by Greg Markley

Political Writer


There was mixed news for 300-plus Lee County employees at Monday’s county commission meeting. They will receive a 3.38 percent cost of living adjustment, their first since October 2008. Yet there will no merit raises due to the struggling economy and weak growth in revenue. Fiscal Year 2012-2013 expenses are expected to be $32,235,059. Appropriation Contracts, Government Service Agreements and Contract for Services remain at level funding. Two exceptions: The Lee County Humane Society gets a 5.48 percent increase, because the county has pound services mandated by law; and the Lee Russell Council of Governments secures $18.45 more for transportation planning, transit programs, offers for the aged, and grant application assistance programs.

“This is my 17th budget between here and Mobile County (where he served as finance director),” explained Roger Rendleman, Lee County administrator. “In the past, we had a process where we spent a lot of time on smaller issues. But now we ask commissioners: ’Who do you want to hear from?’ We look at the overall big picture, instead of spending 45 minutes talking about a $1,000 budget line item.”

The largest expenditure falls under the category of General Fund. Revenues there are approximately $25 million while expenditures exceed $21 million. The RRR Gasoline Tax Fund lists $3,130,836 in expenditures with revenues of $2,689,315. Rendleman said county departments do a fine job of providing him with the data necessary to build the budget.

“I have not had to beat anybody up to get the data,” Rendleman said. “We do only what we can afford to do. That is good as much as it forces us to be more innovative.”

Despite having just two Human Resources employees, Rendleman said a strong effort is made to educate county workers about commission actions affecting them. Personnel items are announced through the employee newsletter for the 300-plus employees. He noted that, without merit pay, employees can still earn a dividend if they perform to a high standard. “Employees still need that feedback,” Rendleman concluded. “We award extra leave days instead of merit pay, at present. There is some value to that extra day off.”

Commissioners also learned that East Alabama EMC and Care Ambulance had worked out an agreement on working together to serve ambulance service needs in the Smiths Station Volunteer Fire District. They also agreed to continue gathering data over the next three months before drawing the precise line to divide service areas between the two ambulance services.

Smiths Station volunteer firefighters seemed pleased with these developments. SSVFD Captain Daniel Sexton said, “We feel like this is great first step to getting to where we wanted to go.” (That’s quicker response time for ambulance services in the Smiths Station area.)

Lee County Sheriff Jay Jones introduced Major Jeff Pitts as his new chief deputy, replacing Major Tommy Carter who recently retired. Pitts is a Lee County native, a 1991 Beauregard High School graduate, with 19 years of service in the Lee County Sheriff’s Office. Pitts came to the office as a 19-year old communications officer and became a deputy under the late Sheriff Herman Chapman.

Actually Major Pitts’ entire family has quite a tradition of service to Lee County. Jeff’s mother was a long-time employee of the Highway Department and, in addition, his grandfather, an uncle and a sister have all worked for that department.

In other action, the Lee County Commission:

– Approved County Engineer Hardee’s proposal to apply for second round funds from the Alabama Transportation Rehabilitation and Improvement Program (ATRIP) to widen and resurface Lee Roads 146 and 158, a total of 16 miles of county road. LR 146 is also known as Moore’s Mill Road and would include that part from the Auburn City limits to AL Hwy. 169.

– Authorized a Federal Aid Agreement for upgrading Stop and Stop Ahead signs on all major county roads. Funding will be a 90 -10 cost sharing with the county required to provide $4,740 of the total $47, 408 cost of this project. The signs will be slightly larger and substantially  more reflective.

– Reappointed Opelika Police Chief Tommy Mangham and Smiths Station resident Mary Henry to the County Emergency Communications (911) Board; appointed Newell Floyd and Steve Penland to replace John and Faye Ross on the Cemetery Preservation Committee; and appointed Wendy Simpson of Loachapoka to the County Recreation Board.

– Approved distribution of  review copies of the proposed new County Building Code.

– Approved a lounge retail liquor license for the Villa Cafe on AL Hwy. 169.