By Michelle Key

After the pledge and a prayer, Commission Chairman and Probate Judge Bill English opened the commission meeting with a tribute to late County Commissioner Johnny Lawrence. Lawrence died on July 31 from COVID-19.

“Johnny had a big ol’ heart for helping others, for serving others,” English said. “I first met a 24-year-old named Johnny Lawrence on a scuba diving trip in 1982. We were on the scene of a scuba accident in 1985 or 86 and Johnny took charge and ultimately led me to go to EMT school. I was elected in 2000 and Johnny helped me. Maybe me running led him to run for office much like he led me to be an EMT.”

Lawrence was first elected to the Lee County Commission in 2002, and was re-elected in 2006, 2010, 2014 and 2018. In addition to his 18 years of public service on the county commission, he served as a firefighter and paramedic with the City of Auburn for 29 years, retiring as a Battalion Chief in 2006 at age 48. He was heavily involved in various community organizations both local and statewide. At his death he was the Chairman for the Alabama Local Government Training Institute.”

English read a statement from the Lawrence family at their request.

“Our family would like to thank the citizens of Lee county for their prayers and support during Johnny’s almost 3-week-long battle against COVID virus. We have been tremendously touched by the outpouring of messages where people have shared how Johnny touched their lives and by the continuing prayers for our family. Johnny’s life was devoted to public service. First as a paramedic firefighter, then as an officer in the Auburn Fire Division and for the last 18 years as the commissioner for District 2. He believed with his whole heart that everyone could contribute in ways to serve others in Lee County, our state and our nation. The Lawrence family would encourage everyone to look for ways small or large to improve life in Lee County for all its citizens. Take the time to be a public servant in your own way. Finally, Johnny would remind us to wear our masks, wash our hands, practice social distancing and be kind to one another.”

“Johnny just amazed me with his knowledge and I always thought that little by little I could catch up with him, but I never did. Johnny was the one person that I could call and discuss things with that I did not understand and know that he would be honest with me. We did not always agree but we agreed to disagree and that was a great friendship and I will miss him dearly,” Commissioner Gary Long said.

The process to fill the seat left vacant by Lawrence’s death will be by appointment by the governor.

In new business, State Representative Debbie Wood and members of the Beulah community, including Tara Brumfield and Danielle Ritch, addressed the commission with their concerns on a proposed quarry site located within the Beulah community.

Following the discussion English presented the commissioners with a draft of a resolution formally opposing the location of quarries in Lee County for their review. District 1 Commissioner Shelia Eckman made the first motion to move the resolution to a vote with District 3 Commissioner Gary Long seconding the motion. The commission voted to approve the resolution.

Also during the meeting, Eagle Scout Taylor Brady was presented with a resolution honoring his accomplishment of earning the Boy Scout rank of Eagle Scout. Ryan Ketring was also a recipient of the honor but was unable to attend the meeting. Brady and Ketring’s project involved working in the County Line Cemetery. Together they cleared vegetation, installed signs and information boards, repaired a vandalized structure over a young girl’s grave and installed two benches. Following the completion of their project, some of the work was again vandalized and they worked quickly to get that fixed to preserve their work. One of the information boards was installed between the segregated areas of the cemetery recognizing the racial injustice inflicted upon those interred there.

In other business the commission:

– approved the minutes of the July 27 commission meeting

– voted to ratify and approve claims and Procurement card transactions from July

– held the first reading of an opening on Lee County Recreation Board – Mike Hollingsworth has submitted a citizen’s interest form

– heard an update on the Sand Hill Recycling Issue from Commissioner Richard LaGrand. LaGrand stated that he has met with the owners at Sand Hill Recycling. They have developed a proactive mitigation plan to help resolve some of the concerns addressed by the community around the recycling facility. According to LaGrand some of the completed efforts include: installing a wind sock to monitor the direction of the wind and adjust operations as needed, installing two buffalo turbine water misters to aid in controlling dust and odor in multiple locations, adding two water trucks on site to help control dust, cleaning the road and supplying water. They have installed a new fire hydrant, fly traps and 14-week block deodorizers to help combat the smell.

“I will continue to work with the owners, work with the residents to see what we can do to improve the quality of life out there,” LaGrand said. “I am proud to be a part of helping on the process.”

– voted to approve Commissioner Sam Long to be the ACCA’s ONE Voice Session Commission Representative

– held the first reading of five vacancies on the Lee County Cemetery Preservation Commission – the following eight people have submitted citizen interest forms:

  • Edna Ward (incumbent)
  • Arthur Lee Jones (incumbent)         
  • Tiffany Hilyer (incumbent) 
  • Talitha Norris (incumbent)
  • Carmilla Tindal (incumbent)
  • William Fred Woods
  • John Dale Rector     
  • Erica Ashley Hale

The commission voted to approve the five incumbents to fill the positions.

– County Engineer Justin Hardee presented a ‘Rebuild Alabama Act and County Transportation Plan’ as required for consideration and review before the next commission meeting on Aug. 31, at which time it must be voted on

– voted to authorize the commission chairman to execute a ‘High-Risk Rural Road Program’ funding agreement – the county was awarded approximately $200,000 through the program to upgrade the guardrail and end anchors at seven different bridges across Lee County

– Lee County Sheriff presented a request for a retail beer and retail table wine application for Corner Store in District 4. No second motion to approve the request was received so the commission did not vote on this request

– voted to approve four educational reimbursement requests presented by County Administrator Roger Rendelman

The Lee County Commission meets on the second and last Monday nights of every month. The next meeting will be Aug. 31.