Barron: ‘We’re strapped’

Published 3:00 am Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Pike County commissioners say they know the need for additional emergency communications equipment in the northern areas of the county, but the $1.4 million in unbudgeted road and bridge repairs leaves no funds available to help.

John Register met Monday with the commissioners on behalf of Pike County Fire and Rescue with a request to help expand the communications system used by the Pike County Firefighters Association.

“We’re asking for $3,500 this year to purchase the equipment and then $3,000 a year after that to help with maintenance,” he told the commissioners. “As you know, we live off the tobacco tax, and it’s dwindling.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

“Our departments are only getting $1,000 each this year.”

The funds are needed to help purchase new repeaters for the water tanks at Ansley and Sandfield, both designed to help better serve the northern reaches of Pike County which “get no communication whatsoever,” Register said.

And while commissioners agreed with the need – “sometimes you can’t even get phone service up there,” said Homer Wright, District 1 – the funds just aren’t available.

“I’m sure you’re aware of the damage to our county roads,” said Jimmy Barron, District 3. “We’ve got $1.4 million in damages … and we’re strapped.”

The damages stem from the late December weather event that saw more up to 15 inches of rain fall in areas of Pike County over a six-day span. County Engineer Russell Oliver said crews have identified 175 different sites of water damage to roads and bridges, and 11 roads remained closed to traffic. Estimates to repair and restore the sites will be nearly $1.4 million, and the county has made an appeal through FEMA and the Alabama EMA for funding assistance.

“We can’t do anything about Mother Nature, but in the future we might be able to help, ” said Charlie Harris, District 5, who pledged $100 from his discretionary fund to help with the purchase. Wright pledged $500 from his discretionary fund and commissioners Robin Sullivan and Barron both said they would make contributions, as well.

“I hope we can revisit this when we get through with all this (road repair),” Sullivan said.

Register thanked the commissioners for their support and told them the group is committed to purchasing the much-needed equipment. “We’re going to the communication system in place, one way or another,” he said. “We may have to borrow money from the bank and hope they’ll work with us on repaying it.”

In other business on Monday, the commissioners:

• Approved Oliver’s request to extend the temporary, part-time employment for two individuals in the road department for another six months.

• Approved Oliver’s request to add both a full-time and a part-time operator to the road department staff.

• Heard an update from Oliver on the status of county roads and repairs. Oliver said the county has submitted information to both the Federal and Alabama Emergency Management Associations and a joint report will be sent to the governor’s office and to the president as a request for federal aid. “I think they agreed with us, as anybody would, about the extent of the damage,” Oliver said.

As for repairs, he said restoration of all roads and bridges will take a minimum of six months. “That’s at a minimum” he said. “We are working to get everything restored back to pre-disaster condition and we hope everybody will be patient with us.”

• Heard a report from Oliver on the Community Development Block Grant. “As you know we’re finishing up one now,” he said, adding that the public hearing to close out the CDBG will be held at the commission’s Jan. 25 meeting.

• Received a request for an off-premises retail beer license from Fue Kong LLC. The business will be located at 5284 Highway 87 in Troy. The public has 30 days to offer comment.