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County gives $10K to group

The Pike County Commission approved a request to give $10,000 to fund a part-time position for a local agency — something commissioners voted against for another group last year.

The Pike County Soil and Conservation District requested $10,000 in a letter to the commission to fund a part-time technical assistant position, and commissioners approved Monday in a 4-2 vote split across party lines to honor the petition.

The agency, which assists the county in funding for projects, already is appropriated $10,000 from the commission’s $150,000 appropriations fund, which is supported by sales tax.

Before commissioners passed the county’s budget last September, Pike County Extension Agent Tammy Powell came before the commission requesting $15,000 to fund a part-time position in her office, and the request was denied.

The history of that request was a deal-breaker for two commissioners Monday.

“Tammy Powell came with a similar request to help the 4-H office. We denied her funding. I advise the commission to take that under consideration,” said Commission Chairman Jimmy Barron, before the commission voted in favor of the group’s request.

But, when it came time to vote, four commissioners saw the situation in a different way.

“They put more money in our county than we give them,” said District 5 Commissioner Charlie Harris.

Through the Wiregrass Resource Conservation and Development Council (RC&D) and the Emergency Watershed Protection Program (EWP), through which the soil and water conservation allots money, Pike County’s road department received around $43,700 in funds last year.

Another $6,111 has been promised for 2010, and there could be even more on the way.

“Ms. Powell’s office doesn’t return a lot to us,” said District 6 Commissioner Oren Fannin.

“We get some money from the (soil and conservation district).”

Fannin, Harris, District 1 Commissioner Homer Wright and District 4’s Ray Goodson, who are Democrat, all supported the request. Republicans Barron and District 2’s Robin Sullivan voted against it.

“I’m against any agency getting money out of our general fund,” Barron said. “They just singled out an agency that is on our list and is given money.”

Barron said in voting for this move, the commission has opened doors for other agencies to seek funding outside of what is allotted in the $150,000 appropriations fund.

While Goodson voted in favor of the appropriation, he said it’s not because the 4-H office doesn’t serve as a vital part of the county.

“We may not receive anything from the extension office, but they touch everyone of our students,” Goodson said.

In other business, the commission also voted to give the county attorney and administrator authority to investigate the possibility of using the Pike County Jail’s inmates to assist with road department maintenance.

“After we’ve cut back on personnel, we’re always looking for ways to get work done,” said county engineer Russell Oliver.

Commissioners said they had attempted this before, but the county insurance did not cover it.

The commission also voted to approve a contract that could allow the county to be reimbursed for forensic science transports.