No action taken on logging ordinance

Published 7:39 pm Monday, October 22, 2012

The lack of a quorum at Monday night’s scheduled Pike County Commission meeting worked on the side of Pike County timber professionals.

About a dozen people representing different aspects of the industry showed up to voice their opinions regarding a proposed logging ordinance the commission was set to consider.

“I do not think there is a logger or forestry professional in this county who wouldn’t work with y’all,” said Russell Johnson, the owner of Coastal Plain Land & Timber who spearheaded the movement to get industry representatives to Monday’s meeting.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Johnson and the others present were concerned about a model ordinance provided by the state Association of County Commissioners they feel extends beyond the law passed by the Alabama Legislature during its last session.

While the law provides counties with the ability to require notice by loggers of entry and exit points onto county roads so work by all companies can be tracked, the model ordinance also asks for liability insurance, phone numbers and addresses for landowners, loggers and subcontractors before any work can take place.

“The way you’ve got it drawn up and thrown on us, we can’t live with that,” said Mike Smith, who makes his living by logging.

Mike Griswold, owner of WJ Sorrell Pulpwood & Lumber, said he didn’t understand why the timber industry was being singled out when agriculture trucks, rock trucks, dirt trucks and trucks carrying scrap could also be damaging Pike County roads.

“I hope you consider waiting and coming up with something that fits the law,” Griswold said to commissioners. “This will not be cheap to administer and this will not be cheap to defend.”

Under the model ordinance, any company failing to comply with the ordinance could face fines of $500 if no notice was filed and warnings went ignored.

Ray Clifton with the Alabama Forestry Association was also at the meeting Monday. He encouraged the council to “stand back and let everybody’s voice be heard.”

Commissioners Robin Sullivan, Homer Wright and Ray Goodson were present for the commissions work session where the timber industry professionals spoke. Although they couldn’t take action on the proposed ordinance because Commissioners Jimmy Baron, Oren Fannin and Charlie Harris were absent, the present commissioners seemed receptive to the loggers and landowners.

“We don’t want to hurt our people. How beneficial would it be to shoot ourselves in the foot?” Sullivan said. “I am glad you all are here.”

Commissioner Goodson said, at the heart of the issue, the county simply needs to know where loggers are cutting and entering and exiting county roads due to road safety concerns.

Although a couple of timber industry professionals stated they believed there wasn’t a problem caused by logging in Pike County, and therefore no need for an ordinance, County Engineer Russell Oliver spoke to the contrary.

“There is a problem. Maybe the culprits aren’t in this room…There is a problem out there, I promise you, because I deal with it.”

Oliver cited cases of a collapsed bridge and a county road left unsafe due to a layer of mud deposited on the roadway – both instances he said were caused by loggers.

Oliver told those present he felt the ordinance didn’t extend beyond the state law passed and attempted to express what he called the intent of the ordinance.

“I can say for Pike County (commissioners), all they’re interested in is notice,” Oliver said.

Johnson said the model ordinance, as written, goes far beyond notice.

“This is on your letterhead. You need to take it home and read it,” Johnson said. “I’ve had your employees ride up and tell us we can’t even work. If y’all act like that now, what’s it going to be like then.

“I’m hot because everyone in here’s life is on the line. You are not the law. Y’all work for us.”

Toward the end of the commission’s work session, Clifton spoke again to try and bring a feeling of unification back to the conversation.

“We’re not enemies here,” Clifton said. “Don’t turn into enemies. We don’t need to be crosswise with each other. We all want what’s best for Alabama and we’ve got a big job to do.”

There was no movement on the issue Monday since there was no official commission meeting.

The next Pike County Commission meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 14.