By Toni Stauffer
The Russell County weekly work session on Monday at 5 p.m. started off with mild conflict as the first order of business brought by Commissioner Ronnie Reed (District 4) consisted of addressing his concern about the travel budget spent by other commissioners to attend conferences, as well as a proposal for forced layoffs across the board, despite the previous approval of the annual budget.
“We don’t need two commissioners going out of town…we need to be more conservative with taxpayer dollars,” said Reed. “Also, we don’t need to wait until next year. We need to cut back now, and we need to cut some jobs that we don’t really need.
“It’s always been the policy of this commission (I don’t know if I agree with it) that any trip that a commissioner can go, or all can go if they want to, Commissioner Gentry Lee (District 1) said. “I’m like you [Reed]. I don’t go to any of them, but as long as somebody goes that’s fine with me.” On the issue of layoffs, Lee said he’d voted to not approve pay raises to avoid them. He stressed that across-the-board forced layoffs would affect every department, including law enforcement, and that he didn’t see the need to revisit the issue since the annual budget had already been approved.
“You’ve had commissioners that have gone [to conferences] in the past,” said Victor Cross, director of Russell County economic development and tourism, “and it’s always better to have a good representation of your county…”
Commissioner Chance Corbett (District 6) strongly disagreed with Reed’s position. “I see a huge benefit in [conferences],” said Corbett, “…and I feel like it’s a huge benefit to this county, because I can just collect a paycheck and go home…or I can be progressive and try to move this county forward.”
Commissioner Cattie Epps (District 5) said that she goes to conferences, because she learns. She also restated her position of being against layoffs, but added that no new positions should be created at this time. Chairman Peggy Martin said that all departments need to continue to be frugal and that employees should be cross-trained to help each other with their workloads. Administrator LeAnn Horne agreed that there wasn’t a need to cut positions at this time since the budget had been approved and that they had worked diligently to not have layoffs and also to save money. The discussion ended with Reed dropping the matter.
Next, the Commission discussed work orders for District 2 for Engineering and Parks and Recreation. Commissioner Carl Currington said if paper is picked up from the grass before its cut, it won’t look like a New Year’s Eve party afterward. “If we coordinate,” said Currington, “our county will be a lot cleaner.”
The Commission addressed the request by timber companies to delay the ban for trucks on County Road 49. If not delayed, the companies would lose thousands of dollars in revenue. The Commission decided to allow a stay on the ban until Jan. 1, after which the road will be taken off the truck route.
Under business items, Sheriff Taylor updated the commission on the jail food bids. In order to get the food bids in line with the budget, bids will now run from October to October, instead of January to January. He requested that the administrator send out the bid packet no later than Sept. 28 with a submission deadline of Wednesday, Oct. 17 at 3:00 p.m. at the Courthouse.
In other news, the Commission announced that a resolution has been adopted by the Association of County Commissions of Alabama (ACCA) and given to the Russell County Commission for “its excellent liability loss experience.” Additionally, the Courthouse will be closed Monday, Oct. 8 in recognition of Columbus Day and American Indian Heritage Day; however, there will still be a meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 10 at 9:30 a.m. at the Courthouse.