The August County Commission meeting saw a few property rezoning votes, approval to hire a new building inspector, a short discussion on the wheel tax, and a few words from departing commissioners.

The agenda and commissioners packet can be found here. Let’s take a look at what happened in this month’s commission meeting.

Building Inspector Position Approved

In the budget committee meeting earlier this month, Planning/Zoning Director Nancy Harris presented a request to hire a building inspector. It’s a request that was brought up in the last budget cycle but never gained approval. The committee denied the request with Commissioners Ogle, Cunningham, and Eubanks voting in favor of hiring the building inspector. Commissioners Graham, Reavis, Dangerfield, Bradford, and Bryant voted against.

During this month’s commission meeting, the funding request was made again. With the full commission voting, the motion passed at 18 yes votes. Commissioners Graham, Bradford, King, and Bryant voted no with Commissioner Malone abstaining.

Projected annual expenses for the new building inspector position come in at $60,598. The new position also brings an estimated $32,200 in one-time expenses for training, work vehicle, and office equipment.

When asked about the new position, Director Harris said:

“The importance of having an in-house county building inspector extends into several areas, the most prominent being:

As a participant in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), Lincoln County citizens enjoy a reduction in flood insurance premiums. Further, should we experience a natural flood disaster, the county is eligible for federal aid. As a participant, the county is required to conduct field inspections, cite, and remedy building or code violations. Neglecting to fully comply with our responsibilities places the county in jeopardy of being removed from the program.

The contract between the state and the county to provide building inspections is limited to residential structures, with inspections only on Tuesday and Thursday. The limited time frame places a burden on the builder to coordinate inspections with a progressive work schedule and the weather. With a county inspector, the number of inspections would be increased to verify observance to minimum requirements.

Commercial construction deemed exempt from State Fire Marshal approval does not require a permit and are, therefore, not inspected. This has always concerned me on a life safety level. With a county inspector, commercial construction would be inspected.

For the most part, codes are founded on in-depth studies of structure failures and loss of life.

Finally, the projected annual cost of a county inspector is less than what the county sends to the state for inspection services (based on the average fees collected within a 5-yr period). A county inspector would not only save money, but provide a higher level of inspections, include commercial construction, be more accommodating for builders, and meet the NFIP criteria.

The person who fills this position will be expected to be fair, honest, and compassionate. The goal is to achieve compliance by working together, not separately.”

Along with this new position in Planning and Zoning, the commission also approved two rezoning requests. One property on Huntsville Highway (near Palatec Manufacturing) as well as a second property at 3237 Huntsville Highway were rezoned for commercial development. Proposed plans show a car lot at the first location and a Dollar General at the second location.

Budgetary Votes

Outside of the funding for the new building inspector position, the commission considered eleven other budget amendments. Most notably on those:

  • Funding was approved for lighting repairs with the Courthouse Square Sidewalk Project. The amount approved is 1/3 of the cost not to exceed $17,800. Commissioner Ogle was the sole no vote.
  • The USDA lease of a building owned by the county was extended by two years (through 2020). The lease rate is set at $15/square foot, an increase from the current lease rate of $7.85/square foot.
  • A motion for re-roofing of the old city police building failed to pass.
  • A motion to transfer all cash from the Public Utility Sewer Fund to the Lincoln County Board of Public Utilities was approved. This transfer takes place on January 1, 2019.

Wheel Tax Discussion

Towards the end of the meeting, Commissioner Darrin Simms brought up the topic of wheel tax payments.Money collected from the wheel tax is used for funding local schools.

For the commissioners returning to serve another term, Simms suggested a look into how the wheel tax can be better enforced for parents registering vehicles outside of the county but enrolling their children in county schools.

Sheriff Murray Blackwelder pointed out that involving school resource officers isn’t a viable solution. The sheriff’s proposal was to tie vehicle registration to student enrollment registration. Blackwelder said, “There’s no way to enforce that law legally without it being tied to something to force their hand.”

No decisions were made by the current commission. But several returning commissioners seemed interested in looking at proposals in the coming months.

Commissioners Service Honored

With this meeting the last of the current commission board, Mayor Bill Newman honored nine commissioners for their public service. Commissioner Darrin Simms and Rick Head both delivered remarks thanking the board as well as other county employees they’ve worked with.

The full county commission meeting can be seen below. Mark your calendars for next month’s meeting on September 18th at 6pm.

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