(Messenger file photo)
By Emma Kirkemier, News Editor
At its September 6 meeting, the Etowah County Commission passed several budget amendments in preparation for its 2023 budget, which must be finalized at the start of fiscal year on October 1, 2022.
The commission first approved several maintenance agreements with private-sector bidders. It also let a new bid for a 2023 transit cargo van for the Etowah County Sheriff’s Department, to replace the old prison transport van.
The county entered agreements with Albireo Energy and Tek84 for Detention Center equipment maintenance. At the request of Probate Judge Scott Hassell, commissioners created a part-time position for Probate Court Security Officer.
The commission also renewed a project for computerized mapping of the county, funded at 80 percent by the Alabama Department of Transportation ($8,000 from ALDOT and $2,000 from Etowah County).
Budget amendments chiefly allocated outside funding to several projects in order to eliminate those costs from the 2023 budget.
Etowah County Chief Financial Officer and Deputy Administrator Kevin Dollar put three budget amendments up for approval. All were passed, two of the three unanimously.
Dollar’s proposed amendment was approved to allocate $417,000 in ARPA state prisoner reimbursement for equipment and maintenance costs associated with sheriff’s office body cameras and tasers. This was the only contested amendment, with District 5 Commissioner Jeffery Washington voting ‘no’ and the other five commissioners voting ‘yes’ in a roll-call vote.
Another budget amendment documented the payment of recent election costs, totaling $32,276, by full state reimbursement. It passed unanimously, six of six commissioners voting ‘yes.’”
Dollar also requested that the county make a one-time cost of living adjustment payment of $95,188 for county retirees, to be paid mainly from an increase in county sales tax revenue at $56,431 and from $38,557 in state election dollars, totaling $94,988.
Though this amendment passed unanimously, it passed by a five of five vote, Commission President and District 2 Commissioner Johnny Grant abstaining from the vote for conflict of interest. Grant is a retiree of the Etowah County Sheriff’s Office.
Also contested was a purchase agreement made with Axon Enterprise, Inc., for sheriff’s office tasers and body cameras. This agreement enacted the financial transaction just authorized in the first budget amendment.
The above agreement passed with five of six commissioners, Washington voting ‘no’ in another roll-call vote.
Washington said he disagreed with the purchase because it was not necessarily the responsibility of the commission alone.
“There is no requirement,” explained Chief Administrative Officer Shane Ellison. “This (equipment and maintenance purchase) is a policy decision. Y’all can give 100 percent, or you can give 10 percent. If you did half, then we would likely end up having to budget for the rest of it over the course of the contract unless the sheriff agreed to pay (the other half).”
Commissioners elected to pay 100 percent from state reimbursement dollars.
“It’s just not a right or wrong issue to me,” Washington said. “I think that everybody ought to share the load of what we have to take care of in this county, and I think when you have to keep going back and amending the budget, (that is ineffective).”
District 6 Commissioner Craig Inzer, Jr., requested another roll-call vote for the public reading of an ABC license application.
Junavelli Winery applied for a temporary license for the 2022 Wine Festival to be held October 5 at Wills Creek Vineyards. Commission policy dictates that event-specific ABC applications only need to be read once. The reading and license approval passed with a roll-call vote of five of six commissioners agreeing and Inzer voting ‘no.’
“They’re bringing in people from out of town to make money without having to read it twice,” Inzer said. “So my point is that we are putting a hindrance (on local applicants).”
District 4 Commissioner Tim Ramsey argued that the temporary nature of event-specific ABC licenses is what warrants their one-and-done approval.
After the meeting, commissioners thanked attendees and county officials.
“Thank y’all for being here because most of you guys can see that we don’t always get along up here, but at the end of the day, we get things done,” said District 3 Commissioner Jamie Grant.