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State Sen. Jerry Fielding, Commissioner Joe Faulk, State Sen. Barry Mask and Commissioner Earl Reeves discuss the city-county infrastructure plan presented by County Engineer Richie Beyer.
Commissioners and legislators gathered over a lunch of pork ribs and banana pudding to discuss the issues facing Elmore County.
The eighth annual Legislative Luncheon drew five of the six lawmakers who represent the county.
“We want to continue to stress the value and importance of a good working relationship with our legislators,” Chairman Earl Reeves said in his opening remarks.
Three house members and three senators represent portions of Elmore County, including Reps. Barry Mask (R-Wetumpka), Greg Wren (R-Montgomery) and Paul Beckman (R-Prattville), and Sens. Bryan Taylor (R-Prattville), Jerry Fielding (D-Sylacauga) and Dick Brewbaker (R-Montgomery). Only Beckman was absent from the meeting.
Reeves noted that, as the state’s fourth fastest growing county, cooperation with legislators is vital to handle the needs of a growing citizenry.
Mask attended the meeting wearing two hats, figuratively. Commissioner Joe Faulk shared with lawmakers the county’s economic development needs, but Mask, as executive director of the Elmore County Economic Development Authority, was involved on both sides of the table.
“We’ve got to get clear answers from (the Alabama Department of Transportation) on Highway 14 and malfunction junction,” he said, referring to 14’s troublesome intersection with Alabama Highway 143 in Elmore.
Mask said at least one major industrial prospect was lost due to the lack of a better east-west route across the county.
Mask was joined by Wren in stressing the value of a unified front when lobbying ALDOT to get the project moving forward.
“If we don’t bully someone it’s not going to happen,” Wren said, recalling a visit he and the late Rep. Jack Venable had with then-Gov. Fob James’ highway director.
“He said it was going forward, and had topos (topographical maps) and aerials and all that,” Wren said, “and that was 1995!”
Mask and Commissioner Mark Hragyil noted that in the past “it took a death to get anything done.”
The legislators were briefed on two pieces of legislation on which the commission needs their sponsorship and support.
The first was a bill to add a $30 court cost to all criminal, civil and traffic matters before the county’s district and circuit courts. Small claims court and “protection from abuse” cases would not be charged the extra fee. New Circuit Clerk Sharon Cables and Circuit Judge John Bush explained the need for added revenue. The clerk’s office, Bush said, is “severely and woefully understaffed,” at 61 percent of the needed staffing.
“We need these funds so we can continue to have court,” he said.
Cables said retired Larry Dozier estimated the new court costs could raise up to $480,000 per year, with half of it earmarked for the clerk’s office, and half for maintenance and upkeep of the judicial complex.
Faulk and Mask asked them to support a 4 percent lodging tax to provide a funding stream for ECEDA. Faulk estimated it would provide more than $300,000 to operate the county’s industrial and commercial recruitment arm.
Brewbaker said he could support both bills, but he’d like to make the revenue items “permissive,” that is to grant the county commission license to pass the fee and tax hikes themselves.
Other issues raised included the ongoing relicensing of Martin Dam, the need of a funding mechanism for the state’s disaster recovery fund, and support for the county recycling program, which hinges on a grant from the Alabama Department of Envi ron mental Management.
© 2013 Elmore County Economic Development Authority. All Rights Reserved.