Council OKs Utilities Changes

Published 1:47 am Wednesday, October 8, 2008

When Earl Johnson is sworn in as mayor of Andalusia in November, he’ll also become chairman of the Utilities Board.

The Andalusia City Council ratified changes to the Utilities Board structure first approved by the board last week and altered slightly in a special called meeting before Tuesday’s council meeting.

Last week, the Utilities Board unanimously agreed to amend its articles of incorporation to make the board a six-member unit with the mayor serving as chairman. Yesterday, they agreed the board should remain a five-member unit, but proceeded with its recommendation that the mayor should be chairman.

Johnson said the change was made after questions arose about the legality of a six-member board. He said city attorney Tom Albritton raised questions to Utilities Board attorney Jim Sledge of Tuscaloosa about language in the Code of Alabama allowing the proposed six-menber form. Johnson said the language is unclear, but all involved agreed that establishing a five-member board with the mayor as chairman erased any legal questions.

In presenting the proposal to the Andalusia City Council, the mayor-elect said, “I made no secret of the fact that we needed to amend the by-laws to reflect the mayor serving as chairman of the Utilities Board. As a matter of fact, I believe Mayor Andrews said he agreed with me when we had our debate.”

Johnson said the other issue clarified by the changes is membership on the PowerSouth board of directors. In the measures approved last night, the mayor and one at-large member of the Utilities Board will serve on the PowerSouth board. The three at-large members will rotate in two-year memberships on the PowerSouth board.

Johnson said “everyone has given some” in the negotiations to put the changes together. “Now, the at-large members rotate the chairmanship of the (Utilities) board. I’ve been the mayor and I know what goes on. This is the best way I can see to get it done.”

While Andrews, who lost to Johnson in August, also stated in his campaign that the mayor should serve as chairman of the Utilities Board, he didn’t want the current council to approve the changes in its next-to-last meeting before leaving office.

“Why the haste,” Andrews asked. “This is a lame duck council.”

Andrews said, “At least four around this table won’t be here. The incoming administration is left out.”

Council members Bridges Anderson, Andy Alexander and Mike Jones all expressed support for the changes.

Terry Powell, who is the only current council member returning to office when the new administration takes over next month, said, some of the changes have been discussed among council members for at least two years.

“If I have learned anything in my four years on this council, it is the fickleness of politics,” he said. “I’ve said all along the changes needed to take place in this administration and become effective with the next.”

Powell said he wouldn’t pass up the opportunity to resolve the issues when the council had the votes to do so.

The changes were approved.