Commission hesitant to join trails board

Published 11:06 am Wednesday, December 16, 2020

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The Covington County Commission will consider appointing a representative to a regional board looking into the feasibility of a Rails to Trails program through the area.

The Wiregrass Trails Partnership, a group spearheaded through the Regional Planning Commission in Dothan, will be made up of representatives from across the area tasked with researching the rail to trail program. 

The rail being considered is owned by CSX, which is requesting a single entity acquire the railbed, according to Commission Chairman Greg White. The resolution considered Tuesday would allow the commission to have a representative on the Wiregrass Trails Partnership board. It does not obligate the county to support the trail program, White said.

“It is a 43-mile rail section being looked at and this is a preliminary effort. A number of municipalities have already discussed an interest and the talks are going to move forward and it makes sense that Covington County would be at the table for at least the conversation,” he said.

Several commissioners said some of their constituents are opposed to the trail program.

“I’ve had several landowners in Dist. 2 who are totally against this plan,” said Commissioner Michael Smith. 

Dist. 1 Commissioner Kenneth Northey said he had similar discussions with residents. “I’m very hesitant to be a part of this,” he said.

Tommy McGaha, Dist. 4. Commissioner, said it is important Covington County be represented on the trails board so that specific concerns can be shared.

“If we are not in this, we will have no say in terms of expressing the concerns of our citizens. I think we need to have a say whether we support it or not,” McGaha said. “If we are not in it, at the beginning, we cannot bring these concerns to them. Whether it ends up happening or not, we need to be involved in the discussion from the beginning.”

Commissioners were also concerned with potential expenses that could be involved in the upkeep and safety management of the trail.

The commission asked County Attorney Stephanie Cotton to provide an updated resolution stating that the representative to serve on the Trail Partnership Board would attend meetings and bring items to the full commission for vote. That resolution will be considered at a future commission meeting.

Other items discussed included the following:

  • At the request of the Alabama Secretary of State’s Office, Covington County will begin the process of removing inactive voters from the local polling list. According to Covington County Administrator Karen Sowell, attempts will be made through advertisements and mailings to contact inactive voters. The county is reimbursed for up to 25 percent for the cost. This action is taken following each presidential election, Sowell said.
  • Approved $111,000 for the placement of guard rails on three county roads. Some grant funding is being used to offset the costs. The three roads discussed are Hwy. 82, near Bates Road; CR 77, near Antioch Road; and Rockhole Bridge Road.
  • Utilizing CARES Act Funding, the commission approved the purchase of X-Ray machines for the courthouse, administration building and the jail.
  • Approved a Traffic Enforcement Agreement with Enterprise State Community College.
  • Approved the purchase of a K-9 Unit for the Covington County Sheriff’s Office.
  • Smith and McGaha will represent the commission in the first Covington County Leadership Program, sponsored by the Opp Chamber of Commerce.
  • Approved a budget amendment allowing for a one-time supplement pay of $300 to all employees.
  • Heard a report from the CCSO on the possible purchase of new taser/body camera systems for deputies. 

The commission does not have a second scheduled meeting in December, but could call a special meeting to discuss the taser and body cameras prior to the end of the year.