County seeking home rule

Published 9:29 am Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Pike County Commission is seeking self-governance and will give citizens an opportunity to put their stamp of approval on “home rule” for the county’s governing body at the polls on March 13, 2012.

Harry Sanders, county administrator, said the county commission is working on putting a referendum on the March ballot that will give self-governance power to the commission.

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“The self-governance legislation, as passed by the Alabama Legislature, only deals with nuisance abatement in the unincorporated portion of a county and only in the areas of weeds, junkyards, litter and rubbish, noise, pollution, unsanitary sewage and animal control,” he said.

This legislation does not include any authority in the two areas usually associated with “home rule,” Sanders said.

“The bill does not grant any authority to levy taxes or to establish a planning and zoning program. Whether self-governance is granted to the Pike County Commission will depend on the result of the referendum.”

“The concept behind the bill is that only voters in the unincorporated area should vote and the commission should only exercise the powers in the unincorporated areas.”

If the referendum passes, the Commission will then enter into a process of adopting ordinances to implement the act.

“The ordinances must be advertised and subject to public hearings,” Sanders said. “They must include provisions for notice to those accused of violating the ordinances and an appeals process to the county commission before the matter goes to any court of law.”

Following that process, Sanders said the commission will take steps to respond to any nuisances in the defined areas.

Sanders said the list of the actions the commission cannot take is much longer than the list of powers that can be exercised.

The commission cannot take any actions inside a city’s limits or against any business activity that is regulated by the Alabama Public Service Commission, the Alabama Department of Environmental Management or the Department of Agriculture and Industries.

The commission also cannot take any action affecting public schools, courts, gambling, municipalities, utilities, property rights, mining operations, private or civil relationships, or existing agricultural, manufacturing or industrial operations.

“The commission cannot charge a fee that is more than the actual cost of providing a service,” Sanders said. “Fines are limited to $150 per violation. The ordinance section also provides for notice to all those who are violating an ordinance and an opportunity for those affected to appeal to the commission.”

At the Pike County Commission’s final October meeting, the commissioners made two hires to fill existing positions.

John Johnson was hired for a Mechanics II position with the county road department and Brittany Rafferty was hired as a Court Assistant II in the probate judge’s office.

Ronnie Floyd was reappointed to the Pike County Water Authority board of directors.