Logging companies fear ordinance could cost time, money

Published 11:00 pm Friday, October 19, 2012

An ordinance up for discussion at Monday night’s Pike County Commission meeting is raising eyebrows among the timber industry professionals in the area.

The ordinance would require anyone harvesting timber in Pike County to notify the county of the entry and exit points from the harvest area to a county road. That’s allowed under an act passed during the last Legislative session.

What’s in question is the possible requirement to provide names, addresses, telephone numbers and liability insurance information for the logging companies, timber owners and any subcontractors. The proposed ordinance would also require companies to provide an expected route to be used across any county roads, bridges and rights of way.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

“I was reading through the ordinance and there are a lot of things that scare me,” said Russell Johnson, owner of Coastal Plain Land and Timber. “With providing the liability insurance information, there’s no timeline. It’s like providing an open-ended $1 million bond. If months down the road someone decided my truck caused damage, the county can file a claim against my insurance.”

After a company provides the pages-worth of information, the county will send out a “proper noticed received letter.” Without that letter, companies are subject to a warning and subsequent citations and fines.

“Unfortunately, the Association of County Commissions has sent out a model ordinance to all counties that we feel goes above and beyond the power granted in the new state law,” said Ray Clifton with the Alabama Forestry Association.

The AFA has reached out to county commissions, including Pike County, regarding the voluntary ordinance in hopes they will reconsider the ACC’s recommendations. The ordinance Pike County is considering is based on the ACC’s model ordinance.

“Nothing has been adopted, yet,” said County Administrator Harry Sanders.

“It is all under consideration at this point.”

Sanders said several community members asked to address the commission Monday night and he feels certain that the commission chairman will allow for that.

“Right now, the commission hasn’t acted on anything, and in fact, they may not,” Sanders said.

“What we would like to see would be a county, like Pike County, say, ‘Hold up. Let’s wait a second. Let’s have a public hearing and talk about this,’” Clifton said.

Including equipment sales and maintenance and fuel costs, the timber industry provides about $25 to $30 million in revenue to the Pike County area each year, according to Johnson’s calculations.

“Why are we being singled out? We aren’t the only trucks on the roads. There are other large trucks working for other industries that travel the roadways just as much,” Johnson said. “I wouldn’t expect our neighbors to do this to us.”

Johnson said he plans to be at Monday night’s commission meeting to voice his concern.

“I’m not usually like this,” Johnson said. “But if this effects me negatively and I didn’t say something, it will be my own fault.”

And if the county passes the ordinance? What happens then?

“I think it is being painted as we oppose this ordinance, but we don’t oppose the ordinance,” Clifton said. “We don’t want to come off as being against the county. But there are some things that we fundamentally oppose, so I don’t know if the courts are going to have to decide it. We would prefer that people just work things out like they used to in the country.”