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Commission split on new administrator hire

The commission took a vote Monday night to name a new county administrator, but came to a disagreement on which candidate to select.

Three commissioners – Homer Wright, Jimmy Barron and Charlie Harris – voted to hire Dr. LaKerri Mack to the position. The other three – Robin Sullivan, Chad Copeland and Russell Johnson – voted to hire McKenzie Wilson for the role.

With both votes failing to gain a majority, neither candidate was hired.

County attorney Allen Jones said he will now look at the county’s procedures for a tie vote, which he has said in the past would result in the item remaining on the agenda until the commission can resolve the stalemate.

Mack is the board director of the Boys and Girls Club of Pike and Surrounding Counties and a Troy University professor with an educational background in public administration, public policy and criminal justice.

Wilson has been employed by the commission for the past 20 years Spending the last 13 in human resources and the previous five years as assistant to former administrator Harry Sanders, who retired in March.

Since Sanders retired, Wilson has served as the interim administrator.

The commission reached the impasse after discussing the vote in executive session to preserve good name and character. The commission spent an hour behind closed doors to discuss the hire and a request from Kimber Manufacturing for a 10-year property tax break in addition to a 10-year abatement already granted by the City of Troy on all city, state and county property taxes.

Troy Mayor Jason Reeves and Ted Clem, director of business development for the Alabama Department of Commerce, encouraged the commissioners to grant the extra tax breaks to the company.

“The state offered and the company requested the abatement under a fairly new law that was made in 2015,” Reeves said. “The initial investment is going to be over $100 million. When you talk about incentives and things of that nature, that’s a huge impact on the economy … The state worked real hard to put that deal together. We’ve come here to humbly ask that you all approve the abatement so we can move forward … This is not something we would ask for very often. This was used because this is a special project with a large payroll.”

Clem said other states such as Georgia have offered up to 30 years of property tax abatements to companies, so Alabama needed to offer more abatements to stay relevant when seeking to recruit industries.

The commission had no issues out of executive session making the vote to approve the abatements: the vote was unanimous.

In other business, the commission:

  • Approved the vacation of County Road 1109, which the commissioners said was being used as a private drive and in all intent was no longer a public road, but had not yet been vacated by the county officially.
  • Approved the repaving of a strip of County Road 5515 at Banks School at the request of parents and staff hoping for smoother entry and exit at the school. County engineer Russell Oliver said the repaving is an uncommonly affordable project for the road department.
  • Nominated Chad Copeland to serve again as the commission representative on the Association of County Commissions of Alabama legislative committee.
  • Signed a certificate that the county does not anticipate needing to borrow more than $10 million for the remainder of the calendar year. The certificate signing was requested by the Pike County Water Authority to move forward on a loan and grant to expand their services. The county is not involved in the funding.

The commission was originally scheduled to hear a report from TCU Consulting Services on the jail feasibility study, but cofounder Ken Upchurch could not make it to Troy due to family emergency and has rescheduled with the commission to appear at the Monday, July 9 meeting.

The commission will meet upstairs at the Pike County Health Department. The work session will begin at 5:15 p.m., followed by a business meeting at 6 p.m.