Commission votes against support for Rails to Trails

Published 7:30 am Wednesday, October 13, 2021

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The Covington County Commission voted 2-1 to adopt a resolution expressing the lack of support for the Rails to Trails project at a regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday.

District 1 Commissioner Kenneth Northey and District 2 Commissioner Michael Smith voted “yes” on the matter. District 4 Commissioner Tommy McGaha voted “no” citing his desire to learn more about the proposed project and stating that the issue needed to be discussed at a town hall meeting. District 3 Commissioner Tony Holmes was absent from the meeting and did not vote.

Although Chairman Greg White did not have a vote, he sided with McGaha stating it would be beneficial to hold a town hall meeting to allow rural citizens the opportunity to speak on the proposed project.

“Whether you’re for it or against it, we were elected in good faith by the people of Covington County to represent them in all matters pertaining to the county as a whole and to make decisions for the betterment of the county,” McGaha said. If we don’t have a voice in this proposed project, if we don’t have the opportunity to ask questions, express concerns from people about the fears they may have, to educate ourselves and inform the people of the pros and cons of this project, then we’re doing the people a disservice.”

Smith said County Engineer Lynn Ralls’ crew is already short-handed.

“I don’t want this county government to be drug into expenses occurred by another municipality or other agencies throughout this county,” Smith said. “When this trail runs through part of this county, people are going to be asking where the county crew is. I’m not going to sacrifice our resources and commit them to go maintain something. We have a hard time maintaining what we have now.”

McGaha said more information would be needed to determine what county resources would be needed for the project.

“Do we know that’s what the end result will be? We don’t because we don’t know the whole spectrum of what this project could be,” he said. “There are just questions that have not been answered and questions that have not been asked because nobody is there. There have been no partnership meetings to carry it to the next level. If the other municipalities decide to move forward and raise the funds to put it in, the people adjacent to it have no say so because we’re not there.”

Commissioner Kenneth Northey did not feel the manpower was there. “We don’t see this as feasible. It’s going to be astronomical to run it,” he said.

Also addressed during the meeting was approval for the county to participate in the 2022 Severe Weather Preparedness Tax Holiday set from Friday, Feb. 25, at 12:01 a.m. until Sunday, Feb. 27 at midnight.

“It’s a good time for people to stock up on NOAA weather radios and any other supplies,” Covington County EMA Director Susan Harris said. “That timing is because March, April, and May is the peak time for severe weather.”

In other business:

  • The commission awarded a bid to Diversified General Contractors in the amount of $13,750 for entrance to the Probate Judge’s recording department.
  • The commission approved the renewal of a contract with Avenu, which handles the county’s sales tax collections.
  • The commission approved entering into an agreement with the Town of Sanford.
  • The commission approved the Sheriff’s request to add two part-time process servers.
  • The commission approved soliciting bids for motor grader tires.
  • The commission approved the surplus of five dump trucks at the JM Wood Auction.

The next meeting of the Covington County Commission will be held Tuesday, Oct. 26, 9 a.m., at the Covington County Administration Building. The public is invited to attend.