County modifies take-home truck rules

Published 11:59 pm Monday, February 23, 2009

After a nearly 40-minute discussion at Monday’s commission meeting, the county made only one change to a proposed policy affecting take-home vehicles and lunch breaks for those employees who use them.

At a previous meeting, Commissioner Harold Elmore proposed a policy that would prohibit road department employees from taking county-owned vehicles home at night, as well as require them to bring sack lunches to job sites and make it mandatory they leave the county yard at 6:30 a.m., instead of the previously approved 7 a.m.; however, that decision was touted as a “bad one” by 3 p.m. that afternoon when Chairman Lynn Sasser said in a telephone interview that the commission’s decision “needed further discussion” since commissioners “looked at it in a different light.”

Sasser said not enough time and thought was placed into the motion “since at the time it was made, it was aimed at the road department,” but in actuality unfairly targeted those employees.

“One thing should be made clear that when we began trying to implement that policy it was unclear how it would affect the departments — take for example, the Sheriff’s Office,” said county administrator Brenda Petty. “They are on call 24 hours a day. It’s not feasible to put them out. We just didn’t know how to make it work for everyone, so we decided to discuss it some more.”

Initially, Elmore proposed a six-mile round trip limit on lunch trips, but commissioners agreed 10 miles would be more applicable, instead of the previous policy limiting lunch breaks to a 20-mile round trip. The policy applies to all county departments, with the exception of law enforcement.

“When I pull up to a restaurant, I like to see a deputy car sitting there,” Commissioner Carl Turman said. “I think that’s a good thing. When people pull up to a restaurant and see a county maintenance truck, it makes them wonder. This policy is certainly designed to stop misuse of county vehicles. I think this will solve the problem.”

Petty said it will be up to department heads to enforce the policy.

Elmore also asked that commissioners mandate a starting time of 6:30 a.m. for all road crews. However after a review of the previously adopted workday and time policy, it was determined that the point was moot since it mandated road employees to be at the county yards no later than 6:30 a.m. and depart by 7 a.m.

Before making his final vote on the policy change, Commissioner David Ellis questioned engineer Darren Capps how much longer it would be before the conversion to the unit system was completed.

“I’d really like to get your ideas and how this falls in with your plan,” Ellis said.

Capps said he still felt like it would be three to four months before he would be ready to make the transition and “there are a couple of projects I’d like to be done with (before the move).”

“Those projects are going to continue on, and I’d hate to see that hold us up,” Ellis said.

The commission also approved a resolution to send to Montgomery to make the change to a unit system into law and a resolution to change the meeting schedule to only the second Monday of each month. The change is effective in April. It also included a provision that will not allow any item not on the day’s agenda to be voted upon, unless by unanimous agreement. All persons wishing to be on the agenda must notify the county administrator by 5 p.m. the Wednesday before the meeting. This change is effective immediately.

In other business, the commission:

heard from Barbara Knight, director of the Southeast Alabama Regional Council on Aging (SARCOA) Senior Aide Program, on the benefits of the county’s participation in the program.

appointed Ralph Rutherford to the Covington County Water Authority Board.

adopted the Alabama Beverage Control Board’s county fee schedule for the 2010 fiscal year with no changes.

signed an agreement with the Alabama Department of Public Accounts to perform this year’s audit.

approved a $259,000 one-year contract with Southern Health Partners for medical services at the county jail.

made various equipment changes, including the sale and replacement of six motor graders and five backhoes.

reappointed William Blocker to the Southeast Regional Planning and Development Commission’s Revolving Loan Fund Board.