Commission addresses inflation for Public Works

The Jackson County Commission approved a budget amendment for Public Works at the last regular meeting and work session held on Monday, July 11, 2022. Currently, because of inflation, Public Works is in need of $833,000 in funds to come from the county’s cash balance fund. The department has been hit hard with rising fuel prices and also rising prices for other equipment and supplies, causing a deficit only in what was originally budgeted. The commissioners approved the amendment.

Another resolution for Public Works was also approved to allow the acquisition and delivery of topsoil to the County Road 17 excavation material waste site in the establishment of permanent vegetation. According to County Engineer Jonathan Campbell, the topsoil was needed to allow for permanent vegetation to take care of the clean-up on the land used for waste during the County Road 17 repair. This will be done for the property owner, as they allowed the land to be used in assistance to the county.

The motion to approve and sign an agreement between the Commission and the State of Alabama relative to a pass through of federal funds for a rural area public transportation project was also approved. According to the Council on Aging Director, this is the usual agreement the Commission signs every year with the exception being a change on the funding. Before COVID, there was a 50/50 match to the funding. Because of the Cares Act, funding was paid for 100%. This year, it will be back to its original 50/50 match.

The commissioners and IT Director Ross Boydston discussed the best placement of cameras in the Jackson County Park area after the recent vandalism that took place in the restrooms. No decisions will be made as of yet as far as quotes on cameras and the exact locations since the County is awaiting the installment of the new Parks and Recreation Director Steven Pereira to further handle the situation, but wants everything put together and reviewed for all involved.

As far as the restrooms, the County is currently eligible to receive insurance coverage in the amount of $8,223.24. After their $5,000 deductible, that will leave $3,223 to go toward the repair and replacement of the fixtures and structures in the two bathrooms. After some discussion, the commissioners agreed to try to do as much in-house repairs as they could to help with the costs.

Also at the County Park, the floor repair at KC’s Bar-B-Q is now complete. In total, the county ended up saving an estimated $2,600 from the initial estimate. After an inspection, the subflooring was good, and the hardwood floor was replaced.

The commissioners also discussed proposed road repairs/chip seal with Campbell. In previous meetings, it has been determined that ideally the commissioners would like at least 25 miles of road paved/resurfaced each year. Campbell also provided the commissioners with a list of roads that need to be chipsealed, with that mileage equaling up to 50 miles. Campbell stated his crew would have to be expanded in order to accomplish this, as well as other equipment would have to be acquired. According to Campbell, three years of labor, plus adding an HMT II and HMT I to his crew, this would put three years of labor at $600,000.

“This sheet was a three-year component of labor,” Campbell stated, “and in order to achieve 25 miles per year, we feel like this additional crew will be required due to the fact that we’re only accomplishing about 10 miles now with in-house labor.”

The list was also broken down to $200,000 per year over the course of three years. Campbell also requested the Commission keep and maintain an additional $600,000 reserve in the event their revenue did not catch up with the proposed extended expenditure, as by then, they would be past the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) deadline. If the Commission used ARPA funds, they would come with an expiration date in which the funds must be designated by a certain date, and after that, they must be used by a certain date. All together, this time frame added up to three years as of the initial meeting.

“We’re talking about personnel and the challenges with one-time money that are represented [on the presented list],” Campbell stated. “If we go into funding personnel of that magnitude, then we would request that over the period of the three years. Then we would have that reserve to go through and reduce back down to a budget number that worked.”

Cambpell also stated that Public Works has only been able to afford 10 miles per year with current budgets including equipment, materials and labor. He also stated that up to this point, all of those components for 10 miles have been routinely coming from the Public Works budget. This leaves 15 proposed miles left to be resurfaced, and that leaves the Commission with figuring out how to pay for it.

Another option is to prepare the roads and have a contractor pave them.

“ARPA money has been put on the table for us to consider. We do need to look at the opportunity for that, but we also need to understand that ARPA funds are funds that have expirations dates for which we can use them for,” Chairman Bill Nance stated. “I do think we need to look at other opportunities, just put it all on the table and have a discussion about whether the opportunities can maximize the dollars that we can have.”

Nance continued, “We need to look at the other things we need to do in the county. We’ve got to fix this courthouse, we’ve got to fix the HVAC in this courthouse, we’ve got to do a number of things.”

Nance also stated that broadband is also an issue with 25% of the county still without broadband or being provided inadequate broadband.

Commissioner Jason Venable also stated his concern with helping people who do not currently have potable water.

“It’s going to cost a lot of money to get potable water to them. If we don’t do that now with this opportunity, it’s not going to be done. We’ve got this issue with Jackson and DeKalb Water Department. They’re needing $3.6million,” Venable stated.

Another option is to borrow against Rebuild Alabama funding, as there is usually a significant time gap before funds actually arrive. This sets projects back. Borrowing against what has been obligated frees up the funds sooner for the County. However, this does limit what can be done with the funds. The funds must also be spent in three years, and a percentage must be kept in the county to be used year to year.

The Commissioners are planning to dedicate an entire meeting to coming up with a funding solution and plan for all the issues it is currently facing.

 

by Martha Smith

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