Commission updates Etowah County budget ahead of fiscal year
(Messenger file photo)
By Emma Kirkemier, Editor-in-Chief
At its Sept. 6 meeting, the Etowah County Commission passed several budget amendments in preparation for its 2023 budget, which is due to be finalized early in the fiscal year, Oct. 1, 2022.
The commission first approved several maintenance agreements with private sector bidders. He also launched a new bid for a 2023 transit van for the Etowah County Sheriff’s Department, to replace the old jail transport van.
The county has entered into agreements with Albireo Energy and Tek84 for maintenance of detention center equipment. At the request of Probate Judge Scott Hassell, the commissioners created a part-time position for the Probate Court Security Officer.
The commission also renewed a county computer mapping project, 80% funded by the Alabama Department of Transportation ($8,000 from ALDOT and $2,000 from Etowah County).
The budget amendments mainly allocated external funding to several projects in order to eliminate these costs from the 2023 budget.
Etowah County Chief Financial Officer and Deputy Administrator Kevin Dollar submitted three amendments to the budget for approval. All were adopted, two of the three unanimously.
Dollar’s proposed amendment was approved to allocate $417,000 to reimburse ARPA state prisoners for equipment and maintenance costs associated with sheriff’s office body cameras and tasers. It 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 payment of recent election expenses, totaling $32,276, through full state reimbursement. It was adopted unanimously, with six of the 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 primarily from an increase in county sales tax revenue to $56,431. $ and $38,557 in state election dollars, totaling $94,988.
Although this amendment passed unanimously, it passed by five out of five votes, with Commission Chairman and District 2 Commissioner Johnny Grant abstaining from the vote due to conflict of interest. Grant is retired from the Etowah County Sheriff’s Office.
A purchase agreement with Axon Enterprise, Inc., for Sheriff’s Office Tasers and body cameras, was also in dispute. This agreement recorded the financial transaction that has just been authorized in the first budget amendment.
The above deal passed with five of the six commissioners, with Washington voting “no” in another roll-call vote.
Washington said he disagreed with the purchase because it was not necessarily the sole responsibility of the commission.
“There are no requirements,” said administrative director Shane Ellison. “This (the purchase of equipment and maintenance) is a political decision. You can all give 100%, or you can give 10%. If you did half of it, we’d probably end up having to budget the rest over the course of the contract, unless the sheriff agrees to pay (the other half).
The commissioners elected to pay 100% of the state reimbursement dollars.
“It’s just not a right or wrong question for me,” Washington said. “I think everyone should share the burden of what we have to take care of in this county, and I think when you have to keep going back and changing the budget, (it’s inefficient).”
District 6 Commissioner Craig Inzer, Jr. called for another roll-call vote for the public reading of an ABC license application.
Junavelli Winery has applied for a temporary license for the 2022 Wine Festival to be held October 5 at Wills Creek Vineyards. Board policy states that event-specific ABC requests should be read only once. Approval of the reading and license passed with a roll-call vote of five of the six commissioners agreeing and Inzer voting “no”.
“They bring in people from out of town to make money without having to read it twice,” Inzer said. “So what I’m saying is we’re putting a barrier (for local candidates).”
District 4 Commissioner Tim Ramsey argued that the temporary nature of event-specific ABC licenses is what warrants their one-time approval.
After the meeting, commissioners thanked attendees and county officials.
“Thank you all for being here because most of you can see that we don’t always get along here, but at the end of the day, we get things done,” District 3 Commissioner Jamie Grant said. .