Third sales tax meeting held Thursday night

Published 10:40 pm Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Chilton County Commission sponsored its third in a series of town hall meetings aimed at gauging public willingness for a one-cent sales tax to improve roads.

Commissioners and County Engineer Tony Wearren talked about the need for a 1-cent sales tax and how the money would be spent.

Attendance was down compared to previous meetings in Jemison and Clanton. About 10 people, other than the five commissioners present and Wearren, attended the meeting.
The county engineer talked about his department’s lack of funding and the problems caused by it.

He reviewed budget numbers similar to previous meetings, saying, if approved, the tax would generate close to $3 million a year for the road department.

Wearren said at the previous two meetings that if the sales tax increase passed tomorrow, it would take 42 years to resurface every road in the county—that doesn’t count paving dirt roads or keeping repaved roads up to standard. There are some 1,100 miles of county roads in Chilton.

He also talked about the number of bridges (21) rated for three tons or less — meaning school buses can’t pass over them. He said five bridges are currently closed in the county and that 18 bridges are 50 years or older.

Commissioners outlined a plan that 1/3 of the money would go toward paving roads and 2/3 would go toward new construction and bridges for the first 15 years. After 15 years, half of the money from both areas would go back to the road department’s operations budget to continue to upkeep the newly paved roads and buy new highway equipment.

Commissioners also stressed their plan would be earmarked solely for roads and the engineer’s department.

“The bill would be written so none of this money will go into the general fund,” said Commissioner Red Turnipseed.

Commissioners also stressed the importance of letting people vote on the matter.
“To me, it’s the right time to do it,” said Commissioner Heedy Hayes. “Let the people vote on it and see.”

“This one-cent sales tax is what’s best for the county, because it’s needed,” said Commissioner Allen Caton.

The next public meeting has been set for Aug. 19 at the Verbena Fire Department.