Town hall meeting questions all about conditions

Published 9:12 am Saturday, July 14, 2018

Those who attended the Covington County Commission’s first town hall meeting Thursday night in Florala had one issue on their minds – road conditions.

County engineer Lynn Ralls was there to make sure every question about the roads and bridges was answered.

“We maintain a very large county,” Ralls said. “So we try to make a complete circuit route with our motor graders to keep from jogging back and forth. We try to keep a schedule.”

Ralls said that the engineering department is doing all they can do to make every dollar count.

“We have reduced our fleet of equipment,” Ralls said. “So that means we use less fuel, but the cost of materials has doubled, so we are doing everything that we can to make every single dollar count.”

Ralls is also working with the National Forest Service to get a grant to place six bridges in the National Forest.

“We put in an application, so we are just waiting to see if we can get a grant,” Ralls said.

One thing that Ralls has been trying to get under control is the loggers that travel on dirt roads.

“I have had seven instances where loggers have gone over three-ton bridges,” Ralls said. “I am trying to make a logging permit, just so we know where each logger is and what their route is, because they are making dirt roads a mess. I think if we work together we can identify the things like this going on in the county.”

Another difficulty brought up by former commission chairman Bill Godwin that Ralls faces is the fact that gasoline tax has been the same for 25 years. The tax is collected per gallon, not based on the cost of gasoline, which means the amount collected has not kept pace with the price of goods.

Holmes said commissioners worked for a three-cent per gallon tax increase two years ago.

“The gas tax was supposed to go up by three cents,” Commissioner Tony Holmes said. “But when it went to the state legislature, they raised it to nine cents so the commission decided to back out of it.”

The proposed tax did not pass the legislature.

Ralls said that because of inflation, the gasoline tax needs to be at 18 cents per gallon.

“Just to get to where we need to be, gasoline tax will need to be at 18 cents per gallon,” Ralls said. “But we are still doing all we can for these roads to be drivable.”

Right now, the gasoline tax in Florala is one cent.

Holmes, whose district includes Florala, said that he hopes to get the district to where it needs to be.

“Please bear with us while we work to make this district better,” Holmes said. “It has been an absolute pleasure working this district and believe me, it is my hope to get our district where it needs to be.”

Commissioner Joe Barton said that since the town hall meeting was a success, they are looking to have several more meetings around the county.

“We want to hear the peoples’ voices,” Barton said. “That is why we are here.”

Chairman Greg White, Ralls, county attorney Stephanie Cotton, administrator Karen Sowell, Emergency Management Agency Director Susan Harris, Barton and Holmes were all in attendance on Thursday.

Commissioner Kenneth Northey was unable to attend for family reasons, and Commissioner Kyle Adams was attending the Alabama Association of County Commissioners conference.