch today to anyone in need.

  • Shinbone Fire Dept
  • Delta Fire Dept
  • Hollis Fire Dept
  • Lineville Senior Center
  • Bluff Springs Fire Dept
  • Shiloh Fire Dept
  • Ashland Library
  • Millerville Fire Dept
  • Tri-Community
  • Ashland First Methodist Church
  • Cornerstone Ministries in Jackson’s Gap

If anyone has any shelters to add, please let me know.  Remember to take along any personal items you may need if you choose to use one of these shelters, because they don’t keep any of these items in stock.

The Clay County EMA, in conjunction with the Clay County Commission and Clay County Road Department, has issued a travel advisory for all Clay County Roads effective from noon Monday until 6pm Tuesday. All non-essential travel should be avoided.

PLEASE, PLEASE call your local EMA with any damage reports, so that they can pass the word along to you. 256-396-5886. PLEASE do NOT call 911 for a downed tree or structural damage because that is not an emergency, unless someone’s life is endangered. They will be very busy throughout the course of this storm handling calls.

Be safe, people, and please, be smart.

Here is a list of businesses and industry that will be closing early today:

  • TruCabinetry will close at 11:00 am today. No second shift.
  • Wellborn Cabinets will close at 12 noon today. No second shift.
  • Anniston Army Depot is closed for all Monday shifts.
  • Honda cancels 2nd shift for Monday.
  • Clay County Courthouse closing at Noon today.
  • The Circuit Clerk’s office of Clay County is officially closed Monday September 11th by order of the Governor. There will be no court on Monday.
  • Ashland Municipal Court has cancelled the court session scheduled for September 11, 2017 at 2 P.M. due to the Weather and all cases will be rescheduled for October 09, 2017 at 2 P.M.
  • Wedowee Municipal Court has been canceled for Monday night. All cases have been continued to October 24th at 5pm.
  • The Randolph County Courthouse will be closed Tuesday also due to the weather conditions.

 

 

 

Lineville Water Testing Reveals Slightly Elevated Levels

Lineville residents will receive this letter with their water bill this month. According to the details listed in the letter, standard water testing in the Carver St area revealed slightly elevated levels of  Haloacetic Acids ( HAA5) by .02%. Now, I’m sure receiving one of these letters can be a little scary, but I see no real cause for alarm here. But sending out letters is a standard procedure to keep the public updated even if it is only by .02% over the normal range. 

Water Officials are required to do testing in random areas on a regular basis. But keep in mind that the summer temperatures require a bit more effort keeping those levels where they need to be, and if you throw a good bit of rainfall into the mix in a stagnant area where the water usage is not so high, then it’s that much harder.

The water officials around here really do a good job maintaining these levels, if you ask me. These numbers were recorded for the month of July, and this problem could already be alleviated by now, for all we know. I feel quite confident Lineville Water Department will carefully monitor this situation and do everything in their power to remedy this situation as quickly as possible.

Again, there is no real cause for concern here, it’s actually quite minor honestly. You would have to consume tons of this water, more than one person could drink, to be at risk and there is NO BACTERIA in the water, so you are not required to boil water or anything. Just wanted to set your minds at ease over a situation that might look a little scary.

 

 

Drug Arrests Made Through Joint Effort of Clay County Law Enforcement Agencies

On August 25, 2017,  Officers from the Ashland Police Department, Lineville Police Department and Clay County Sheriff’s Department, along with Alabama Department of Probation and Parole conducted a search and subsequent arrest of three individuals involved with illicit drugs.

Ashland Police Officer Micheal Harris and Investigator David Martin, working with Lineville Investigator Chris Matthews developed information that subjects living on Country Club Rd in Ashland were manufacturing/using methamphetamine, and that one of the subjects was under the supervision of Clay County Probation Officer Brad McVey. The officers developed enough information for a Probation home visit and upon arrival two of the subjects ran from the scene.

It was later determined that the two that ran was Mitchell Wright of Ashland, and Dalton Wright of Ashland. A third subject was located at the home, and she was identified as Breana Langhorn. All three subjects were eventually taken into custody and charged with the following: three counts of Possession of a Controlled Substance; three counts of Chemical Endangerment of a Child; three counts of Possession Drug Paraphernalia; two counts of Attempting to Elude.

All three subjects were taken to the Clay County Jail for booking. Chief Stanford and the Ashland Police Department would like to thank the officers involved for their hard work and determination in working together to see this case to its end. Without their tireless effort, and ability to work together, nothing would have been accomplished.

Special Called BOE Meeting Summary, Aug. 17

The Clay County Board of Education met Thursday, August 17, 2017 for a special called session. All members were present with the exception of Blaine Lacy.

All agenda items for this session were approved, which included the following:

  • Approval of the 2017-18 salary schedule and supplements
  • Approval to accept the bid of $1.6608 per gallon received from Willingham Oil for diesel fuel. This was the only bid received.
  • Approval of 27 personnel action items which included some of the following:
      Kelly Craven as bus aide
      Julie Wester as bus aide
      Stacey Pitts as bus driver
      Heather Rooks as custodian at Ashland Elementary
  • Informational Items
    The  first home football game is August 25, 2017.
    The next regularly scheduled Board meeting and first budget hearing will be August 31, 2017.
    There will be a called Board meeting and budget hearing on September 7, 2017.

 

ARGIE DARNELL NAMED SOUTHERN REGIONAL ADMINISTRATIVE DETENTION OFFICER OF THE YEAR

Clay County Sheriff Ray Latham was notified on July 31st, 2017 that an employee of the Clay County Detention Center had been nominated to the Outstanding Corrections Professionals Award Program, in Midway, Utah.

The selected officer from the Southeastern Region of the United States was to be announced on August 2nd, 2017 by the nominating committee. Persons for such a prestigious award would be considered based on previous achievements with the National Institute for Jail Operations, (NIJO)  also headquartered in Midway, Utah.

Sheriff Latham presents Argie Darnell with award

Early in 2012, Sheriff Latham joined the detention center with the National Institute for Jail Operations in an effort to have a more secure facility while providing guidelines and regular up to date training for employees. Requirements of detention certifications, training guidelines and other requirements associated with the NIJO were a challenge in the start. Cooperation by the County Commissioners, necessary upgrades & repairs to the Detention Center were and continue to be made. Work by Detention Administrators, correctional officers and supervisory personnel in the Sheriff’s Office, accomplishments were rewarded.

Sheriff Ray Latham, Investigator Shanon House, Jail Administrator Argie Darnell, Chief Deputy Henry Lambert

On August 2nd, 2017, Sheriff Latham was notified that Detention Administrator Argie Darnell had received the Southeastern Regional Detention Administrator of the Year award. Darnell’s accomplishments with the requirements set forth by NIJO as it pertains to the Clay County Detention Center was most impressive, stated, Tate McCotter, Executive Director for NIJO in Midway, Utah. Her name stood beside each on-line compliance and certification required by NIJO, and was completed though and timely.  With such a high compliance rating through NIJO, McCotter intends to use Darnell’s accomplishments as an incentive for other jails across the country when he teaches.

Darnell will receive her prestigious award at the NIJO Southeastern Regional Conference in New Orleans, Louisiana on August 30th, 2017. “Accomplishments like this are earned by hard work and dedication” states Sheriff Latham.

State Senator Dial to Introduce new Tobacco Tax Bill that would Eliminate County funds

Thursday, July 27, 2017- Just minutes after releasing a statement regarding the controversy surrounding a lawsuit filed on behalf of the Clay County commissioners,  the plot thickened.  Commissioners received an email of yet another new bill to be introduced to the Senate that would take away all the funding to the commission.

The previous bill regarding the distribution of the tobacco tax funds within the county, SB65, passed in March 2017, to be put into effect in October 2017 showed the following percentages as follows:

(1) Thirty-two percent to the Alabama Forestry Commission to be utilized for fire protection in the county, as provided in subsection (b).
(2) Twenty percent to the Clay County Industrial Development Council.
(3) Eighteen percent to the Clay County Animal Shelter. The Clay County Animal Shelter shall annually report 8 to the county commission regarding the expenditure of the 9 funds in the preceding year.
(4) Fifteen percent to the Clay County Commission to be deposited into a special fund in the county treasury and, subject to an application process developed by the county commission, disbursed to water districts in the county for the purpose of installing feeder lines. The county commission shall have the authority to develop guidelines, promulgate 16 rules, and institute an application process to provide for the disbursement of the funds.
(5) Fifteen percent shall be retained in the Clay 19 County General Fund to be utilized as are other county funds.
(b) The funds distributed to the Alabama Forestry Commission shall be payable on a quarterly or monthly basis and will be expended solely for purposes of fire protection, prevention, and fire safety education in order to encourage a strong volunteer firefighters’ network in Clay County.

The New Bill in question, just received today, reads that State Senator Dial will introduce changes in these figures  distributed to show that the Alabama Forestry would now receive 62% of the Tobacco Tax funds, 20% to the Industrial Development Council, and 18% to the Clay County Animal Shelter.

This would completely de-fund the Commission, possibly causing a major water project of almost 10 million dollars to be halted, as well as cut services offered to the citizens and/or put county jobs in danger.

Below is the press release by the Commissioners made earlier today:

In response to the letter from the Clay County Animal Shelter, regarding the lawsuit surrounding SB65.

The Clay County Commission has supported the animal shelter to the tune of $5000 per year. Those funds are included in the 2017 budget and currently there have been no plans made to change any of that. However in response to the commission stance to oppose this bill, let’s look at the whole picture.


Senator Dial took it upon himself to introduce this legislation in Montgomery without so much as discussing it with the commission or any other leaders in this county. As a commission we must make decisions based on what is best for the county as a whole. Funds continue to shrink, people continue to move away, and no new funds become available. We want what’s best for this county. Period. But is it fair for a senator to divert money without discussing it with the people it affects? Now if he wants to put it on a ballot and let the people of the county decide to give that money to the animal shelter, we will gladly back away, even if we have to cut funds elsewhere. Because that’s what will happen. As it stands now, this has been much like taxation without representation. When an elected official just decides to use his office to heavy hand the local government. Does that sound fair?

The Commission is challenging the constitutionality of SB65 because:

A. The state constitution states that public money cannot be distributed to a private entity not under the control of the state or any of its subdivisions unless those appropriations were approved by a 2/3rds vote of all members elected to each house. SB65 violates article IV ss 73 of the Alabama constitution
B. Only 16 of 35 members of the senate and 18 of 105 members of the house voted in favor of this legislation. Clearly this is not 2/3rds in either house.

It is important to note that we continue to lose funds from the state and federal government. For instance federal payment in leiu of taxes ( for national forest) dropped from $83,850 in 2016 to just $48,277 in 2017.

As for the statement made by the animal shelter that due to this action by the commission they can no longer accept animals, how is that the case? There have been no funds removed from the shelter. Not one dime. The same funds that the shelter has been receiving will continue. This lawsuit is to stop more funds from being pulled from the county and shifted to the animal shelter. So how does that stop the operation of the shelter? It has been operating until notification of this action. And just so the public knows, even if the action was allowed to stand, no funds would go towards the shelter until NEXT year. How does that affect the shelter today?
The bottom line is this. The money is not there to offer that much support to the animal shelter. Where should we cut services to do so? Because that is what will have to happen if that much is pulled away from the general fund.

For informational purposes here is a breakdown of the county general fund expenditures for 2017 thus far

For 2017, there has been general fund expenditures of $2,397,487.23:

$1,234,956.06 to the sheriffs office and jail. That’s roughly 55% of the general fund
$478,336.36 was For commission office, staff, upkeep of all county buildings
$33,006.50 for board of registrars
$3,470.74 for airport
$9,153.36 for farmers market
$43,465.11 for county maintenance department
$106,161.94 for EMA
$14,262.58 for coroner
$213,747.73 for probate office and staff
$29,115.75 for courthouse (utilities)
$17,761.01 for courthouse security
$14,218.75 for the supernumerary pay (retirement to former Sherriff
$8,072.47 for the recycling center
$34,754.52 for the elderly transport
$5000 for rescue squad
$5000 for animal shelter

Also included in these are the commission responsibilities for state offices located here in the county. We are required by the state to pay these.

$82,160.34 for the revenue commissioner
$3,226.63 for phones in circuit judge
$1,825.28 for phones in circuit clerks office
$5,259.87 for telephone and utilities for district attorney
$316.80 for phone for juvenile probation office
$257.76 for phone for drivers license office
$4,452.32 for utilities and phone for extension office

Clay County Commissioners. Photo courtesy of The Clay-Times Journal

Signed, Clay County Commissioners

  • Bennie Morrison, District 1
  • Donald Harris, District 2
  • Ray Milstead, District 3/ Chairman
  • Greg Denney, District 4
  • Ricky Burney

In a letter released earlier from Sharon Forbus submitted earlier to Senator Dial, who was desperately asking for help for the shelter:

Dear Senator Dial,

I’m certain that you have heard by now that the Clay County Commission, namely Benny Morrison, Ray Milstead and Mary Woods have filed a complaint for declaratory judgment and other declaratory relief against Clinton Carter, Dr. Kathleen Baxter and the Clay County Animal Shelter seeking the Circuit court of Clay County to declare SB65 AS unconstitutional and void, for a permanent injunction against providing that CCAS any of the tobacco receipts, plaintiff’s attorney’s fees and any other relief deemed appropriate by the court. As you know the shelter is run by volunteers and donations are used for it’s survival. In the past, we received $5,000/yr from the Commission, $500/Mon. from the City of Ashland and $150/mon. from the City of Lineville. Our treasurer, Frankie Gravette was informed by Ray Milstead that the shelter would no longer be receiving funds from the County. We are uncertain as to how to proceed. We do not have funding to hire an attorney and even though I practiced law in the Army for 16 years, I am not admitted to the Alabama bar and, therefore, cannot represent the Shelter in court. Without funding this shelter cannot stay in operation. We Don’t know what to do.

Please help our shelter.

Sharon Forbus

The Clay County Animal Shelter is in dire need of funds to ensure the facility can keep their doors open. Anyone wishing to donate the Shelter can do so here:

https://www.gofundme.com/shelter-legal-fund