Commission faces opposition

Published 10:16 pm Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Pike County Commissioners faced opposition Tuesday night after previous discussions of demolishing the county’s long-standing Rock Building.

“If you destroy that building or let someone else destroy it, you are losing a piece of history,” said Marsha Boutwell, who came asking commissioners to find a way to preserve the building that once stood as Pike County’s Board of Education before it was destroyed in a fire.

“That building has so many memories and not just for me,” Boutwell said. “Find a vision. There are too many clubs or organizations in this county that need space.”

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Boutwell, a member of the Pike County Historical and Genealogical Society, came with Helion Motes to express concern to a commission who had discussed whether they would preserve or sell the building in previous meetings.

No action was taken on the part of the commission, but Chairman Robin Sullivan said he thinks preservation is the route commissioners hope to take. He just isn’t sure how feasible the route would be.

“I think all the commissioners would like to see a positive move for the Rock Building, but on the low side, we’re looking at $800,000 it would take to do something with it,” Sullivan said. “It could be made very nice.”

Sullivan said while this is a big concern locally, there are several other projects that may take precedence over this decision.

“We have to look at other projects that are more pressing at this time, but I don’t want to say the building’s not important to us because it is,” Sullivan said.

Other commissioners expressed interest in keeping it preserved after residents spoke for keeping it in use for the county.

District 6 Commissioner Karen Berry said she would like to have grants written or find some way for the commission to be able to fund a preservation project.

Also in their meeting, commissioners approved a proposal to allow the group Focus 2000 to do a study on what the feasibility would be of creating an I-10 connector toll road from Montgomery through Pike County and down to Panama City, a move that could mean up to 5,000 additional jobs at home.

Pike County was the last of five surrounding counties to agree to this partnership between Montgomery, Geneva, Houston and Dale Counties to build the road.

But, the resolution they passed does not guarantee this road will come through the area.

“This is just a resolution to move forward and come back with a feasibility study,” said Steven Shaw, with Focus 2000.

“Obviously, Pike County would be a big part of the equation, and we’d have to come back with the feasibility study before anything’s done.”

While no decisions have been made yet, Sullivan said the connector road could mean good news for Pike County’s economy.

“The positive impact that this is going to have on Pike County is tremendous,” Sullivan said. “We could be talking anywhere from 4,000 to 5,000 jobs.”

The commission also announced the kickoff of its NACo Prescription Drug card program, a program that will give discounts on prescription drugs to county residents.

The project, spearheaded by Commissioner Homer Wright, will give anyone with a discount card a 22 percent discount on their prescriptions by using the card.

The cards will be free for residents who wish to acquire one through the Pike County Commission Office.

“The way the economy is now, this will be a big help on the people who don’t have medical insurance,” Wright said.

After nearly completing paving on Salem and Reynolds Roads, which were funded through the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs’s Community Block Development Grant, the commission held a public hearing to close the project and discuss future needs.

County Engineer Russell Oliver presented a list of potentially eligible projects, most of which were either paving dirt roads or rehabilitating some already paved roads.

Oliver also had the commission approve to sell some of the road department equipment, a move he said has been a long time coming.

“We knew at budget time we would have to sell some of our equipment to get through the year, and that time has come,” Oliver said.

He said they will advertise a motor grader and sell it for a price that would bring the most revenue to the department.

And, Oliver also announced he would not fill one of the positions vacant in his department from the retirement incentive, since the road department is short on funding.

“We’ve done further analysis on cash flow, and I don’t think we can afford that right now,” Oliver said.

Also in the meeting the commission:

-approved to hire a MVR/Probate Court supervisor for the Probate Office, which was already budgeted.

-discussed how the county would fund forensic science transports after state funding was cut, but no decisions were made.

-amended a grant application to repave a portion of Henderson Highway, requesting $180,000 rather than $200,000. This would make the match amount $4,000 less.

-approved to keep county levies on alcohol the same as the current rate, since it is already the maximum amount.

-adopted millage rates on all vehicles at a rate that will keep them the same as they are currently.

-appointed Casey Slesinski to the South Bullock County Water Authority.

-approved to allow Oliver and County Attorney Allen Jones to proceed with notices to vacate County Road 5530.

-met in executive session to discuss good name and character, but they did not take any action after discussion.