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Commission votes to invest $1.6 million

By By Robert Blackenship
Staff Editor
At the recommendation of the county' investment planner, the Escambia County Commission agreed to re-invest approximately $1.6 million in a certificate of deposit with a local bank during a meeting Monday morning.
Dan Britton, of South Alabama Trust Company, reported to the members of the commission regarding the county's investments. He told the commissioners that 2001 was not a good year.
"Much happened last year," Britton said. "The Fed (Federal Reserve) had a chance to adjust interest rates 12 times last year and they lowered them 11 times. The tragedies made the market even worse. I think the government is doing what it can (to improve the economy)."
Britton reported to the commission that a U.S. Treasury note of $1.135 million is scheduled to mature on Thursday. The money is part of the Oil and Gas Trust Fund. He suggested the commission take the money, add $400,000 that has accumulated over several years and re-invest it into a certificate of deposit with a local bank. He also suggested the commission committ to a one-year CD as interest rates may improve.
Britton said all county banks were contacted for bids on the CD and that the Bank of Brewton returned with the highest rate at 2.25 percent.
According to County Administrator Tony Sanks, the county does not have legal right to spend the funds that make up the Oil and Gas Trust Fund. However, they are allowed to use 80 percent of the interest that is accumulated each year. That money typically goes into the county's general fund each year. The remaining 20 percent must be re-invested into the trust.
The U.S. Treasury note that matures Thursday was invested at a rate of 6.25 percent. Sanks said that rate could not be obtained again and that the low interest rates will cost the county.
"The best rate we could get was 2.25 percent and we certainly appreciate the Bank of Brewton entering that bid," he said. "We stand to lose about $45,000 each year on this single investment."
Commissioner Wiley Tait made a motion that the county re-invest $1.6 million for 12 months through a certificate of deposit with the Bank of Brewton. David Stokes seconded the motion and it was passed unanimously.
Other items discussed by the commission include:
o hearing a proposal from Broox Garrett on the closing of Hollywood Drive. The county had previously considered closing the road which is located off of Fannie Road, near Flomaton. But, residents in that area asked that the county reconsider the closing.
The road was considered for closing due to safety hazards. The proximity of a curve with a house and barn located there is considered to be dangerous by the county.
Garrett said he has worked with those residents to form an alternative to closing it.
"I think we have found a win-win situation for the county and the land owners," he said.
Garrett proposed that the county eliminate a curve in the road and then relocate it into an already existing road.
"We will have to extend the road 90 degrees into an already existing paved road," he said. "This will keep the road open and eliminate the safety hazards."
Because the new extension onto the paved county road is already in existance, County Engineer John Downing said updating it would not require a large committment from the county. He said three to four loads of dirt along with some grading would be required to get the road ready.
With that road updated, the county would be able to abandon two other (road) branches.
Commission Chairman Larry White said the work would give the residents there a more direct route to the paved road and would be safer.
The commission approved to move ahead with the project by a unanimous vote;
o offering support for a emergency crossing on Interstate 65 between the Flomaton and Atmore exits.
According the White, the commission was approached by the Atmore Police Department, Sheriff Tim Hawsey and other agencies about placing an emergency crossing, or U-turn, near the 63 mile marker. The agencies have reported that they experience problems in turning around on that stretch of the interstate.
The commission was urged by the agencies to send a letter of support to the State Highway Department.
The letter is only a request and does not mean the crossing will be constructed. That decision will be made by the highway department.
"This only expresses our support for a crossing," White said. "It doesn't mean it will happen."
The commission approved to send the letter of support by a unanimous vote;
o approved the lease of a 2002 Supercrew pickup truck. The truck will be used by the 21st Judicial Circuit Drug Task Force.
The sheriff's department will pay $480 on the down payment out of their budget. There will be four more payments of just under $7,000. Those payments will be paid by the commission using funds from the task force budget.
The lease of the truck was within the budget of the sheriff's office;
o rejecting all bids for boom mowers. After reviewing the bids, county personnel realized some of the mower features had not been listed on the specifications. The commission will seek new bids on the updated specs;
o A property owner, Patricia Chastain, addressed the commission. She told the commissioners that Alabama Power would not be able to get electricity to the property due to a bridge that they can not cross. She asked the county to repair the bridge there as she plans to put a mobile home on the property.
Chastain had addressed the commission in January, but said she had not heard anything and wanted to follow up.
There was question regarding whether the property was private as a gate had been placed. She said she did not know who put the gate up. She said she would be satisfied if the county could help her get to her property.
"I'm not asking for the county to maintain it," she said. "I just want to get to my property."
Downing and County Attorney Thad Moore said they would travel to that area to see if the county could work in that area and
o approved the minutes for the Feb. 11 meeting.
The commission went into executive session at the conclusion of the meeting, citing good name and character.