EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been updated to reflect that the projects approved by the commission Monday night can't go forward until at least January, after the special election to fill the state House seat formerly held by the late Rep. Ron Johnson.
TALLADEGA COUNTY -- The Talladega County Commission during its regular meeting Monday night voted unanimously to approve four projects totaling more than $700,000.
The projects were recommended by the county’s Economic Development Authority using money from the countywide 2 cent sales and use tax.
According to County Administrator Pat Lyle, the projects approved Monday are the first 2 cent sales and use tax projects in almost two years.
In 2018, the County Commission and the city of Lincoln disagreed over the disbursal of infrastructure funds from the 2 cent sales and use tax proceeds, leading to litigation. The 2 cent funds can’t be used without permission from the county’s legislative delegation, according to state law.
The law governing the fund, which had not been amended in two decades, required one state senator and at least two state house members representing Talladega County to sign off first. At the time, the county only had one senator and three representatives.
After redistricting, however, Talladega County came to have four senators, none living in the county, and four representatives. The number of senators fell to three while the case was pending.
Former Circuit Judge Julian King wrote a decision requiring the entire Senate delegation to approve projects ahead of time, along with two representatives. This decision was overturned by the state Supreme Court early this year, although the high court did not replace it with anything.
According to Lyle, that changed recently when another court decision laid out a procedure for infrastructure projects.
The projects themselves still originate with the EDA, but they are then sent to the commission for approval. Then, the proposal goes to the Legislature, where it must be approved by two members (of either house) who live in Talladega County.
At the moment, Lyle continued, there is only one legislator living in Talladega County, Rep. Steve Hurst, R-Munford. Rep. Ron Johnson, R-Sylacauga, passed away over the summer, and a special election to fill his seat will not be until January.
Both the Democratic and Republican nominees in the special election to fill Johnson's seat, set for January, are from Sylacauga. For the projects approved by the commission Monday night to go foward, they would have to OK'd by both Hurst and the winniner of January's election.
Specifically, the commission approved $75,000 to hire a professional engineering company to conduct a study of water systems in the county, $15,000 to reimburse the Talladega Municipal Airport Board for work done on the water tower, $177,870 for the Sylacauga Utilities Board to extend water lines and provide service in unincorporated areas and $444,106 to connect and “loop” water lines in Munford.
The $75,000 project involves “evaluating all the water systems in the county, to improve their interconnectability and infrastructure,” Lyle said. “We need to have a road map going forward.”
The $15,000 will go to the airport board for work that has already been done, while the $177,000 project will be to help families previously served by wells outside of Sylacauga that have collapsed.
The last project involves connecting two separate halves of Munford’s water system near Prieb’s Mill Road to provide greater reliability and efficiency.
Also during Monday’s meeting, the commission:
Approved a 1.6 percent cost of living increase for garbage pickup service, an increase from $13.93 to $14.15 per household per month;
Approved an alcoholic beverage license for Grandstand RV Park;
Authorized County Engineer Shannon Roberts to sign a licensing agreement for Diversified Computer Services LLC software in the Road Department;
Scheduled a public hearing for Oct. 26 at 5:45 p.m. to discuss vacating part of Lions Road in Munford
Opened and tabled highways bids for the coming fiscal year;
Approved setting the commission’s organizational meeting for its new term for Nov. 11, in spite of that being a federal and state holiday. A time for the meeting was not decided however;
Heard a presentation from Walter Lewis of Piper Sandler regarding bond refinancing, but took no action;
Announced community cleanup days in the Walco Community on Sept. 19 and Winterboro on Sept. 26; and
Announced a work session and regular meeting for Monday, Sept. 28 at 5 p.m.