County Commission considers storm shelter, garbage service, septic system oversight – Lowndes Signal

District commission considers monitoring of storm shelters, garbage collection and sewage disposal

Published on Wednesday, May 8, 2024, 5:48 p.m.

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John Merrill informs Lowndes County Commissioners about available grants to fund storm protection.

Ester Mushatt questions the Lowndes County Commission about ways to repair the livestock gap on Mushatt Road.

At its regular meeting on April 22, the Lowndes County Commission reviewed information that could lead to much-needed storm protection for area residents.

Former Secretary of State John Merrill is director of public policy and strategic markets at Waggoner Engineering. He presented to the commission details of the disaster preparedness grants available through the Congressional Subcommittee on Homeland Security.

“The money is administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA),” Merrill said. “Because Lowndes County is an underserved part of Alabama and our country, you are eligible for $2 million with this (storm shelter) project.”

Merrill told commissioners that a match is not required and that if the building is not needed as an emergency shelter, it can be used for other purposes — as a sheriff's office or dialysis center. However, there are restrictions on the secondary use of the building constructed with the grants. In particular, all equipment located in the building must be stored to make room for an emergency shelter in the event of a major disaster.

Merrill said the county is eligible to apply for the grant by modifying a previous application. Congresswoman Terri Sewell and Senator Tommy Tuberville have pledged to support the county should the commission decide to allow an application.

Merrill presented commissioners with contract options for the company's assistance in applying for and building the shelter. Commissioners voted for a pay-as-you-go fee option that would limit the county's out-of-pocket costs if it did not receive a grant.

Carmelia Arnold, president of the Lowndes County Unincorporated Wastewater Program (LCUWP), submitted a petition to the commissioners asking for permission to appoint alternate members to assist in the work of the board.

She also reported that the program received a $1.5 million American Rescue Plan (ARPA) grant from the Alabama Department of Public Health. The funds, she said, are intended to start and operate a wastewater treatment program for Lowndes County residents.

Arnold told commissioners that the board's current offices at the Lowndes County Health Department do not have a lock to secure program documents.

“Our door doesn't have a lock,” Arnold said. “We've been there for over a year. Because we have this subsidy, as an employer we need to keep our records safe. We need a lock on our door.”

As part of her appeal, Arnold asked commissioners to consider a resolution that would require anyone seeking to install a septic system on private property in the county to show commissioners plans before work begins.

“We were appointed by the commission, but other organizations continue to operate around us,” Arnold said. “We have no oversight and must keep an eye on all septic systems installed. We are asking the commissioners to pass a resolution that all septic systems and related activities installed in residential areas in Lowndes County must be submitted. [plans] to you before they begin.”

Arnold told commissioners she had requested information about septic tanks installed but was unable to obtain information from ADPA. Commissioners did not vote on the issue but directed Arnold to request more information.

In other matters, the Commission has the following tasks:

  • Accepted a garbage disposal offer from Martin Environmental to use existing garbage trucks to pick up residential garbage for $31 per month or $93 per quarter;
  • There was discussion of a recent train derailment and news of an oil spill at SABIC that apparently had not reached the relevant district and local authorities;
  • Heard a petition from Ester Mushatt to repair the cattle gap caused by public transport on her family's private property;
  • The purchase of a building that formerly housed attorney Jerry Thornton's office for use by Broadband, a multi-county Internet commission, was discussed. After a discussion for and against the purchase, commissioners voted 3-2 to purchase the building for $275,000, ultimately deciding to purchase the building for county use, not necessarily for Broadband use;
  • Appropriation of $1,000 for the Fort Deposit Arts Council by Commissioner Joshuia Simmons and $500 for Commissioner Joseph Barganier, $5,000 for the Hayneville Library by Commissioner Dickson Farrior, $1,000 for the Collirene Volunteer Fire Department and $500 for Jackson-Steele Elementary by Commissioner Charlie King; and
  • Approved minutes for February and March.

The next regular meeting of the Commission will be held on May 13 at the Charles Smith Annex Building in the Lowndes County Commission Chambers beginning at 10:00 a.m.

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