PCI to call shots?

Published 3:35 pm Sunday, July 1, 2012

The Poarch Band of Creek Indians has RSVP’d for a meeting requested by the Escambia County Commission — but the tribal council is seeking to put some limits on the meeting.

Tribal Chairman Buford Rolin said only specific commissioners were welcome at the table, a sign of the ongoing dispute over whether tribal property should be taxed.

“I have spoken with the Tribal Council and they are requesting that the initial meeting between our two governments consist of Commissioners (David) Quarker and (Brandon) Smith,” Rolin stated in his response to Commission Chairman David Stokes. “A majority of our members and employees are constituents of these two commissioners. Therefore, we feel that it is only appropriate that we hear their thoughts and learn about any possible challenges that we may be placing on their districts.”

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Stokes said the response isn’t what he had hoped to hear in regard to the meeting invitation.

“I disagree with their thinking that this is just a two-district issue,” Stokes said. “This applies to the school systems, hospital, law enforcement, fire protection and every other public service throughout our county that would benefit from this tax revenue.”

Stokes said his exclusion from the meeting is somewhat of a surprise, but one he is willing to accept at this point.

“I am the chairman and I think I should be at the meeting,” Stokes said. “Although, having some meeting, I guess, is better than nothing.”
No date has been set for the requested meeting of the two governments. The commission voted earlier this month to issue an invitation to the members of the Tribal Council and received their response on June 26.

Rolin’s letter stated that many people share the concerns of the Tribal Council and the outcome could have an impact on thousands of members of the Tribe as well as many who are non-members.

“The Tribal Council’s concerns about the Commission’s actions are shared by many,” Rolin stated in the letter. “Besides our 3,000 Tribal members, the majority of whom live I Escambia County, we employ an additional 1,000 non-tribal members, the majority of whom also live in Escambia County. We are encouraged that our growth is continuing and it is our hope in the near future that will be able to employ future county residents. We have worked hard to be good neighbors — not just close to home, but across the state as well. Many people who live in the city of Atmore, in Escambia County, and throughout Alabama know that we have met critical needs in drastic times.

“The commission is aware f the hundreds of thousands of dollars that the Tribal Council donated to use at its discretion. And despite, the recent events, we stand ready to assist the county with various specific projects, even those outside the scope of our current MOA. With that said, we agree that a meting is in order to talk with the members of the Escambia County Commission regarding our current project and future growth.

Rolin said the intention of the meeting is to open doors between the two government agencies concerning the growth and future of the Tribe and Escambia County.

“It is our intention to use this meeting as a guide to learn how the Poarch Creek Indians can assist Commissioners Quarker and Smith in meeting their goals and objectives,” Rolin’s response read. “After our initial meeting, we would ask that the commissioner join their colleagues for a full meeting of the County Commission to discuss our mutual interests going forward and secure support for plans that will be set forth.”

Stokes said he is anxious to hear from this meeting and is concerned about what may or may not be discussed during the meeting.

“I am not hopeful that the things that need to be discussed, such as how the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling applies to the Poarch Creek Indians and no more land taken into trust, will be discussed,” Stokes said. “I hope I’m wrong.”