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County makes plan to fund resurfacing of local roads

The Pike County Commission is working on a plan to free up $1.2 million over two years to go towards resurfacing local roads.

Commissioners Russell Johnson, District 6, and Chad Copeland, District 4, have been working on finding a way to use money that is currently in the reserves or shifting things so that money that is earmarked toward something else can go toward local roads.

“We have $7.1 million in local roads that we can not spend federal highway money on,” Johnson said. “And we fell like only one or two of them are possibilities for getting CDBG grants. So 85 percent of the work we need to do has no money allocated toward getting that done.”

Copeland said the process that he and Johnson have been looking at is “extremely complicated” and will be spending the next week trying to get out more details through the county office on the plan so that it can be voted on next Monday.

“As Chad and I started looking through some of this, we’re telling people we’re broke and for the most part, that’s the gospel truth,” Johnson said. “This won’t fix all our problems, but we may be able to move forward and make some progress and begin chipping away at this and show that we are capable of this when we have the resources…

“We can also use this as an educational tool to the people of this county as they see the work we’re doing that we can get it done and here’s why we need the revenue.”

The commission tackled the issue as part of its budget hearing Monday, while also analyzing annual appropriations and discussing the priorities of allocating money.

One of the biggest decisions that the county had before it was the fate of their part in the Pike Area Transit System (PATS). The commission had previously called for a public hearing with the cities of Troy and Brundidge to discuss potentially pulling out of the program.

The commission changed course however last Monday, as Johnson stated the commission needed to take more time to look at the program in detail before making a decision.

“When we sat down with (Troy mayor Jason Reeves), we realized there was no way to get our questions properly answered prior to the public hearing,” Johnson said. “So the mayor offered to pay all of our portion of administrative costs for a year to keep us funding it for another year while we get those answers.”

With the administrative costs removed from the county’s responsibility, the total contribution to the program dropped from $97,000 to $81,500 for the year.

Sheila Bradbury, a concerned resident that said she relies on PATS, offered up a petition to the commission with over 200 signatures to the commission to keep the program going.

“A lot of people that use the system got really upset,” Bradbury said. “We didn’t know what (the county) was going to do with it. I just wanted y’all to know there are people out there that are hurting and they need it. I’m just trying to make sure the people out in the county got what they needed, and they need this bus.”

PATS wasn’t the only program that the county considered reducing or eliminating their contribution toward.

The county discussed a request from the Pike County Extension Office for an additional $17,500, a request from Cancer Wellness for an additional $1,000 and a $10,000 appropriation to the Boys and Girls Club.

Copeland said he wanted more information about the funding for the extension office and where money would be cut if the county did not give the additional money. Johnson said he believes the 4-H program is an important in-route to get students into forestry and agriculture and needs funding.

The commission also anted more information on what the $3,000 total would go toward for the organization and whether the PATS program could fill the gap if the program was not funded.

“I guess the underlying point to all of this is that our budget is such that $3,000 makes a difference,” Copeland said.

“We can’t take anything for granted in our budget,” Johnson said. “We struggle funding the things we are mandated to fund; $3,000 means a lot to us.”

Johnson said he would consider cutting the funding out for Boys and Girls Club as well because the organization has not submitted a request for any funding this year, but Copeland said the director of the organization may be brought in Monday to speak on behalf of the program.

Commissioner Charlie Harris, District 5, said he is for cutting funding of the organization because it receives other outside funding.

“I’ve always wanted to cut these folks because they’re getting funded by other entities,” Harris said. “They’re double dipping from the county. We’ve got to use that money on roads and bridges and emergencies; there are things we need to do ourselves instead of giving our money away.”

The commission will meet again next Monday, September 25 to finalize the budget for the upcoming fiscal year immediately following their regularly scheduled meeting.

The commission will meet for a work session upstairs at the Pike County Health Department at 5:15 p.m. and will meet at 6 p.m. for their business meeting before entering the budget hearing.