Proposal would let voters decide

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 25, 2014

If the county commission approves one of the resolutions on its agenda today, county residents can vote in November to give the commission more ability to govern.

Under the Alabama Limited Self Governance Act, approved by the legislature in 2005, the county can ask rural residents to vote in favor of local governance. Once the county gets this additional power, it can address weeds, junkyards, litter, noise, pollution, unsanitary sewerage and animal control.

“It would be worth getting this passed just so we could address unsightly junkyards,” Commission Chairman Bill Godwin said. Picture 1

At present, commissions that have not gotten local voters to approve limited self governance cannot address by ordinance issues like litter or noise. Instead, they have to ask the Alabama legislature to make rules for them.

In the two years the current commission has been seated, Godwin said, a number of issues that have come up could have been addressed if this had been in place.

“Noise, animal control and junkyards have all come up,” Godwin said.

Last week, a group protesting the noise at a restaurant on Gantt Lake presented a petition to the commission asking that the restaurant’s liquor license renewal be “red flagged.”

The commission agreed, based on the petition and complaints it heard from those residents.

But an ABC board official said that in order for the ABC Board to adversely act on a renewal, which normally is an automatic thing, there must be some lawful reason for us to do so. In this case, the spokesman said, there does not appear to be any lawful reason not to renew.

However, if the county had a noise ordinance, Godwin said, the alleged offenders could be fined.

For the issue to appear on the November ballot, the commission must pass the resolution by a simple majority vote before August.

If it is passed, only those who live in unincorporated areas of the county can vote to give commissioners the additional authority.

“That doesn’t leave many people,” Godwin said. “Outside of Andalusia, Opp and Florala, you got Heath that’s incorporated. Red Level. River Falls. Gantt. Carolina. I think the majority of our residents live in incorporated areas.”

If the commission fails to act, a petition signed by 10 percent of the voters in unincorporated areas also could put the issue on the ballot, Godwin said.

Since the enabling legislation was passed in 2005, 18 counties have granted t heir commissions authority to exercise the powers available under the act, according to the Association of County Commissions of Alabama.