HEFLIN — The Cleburne County Commission voted unanimously Thursday to buy out the contract of county Administrator Steve Swafford.
Commissioner Laura Cobb said she was looking forward to a personnel change.
Swafford attributed the break to “different values.”
The amount agreed on between lawyers representing Swafford and the commission was “50 cents on the dollar” totaling $88,701, according to a resolution the commission passed. Swafford’s contract began on Sept. 8, 2008, was renewed in 2013 and was to expire later this year. He’s a 25-year employee of the county; his last employment day will be Monday.
Swafford, who did not attend the meeting Thursday night when the vote was taken, said later by phone that he initiated the buyout process back in June. The sum will give him the freedom to pursue other opportunities he has been working on in the past few months, he said.
“I am quite pleased with the results,” Swafford said.
Swafford said his quarter-century working for the county has placed him in several different capacities, including emergency management, personnel and human resources.
“The county and I have been through a lot of things together — the snow storm of ’93 which occurred just four months after I began — Hurricane Opal and countless other disaster declarations,” Swafford said.
After the meeting, Cobb said she was pleased that the contract was bought out.
“I think it’s a good thing that we make a change and get people in here we all can work together to make the county better,” Cobb said.
Swafford said in the phone interview, “I think we have significantly different values as far as roles in the public service.”
Besides being county administrator, Swafford was also the Emergency Management Director for the county. The commission unanimously passed another resolution naming Crystal Cavender to a new position of Emergency Manager. This position is a merger of the 911 directorship — her position — and the Emergency Management Director.
Cavender said after the meeting that she was ready to get to work.
“Our short-term goals are to integrate our 911 department with the EMA and we’ve been in a lot of training for several years for this day and we’re just excited to get started,” Cavender said.
The commission unanimously voted to name county Finance Officer Kim Brown as the interim county administrator until a permanent one is hired.
In another item from the meeting agenda, Dr. Christy Hiett, with the nonprofit group Cleburne Cancer Concerns, talked to the commission about what’s known as a “cancer cluster” in Fruithurst. Hiett is the principal of Fruithurst Elementary and is aiding with research to find the causes of a concentrated number of cancer cases in Fruithurst.
Hiett said that four young males and four middle-aged women all came down with cancer in a very short amount of time.
“So there were eight cases very, very quickly so I knew then something had to be done,” Hiett said.
Hiett said there will be a community meeting at which results of previous testing, done by researchers from Auburn and the Center for Disease Control, will be presented.
“We actually work in conjunction with an epidemiologist at the CDC — his name is Dr. Frank Bove — and he says we do have a classic case of a cancer cluster,” Hiett said.
“Out of 10 homes on County Road 91, there’s nine cases of cancer all along a little stretch of the county road within one half mile of each other,” Hiett said.
Hiett said over 25 soil samples and 30 water samples from wells have been tested in the area. At the meeting the group will discuss the next steps for remediation of people who are either on well water or cancer patients who are on county water or municipal water.
Hiett and the commission also talked about a huge tire dump in the area which could be a factor. Hiett said that more than 1,000 tires are there now; in the past there were “tons of burning of those tires” and the ash has leached into the ground and the groundwater. The ash piles have been tested, according to Hiett.
The commission unanimously voted to support the Cleburne County Water Authority to apply for an addendum to an existing Community Development Block Grant to provide money to at-risk residents who are on well water to get them connected to the county water supply. The well water has been deemed to be “potentially detrimental to the health of Cleburne County citizens” according to the resolution.
The next commission work session will be on Feb. 5 at the Mountain Center and the next meeting will be on Feb. 12. Both meetings are at 5 p.m.