Judge’s request denied

Published 3:00 am Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Pike County Commissioners voted 4-2 to deny Probate Judge Wes Allen’s request to move funds within his budget to secure legal counsel in case his office is named in a class action lawsuit regarding same-sex marriages.

Allen came before the commission during its last regularly scheduled meeting and requested permission to move the funds, but commissioners tabled the request. Allen returned Tuesday.“It is still to be determined if (the judge) she will certify all probate judges as a class for a lawsuit,” Allen said. “I feel like we need outside counsel and a legal representation for the probate office. I would ask for an official budget modification. This move will not require any additional funding. I just want to move funds from one line item to another.”

Allen said he hoped to secure counsel outside of the county with an attorney who had been involved with the same-sex marriage legal debate since it began.

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But commissioners, many still upset about Allen’s comments after their failure to act on his initial request, met Allen’s request with dissension as well as questions.

“You’re going out of this county to get a lawyer, and we have plenty of lawyers,” said Commissioner Ray Goodson, District 4. “I won’t support that. We have lawyers, and I don’t think this county should be getting a lawyer until it’s sued.”

District 6 Commissioner Joey Jackson voiced his concerns about allocation of money, as well as the comments Allen made concerning commissioners.

“We are policymakers of Pike County,” Jackson said. “We are trying to take care of Pike County’s money here, OK? We don’t feel like you need to take any money in your budget right now and retain a lawyer. No more and no less. The good thing about this you put in the paper is everybody in this county knows my stand on Jesus Christ and when they saw this, they said that man isn’t telling the truth.”

Commissioners also heard from David Helms, one of the Pike County residents spearheading the restoration effort for the Pike County Activities Center or the Rock Building.

Helms spoke to commissioners after his wife, Sherry, had been on the agenda at the council most recent meeting and asked commissioners to provide some insight of the course they hoped to be able to take with the Rock Building.

“The one thing I’ve learned over time is honesty, just tell people like it is,” Helms said. “I don’t want any comments back from you, but in a week or so I hope I could talk to Mr. Homer (Wright) or a representative from the commission so I can get some directions I can go back to our committee with.”

Helms said the grassroots restoration project had been started more than a year ago and hopes had been high at the time to restore the building. Since that time, the project had lost its luster and much of the community had hoped for more action by now.

“We came before you and asked what you guys thought about the building, did some fundraising, and we all got encouraged,” Helms said. “The committee got fired up… I don’t know that we’re any further along than we were a year ago.”

Helms left the podium saying he hoped commissioners would come back in a week and have a more concrete answer for him as well as the Rock Building committee.

Commissioners gave Helms no response at that time.Steve Brown, a Pike County resident who was unable to voice his concerns at the previous county commission meeting said he was voicing not only his concerns but others’ as well.

“One person said that most people that want money put money into the Rock Building hardly ever drive on county roads,” Brown said. “That may be true, may not. There are a lot of people in Troy for putting that money in to the Rock Building.”

Brown went on to commend the effort the commission had put forward by allocating $50,000 toward the restoration project but said what the county needed most now was cooperation amongst county officers, saying the building just needed far too much help at this point to do anything for it.

“This is what is called a blighted building,” Brown said. “It’s sat there and created environmental issues. It’s got lead, asbestos, mold. As far as the question about the roof, I don’t think it can be (fixed). Commissioner (Jimmy) Barron went with me and I had to pull him out. The fire did a lot of damage. Since that building was built in the 30s, there are new laws. That building will have to have an elevator by law. All of the bathrooms will have to be torn out. And, the fire marshal is more than likely going to require us to have a sprinkler system. I just can’t see us putting that money into it.”

Goodson said his hopes for the building would be to give it away to another agency who could better take care of and restore the landmark.

“I thought about it a lot, and I’ve always supported the Rock Building, but I don’t see how the county can build at this time,” Goodson said. “I’ll be willing to give it to the historical society, the City of Troy or anybody that wants it …. I’m not saying the county can’t support it come budget time. We might have it, we might not.”

Commissioners took no action on the Rock Building Tuesday, but i

n other items of business, the commission approved the minutes from its April 13 meeting and approved the claims.

The commission’s next meeting is scheduled for May 11 with a work session at 5:15 p.m. and the meeting at 6 p.m.