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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

New County Commissioner Answers Questions

Fairhope, Alabama



NIX CENTER MEETING
Commissioner Elliot

Newly sworn-in District 2 Commissioner Chris Elliot met with and answered citizens' questions at the Nix Center last week.

He began by praising his predecessor Bob James for leaving office  early so that he could get an early start and help formulate this year's new budget.

Elliot: "A selfless act ... to let me get in and learn the ropes ...  set the budget for next year. It worked out well."

He said he has already cut 6.5 percent of "organic government growth" from this year's budget.


ROAD REPAIRS MAIN CONCERN

Elliot said he was somewhat surprised when he walked in to his first meeting and was told he was to be the Budget and Finance Committee chairman; but his education and background in business (owns Service Master businesses) had prepared him for the challenges ("interesting learning curve").

He said the county is like a "fairly complex corporation with 90 different companies (line items)."

This year's finances were "challenged" by one major occurrence: last Spring's storms and flooding caused $20 million in damages county wide, putting "strain on this year's budget ... a cash flow problem."

He said the good news is it had been declared a federal disaster allowing funding help to "come our way"; but the bad new is there will be a significant match required from the county (about $4 million).

Once the $20 million repair projects begin it will take about 6 months to get reimbursed, according to Elliot.


NEW ROAD PROJECTS NEEDED

Elliot said he was frustrated to learn that 82% of the county's fuel (gas) tax is dedicated just to paying the debt service on money borrowed by prior commissions for earlier road projects (re-paving, new roads, etc.);  that amount won't start to "roll off" for another 8 - 12 years.

Elliot said the state highway department (ALDOT)  had a budget of only about $100 million annually -- and Baldwin County alone needed $300 million for necessary projects now.

He said the alternative is "clogged roads" that may impede economic growth.


NEW FEES PROPOSED

Elliot said the commission is considering asking the state legislature next Spring to approve a $30 car tag fee increase -- to be earmarked for roads in the county that would raise about $7.5 million annually.

That would allow borrowing about $150 million (to be matched by the state) to finance the immediate road needs in the county.

Two specific projects were mentioned for the Eastern Shore area, widening Hwy 181 (four lanes) all the way down to Hwy 104 -- and an I-10 interchange at CR 13.


OTHER ISSUES

In answer to other questions:

1. He hopes BP Restore Act fine money could eventually be used for major regional storm water management.

2. Seeks to make the county's Wilderness Program (an alternative to jail) for troubled youth's as "revenue neutral" as possible.

3. Promised to look into fixing a pot hole on a road south of Fairhope.

4. Said he did not know when construction of the roundabout on Fairhope Ave. (@ CR 13) would begin.

5. Said he had not yet received a Meadowbrook-neighborhood petition for a sidewalk along Gayfer Rd. extension (east of bishop Rd.)






1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hwy 181 needs to be completed past 104. The State has already planned on a four lane to 104 so we should not have to pay for it.