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Council appoints 2 to city utilities board

For the first time since 2006, the Andalusia Utilities Board has a full slate of members.

The board has had only four members since the resignation of a board member in January of 2006. The city council last night filled that position, a term that would have expired in January 2007, with the appointment of Ricky Jones.

Jones has been on the board since its inception, but his term expired on Jan. 8, 2009.

The council appointed Jim Smith, the retired general manager of Southeast Alabama Gas District, to a six-year term on the board.

Mayor Earl Johnson recommended both appointments. Jones, he said, has experience “you can’t get except by being there.” Smith, he said, was general manager of a board very similar to Andalusia’s in Fitzgerald, Ga., before coming to Andalusia to run SEAGD.

“You would be hard-pressed to find anybody in Andalusia with more experience than Jim, including anyone we’ve got working for us,” Johnson said.

Councilman Will Sconiers abstained from both votes.

In a separate action, the council reappointed Jean Bishop to the library board.Mayor Earl Johnson said there has been a lot of talk about possible uses for the building, but no funding solutions.

“We really haven’t had anyone to step up and say, ‘here’s our plan, here’s the cost for those plans, and here’s what we as a group bring to the table to help with those costs,” he said.

Johnson said the city can’t afford to refurbish and operate the facility.

“We have other needs that outweigh that need,” Johnson said.

“We already spend almost as much on recreation as we do police,” he said, adding that the recreation budget includes cemeteries and other expenses. “But at some point, you have to say, ‘How much can we afford to do?’”

He said he is asking interested parties to come forward with proposals.

“We own the site, we want to restore it for use, and we’ve even gotten some grant money to use on construction,” he said. “It’s time to move on this and quit talking about it.”