Sasser: Unit system switch by May

Published 12:00 pm Friday, April 3, 2009

Chairman Lynn Sasser said he has chosen a start date of May 1 for the county to begin operating under the unit system, and he hopes commissioners agree when he puts the measure to a vote at the next commission meeting.

Sasser, who spoke Wednesday to the Andalusia Lions Club, said it was a move that should have already occurred.

“It should have been April 1, but the engineer said he’s got some more stuff he has to look at,” Sasser said.

Commissioners have previously discussed the official start date for the move. Most recently, District 1 Commissioner David Ellis urged commissioners to push for an April 1 date, but commissioners agreed then to allow county engineer Darren Capps to make the change in June. Capps’ reasoning was there are two large paving projects — one in District 1 and another in District 4, which need to be finished before the June equipment sale, which is when Capps said the biggest savings to the county would be seen.

Sasser said Wednesday he felt that date was “too long of a wait” for the county.

“We are halfway into our fiscal year,” he said. “We need to make that move now.”

When asked how the new system would operate and what the role of a county commissioner would be, Sasser had some answers.

“Our plan is to lease out the shops in Opp and Red Level,” he said. “We’re hoping Florala will lease the county yard to store their equipment and pay the county rent.

“All the county road employees will come under the supervision of the engineer,” he said. “They will be divided into three divisions — a northern division, a southern division and a bridge crew.”

Sasser said the bridge crew is the smallest of the three divisions, with just three employees. The remaining 27 employees will be divided into the northern and southern divisions. While Sasser did not comment on how the county will be divided into divisions, he did say each division would be overseen by two supervisors.

“Those guys will report directly to the engineer and their job is going to be seeing to the roads — making sure the services are there,” he said. “I know there has been a lot of comments about how we’re going to lose services, but I can tell you, our citizens will get the same level of services.”

With the division supervisors taking over what has generally been the commissioners’ responsibilities, Sasser said those four men will now have time to concentrate on the most pressing issue of the county — its budget.

“The thing of a road commissioner is a thing of the past,” he said. “That is what they are teaching us these days. The county commissioners’ responsibility is to handle the administrative portion of county business.

“Every dollar that comes through this county is the responsibility of the commission,” he said. “So what are the commissioners going to do? Worry about the budget. That’s what they’re going to do.

“I know it’s going to be something new, but we have to make it work,” he said.

The next county commission meeting is scheduled for Mon., April 13, at 9:30 a.m.