County Commission supports strengthening of Open Meetings Act
by Elsie Hodnett
Jan 28, 2014 | 1373 views |  0 comments | 23 23 recommendations | email to a friend | print
ST. CLAIR COUNTY - The County Commission approved a resolution in support of strengthening the Alabama Open Meetings Act at its Tuesday meeting.

“The state has changed the Open Meetings Act, and judges have changed it as well,” County Commission Chairman Stan Batemon said. “The district attorneys aren’t sure how to enforce it. Almost anything is a secret meeting. If you email (other members of a board, council, etc.) to say you would vote for a resolution, that is a secret meeting. We want to support defining the OMA better.”

According to the resolution, which Batemon read, “the St. Clair County Commission feels it is in the best interest of the citizens of St. Clair County and the state of Alabama that deliberations and actions by governmental entities be honest, forthright, and open to the public.”

Batemon said whereas multiple court rulings have appeared to weaken the spirit of the OMA, the commission believes that the integrity and strength of the OMA is of paramount importance in maintaining government on all local, state and federal levels.

“I also want to get with the press and local mayors and councils to have an Open Meetings Act discussion,” he said. “I think we can take the lead as a county commission so everyone understands how the Open Meetings Act works. We also want further clarification on any ambiguous terms.”

The commission also approved a resolution authorizing the Coosa Valley Water Supply District to market and sell 750,000 gallons of water allotted to St. Clair County.

“I want Coosa Valley to sell our water, but allow us to sell it too,” Batemon said.

Commissioner Paul Manning, who is also chairman of the CVWSD Board of Directors, said he thinks the selling cost of the water is flexible and should remain open for the commission to have input.

“We could get together at any time and set a price,” he said. “It fluctuates every year between $1.50 and $3 (per 1,000 gallons). If someone wanted all of it, or some part of it, it would change the price.”

Batemon said the County Commission could sell the water cheaper if the commission subsidized the rest.

“We could sell it for a quarter if we want,” he said. “If New London or Wattsville want it for $1, we could sell it for that. Could the district sell water at the current rate, but if anyone wants to buy it cheaper they can come to us?”

Manning said he didn’t feel the commission should set a dollar amount on it.

“Each entity knows we have water,” he said. “We have some folks talking right now that don’t want to be named.”

Commissioner Ken Crowe asked if the commission could set the price at market rate.

The commission discussed the “market value or then-current rate,” which would allow the commission to sell the water for more than the cost, if the market rate increases that much.

“All entities want this water sold,” Manning said. “We aren’t looking for extra money. We are all open to get the water to whoever needs it.”

Batemon said he feels this is a good step for the commission.

In other matters Tuesday, the commission:

• Adopted right-of-way on Wolf Creek Road North.

• Approved to pay a $379.46 bill from Safety Kleen Systems that did not have a purchase order.

• Approved to put the Hazelwood Drive Realignment Project for the Federal Aid Project.

• Approved the request by the Ashville High School Band Boosters to use the Courthouse lawn for “Tunes Around Town” set for Saturday, July 5 from 10 a.m. until dark.

• Approved the request of Public Transportation Director Janet Smith to post and hire two occasional bus drivers. These are existing and budgeted positions.

• Approved a Homeland Security Grant in the amount of $15,000. St. Clair County is the subgrantee only with fund to be used to purchase radios for the Odenville Police Department.

• Approved the request of Revenue Commissioner Elizabeth Mealer for a temporary part-time clerk to fill in while several employees are on leave and while she fills a vacant clerk’s position.

• Approved the travel requests for training purposed discussed at the Jan. 23 work session.

• Approved a resolution honoring Archie Lee for his service to the New London Water, Sever and Fire Protection Authority.

• Approved a resolution honoring Annie Tyree at her retirement from the Alabama Cooperative Extension System.

• Approved a resolution amending the St. Clair County Operational Policy #37. This amends the manner which employees are compensated when called in to work.

• Approved a contract with Lee Helms Associates for updating the Hazard Mitigation Plan in the amount of $20,625 and is funded by a grant already received and accepted by the County.

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