Jackson County Commission Chairman Bill Nance recently sat down with The Clarion Newspaper to discuss several topics concerning the county.
“I want to say thanks to the great work of all our employees across the county and all our departments. They come to work every day and are committed to the jobs they have to take care of our citizens,” Nance stated. “I’d also like to thank our commissioners for the work they do on these projects because it is their approval and their work and interest in getting these done for our citizens that makes them happen.”
Nance then discussed the $144,000 of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds allocated by the Top of Alabama Regional Council of Governments (TARCOG).
“These funds are allocated in support of our senior centers that are managed by our Council of Aging (COA),” Nance stated.
According to Nance, after COA Director Chad Coleman was in touch with the county’s senior centers, he presented a list that included such things as needed repairs, upgrades on air conditioning units, toilet/plumbing, kitchen, window repairs. There will also be exercise equipment, picnic tables, televisions and flower beds/flower pots for beautification.
Nance continued, “We have not yet used all of the $144,000, so we will continue to discuss with our senior centers and continue to do work for them.”
Nance then outlined other programs the county provides for its seniors, such as, serving an average of 4,800 meals per month across all senior centers in the county, assistance in understanding benefits available through Medicare or home health plans, the Senior Expo program to help seniors identify lower cost medications and/or the ability to get needed medications for free, a transportation system that serves all county seniors.
Next, the Wannville water project was discussed. According to Nance, last July citizens from the Wannville area attended a Commission meeting to express their need for clean water for drinking, cleaning, cooking and bathing. The citizens also provided the commissioners with samples of their water, which was clearly cloudy from silt and other contaminants. In conjunction with the Jackson County Water Authority (JCWA), the Commission was able to fund a program to run county water to that community.
“It’s been a pleasure working with the JCWA. In terms of the number of customers this will benefit, there are approximately 30 residential customers,” Nance stated. “We worked together with the JCWA to put together a request for bid. We had a number of contractors who submitted proposals, and the award was made to Bolt Contracting at a cost of $484,050.”
Nance also stated the Commission agreed to support the project with ARPA funds up to $375,600 on a 2/3|1/3 shared ratio with the Commission providing the 2/3, and the JCWA providing the remaining 1/3. According to Nance, construction began in April of this year, and as of the time of the interview, the project was 95% complete, leaving residents with clean water within two weeks.
Nance also stated that fire hydrants were another necessity for that community.
“There were five hydrants procured and have been placed along County Roads 46, 116 and 246. Thanks to Matt Hastings and thanks to the board for their participation and support in this,” Nance stated.
Nance also discussed the FEMA Mitigation Grant for five new storm shelters and stated the county has recently been notified the funds have been obligated for Jackson County.
“The storm shelters are about $100,000, and they’re about 48-feet long,” Nance stated. “They can serve up to 200 people and will be placed in schools across the county on school properties. The schools we have identified are Section, Pisgah, North Sand Mountain, Woodville and Skyline.”
Nance also updated on the Skyline Heritage Farms/storm shelter issue, wherein the proposed location for the new storm shelter was falling on the historic boundary, inciting a whole range of issues with the main being the cost for an archaeological survey before the shelter could be placed. EMA Director Paul Smith, after talks with Skyline School Principal Drew McNutt, was able to secure a new location for the storm shelter 200 yards away from the first proposed location. Another plus is the shelter will not be past the historic boundary and will still be on the Skyline School campus.
“We have submitted that new site plan to FEMA, and we expect they will approve that site plan,” Nance stated. “We are very pleased it appears this grant request is proceeding, and we’ll get the opportunity to place these five shelters across the county.” He also stated the shelters will be for students during school hours and for the surrounding community during all other hours of the day.
The EMA is also busy submitting for other grants and is hoping they will be approved. One is a homeland security grant for public information and warning systems.
Nance continued, “We want to upgrade the mass notification systems we have for this county, whether it is weather alert or evacuation notifications. Also, it would provide the ability to automatically set off the outdoor sirens rather than someone having to go set off the sirens.”
There is also a request for two mobile radio stations to be placed in EMA vehicles to improve communications with the county sheriffs and city police departments. The county is also working to acquire two upgraded weather cameras for Skyline and the Bucks Pocket area to give the National Weather Service (NWS) real-time information to aid in their early warnings.
Another grant applied for by the EMA will come from the Alabama Mountain, Rivers and Valleys Resource Conservation and Development Council. The EMA have applied for grants to purchase and distribute NOAH weather radios to place with highly vulnerable citizens, shut-ins and citizens in nursing homes.
Two new directors have been appointed by the Jackson County Commission. The first of which is Randy Grider, the new Sanitation Director. According to Nance, Grider brings experience working with Public Works, the County Revenue Department in Mapping and Appraisal, the county’s Sanitation Department as a clerk and later as a garbage collector/driver and lastly as the General Manager and Operations Manager for Southern Concrete Inc. There his responsibilities included sales, quality control, budget planning, contract management/execution, as well as all the day-to-day planning.
Next, Steven Pereira will take over as Director of Parks and Recreation. Pereira is a resident of Jackson County and a graduate of SHS and Northeast Alabama Community College. He is also retiring from the United States Navy and will bring a great deal of experience having served as Project Manager, planning schedules and ensuring maintenance performance, having led a team of 360 people and responsible for critical analysis of flight operations, operations management, strategic planning and personnel training.
The Jackson County courthouse is also undergoing updates to its HVAC system, including updates to its newest addition and the replacement of its other 1/3. Nance also stated the IT and communications system is getting an overhaul to better serve the county’s citizens. In addition, there will be some shoring up of the building’s foundation in the near future thanks to Senator Steve Livingston securing $500,000 in state funds to aid in that purpose.
While the building poses no imminent danger, these improvements will help ensure the historic landmark building will be around for many generations to come.
Nance stated, “We need to go get a professional service, and architectural firm, to help us put together a spec package and then go out on the street to identify contractors to help us do that.”
by Martha Smith