The Etowah County Commission recently conducted its annual “passing of the gavel.”
At its Jan. 3 meeting, the commission named District 4 Representative Jeff Overstreet commission president for 2012. The council then presented 2011 president and district 6 representative Tim Choate with a proclamation recognizing his accomplishments over the past 12 months.
Overstreet noted that he and the commission’s biggest challenge is to keep the county’s finances under tight scrutiny.
“That seems to be the main issue that everybody’s focused on right now. The state’s talking about having a shortfall in revenue, and we inadvertently could be affected by that. So we’ve got to be prepared for whatever happens.”
Overstreet said that the national reports that the commission reviewed indicated that sales tax revenue was up during the holiday season.
“Our hope is that they’ll be some extra sales tax coming in for the county,” he said. “The biggest thing for us as a commission is to grow our county from an industrial standpoint, and trying to get jobs coming into the county. Mr. Choate is a retired banker, so this is something that he really knows a lot about.”
Among the commission’s accomplishments during Choate’s term as president that the proclamation included was the implementation of the Public Safety Interoperable System to faciliate county-wide emergency communications; the implementation of direct deposit for county employees (saving the county time and money on payroll processing); the implementation of FEMA relief programs in Etowah County for the victims of the April 27 tornado outbreak; the refinancing of 2003 warrants that saved the county over $100,000 in debt service expense; the implementation of a re-districting plan based upon the 2010 Census; the rolling over of a residential waste contract with Viola without an increase in service fees; the renovation of courthouse space to house ICE employees as part of the agreement to house ICE employees as part of the agreement to keep the ICE operations in Etowah County (a move which will generate an extra $56,000 annually in rental incomes for the county); and the implementation of a buyback program to reduce future liabilities and provide extra cash for county employees.
The proclamation also stated that under Choate the county ended the budget year with over $500,000 added to the reserve fund balance while maintaining general government growth of less than two percent in expenditures.
“It been a good year, a lot better than we thought it would be going in,” said Choate. “We were fortunate that we not only were able to stay in the black this year, but we also we able to once again put money in reserve. This goes back to everybody being on the same page. All of our elected officials worked on our budget and tweaked what was necessary. We had minimal damage in the eastern part [of Etowah County] when the tornado disaster hit in April, but it was devastating to the ones who did get hit, and we got on that quickly.”
Choate also helped negotiate a long-term contract with the Etowah County Sheriff’s Department that allowed department personnel the use of the county courthouse’s third floor for workspace.
“That helped keep about 57 people from losing their job, so we’re very excited about that,” he said. “We also didn’t have to lay off any workers during the year while other counties had to cut back on employees.”