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Calhoun commission may help fund small business relief during pandemic

Mountain of tasks awaits commission after 10-week hiatus

The countywide Small Business Relief Fund may receive another major contribution, this time from the Calhoun County Commission. 

Commissioners agreed Thursday to join the cities of Oxford and Anniston in donating to the fund, though the amount has yet to be set; leadership from the Calhoun County Chamber of Commerce, which organized the grant program, asked for $100,000, matching each city’s contribution. 

Linda Hearn, executive director of the chamber, said the goal is to reach $500,000, with 53 applications received as of Thursday morning. The money will be distributed in grants up to $5,000 after the application period ends Friday at 5 p.m., and provided to small businesses that have demonstrated need during the COVID-19 pandemic. Hearn didn’t have a breakdown of where applicants were located, she told commissioners, but she did say applications came from all over the county. Both cities stipulated that donated money go to businesses within their respective city limits. 

“We need to make sure we help Piedmont, Jacksonville, Ohatchee, Wellborn,” Hearn said. “We’re going to help everyone, everywhere.”

Mark Tyner, county administrator, wrote in a text message that commission Chairman Tim Hodges can now sign an agreement with the chamber when a finalized version is submitted, though the dollar amount had not been set. No stipulations had yet been written for any county donations, he wrote. 

The donation agreement, added just before the meeting, was among the first on a 25-item agenda that grew in the months since the pandemic began, at the first commission meeting — excluding a Tuesday work session in preparation for the monumental to-do list — in 10 weeks. Commissioners last met Feb. 27, just a few days after the federal Department of Health and Human Services canceled a plan to house quarantined cruise ship passengers in Anniston

Commissioner Eli Henderson joked during the meeting that he was glad to once again be able to tease his fellow commissioners, who were all in attendance.  The others, seemingly amused, agreed with mock hesitation. 

During its meeting, the County Commission also: 

— Extended a contract with the city of Anniston to house stray animals at the county animal control facility on Morrisville Road at the same $100-per-animal rate through Dec. 31. The city had considered switching animal housing services earlier this year when the county’s rate increased to $150 per animal

Residents of the city and its police jurisdiction, which extends 3 miles from city limits, will have to visit Anniston City Hall to pick up a voucher before they can surrender animals at the county facility, according to materials advertising the change

— Approved alcohol licenses for a Food Mart location on Alabama 204 in Wellington and Last Chance Lounge on Old Birmingham Highway in Anniston. 

— Accepted a bid from OD Security North America to install a new full-body scanner at the Sheriff’s Office for $118,750, used to identify concealed contraband. The previous unit is at least a decade old, Wade said. 

— Approved a bid from Oakwood Lawn Care and Landscaping for work at the county landfill for $320 per month, and $80 for each additional mow. Existing contracts with several other companies for various county facilities were also extended. 

— Contracted with GovEase Auction for an online tax sale set for June 9 for an amount determined after calculating auction sales. Tax sales are typically for the sale of tax deeds or tax liens on realty, according to the contract. 

Another contract, with Huntsville company G-Squared, will provide aerial photography for the office of the revenue commissioner at a cost up to $97,300. 

The fingerprint scanner at the jail, meanwhile, will be maintained by DataWorks Plus for $4,180 this calendar year, after a contract was approved for the work. 

A final contract with Southern Real Estate will allow the county to close on 80 acres of land about 4 miles northwest of Jacksonville, to be used as a chert pit for road projects, a project approved originally just before the pandemic struck. County attorney Gloria Floyd said the closing date will be no later than June 10. 

— Committed $69,798 to a rural public transit program in conjunction with the East Alabama Regional Planning and Development Commission, a program also paid for by participating municipalities and the state Department of Transportation. 

— Applied for $58,002 in grant money from the federal Department of Justice under the Coronavirus Emergency Supplemental Funding Program, to be used for COVID-19 prevention and management efforts at the jail, as well as grants through the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Alabama Secretary of State’s office. 

— Adopted an expanded version of the Family Medical Leave Act for eligible county employees who have been affected by COVID-19. The policy update includes various new qualifying reasons for missing up to 12 weeks of work during the pandemic. The expanded FMLA rules are valid through Dec. 31. 

— Appointed Don Killingsworth, acting president of Jacksonville State University, to the Anniston Museum of Natural History board; assistant district attorney Laura Phillips to the county Department of Human Resources board; and reappointed Brian Rosenbalm, county engineer, to the county Economic Development Council. 

Assistant Metro Editor Ben Nunnally: 256-235-3560.