County in good shape, Chairman Long reportsPublished 10:26pm Thursday, February 28, 2013
Morgan County is in good shape financially after struggling through a year of budget cuts, Commission Chairman Ray Long told a group of about 150 community leaders and elected officials at his State of the County address on Thursday morning.
The breakfast meeting was sponsored by Family Security Credit Union and held at the Turner-Surles Center in Decatur.
“A bad economy caught up with us in 2010-2011,” Long said, “and forced us to bite the bullet and implement a 10 percent budget cut. Thankfully, our department heads and their staffs bought into the dilemma and made the best out of a bad situation. Not only did most of them operate within their budgets but ended the year $450,000 under what was budgeted. Thus, we were able to add $1.2 million to our reserves.”
He reported a $770,000 increase in assets to $41 million; reserve funds totaled over $1.7 million, an increase of $1.3 million; reserves from road and bridge funds increased $190,00 to over $1.9 million; property taxes increased more than $300,000 over the prior year; and sales tax collections were up 3.5 percent.
“In addition,” he pointed out, “the 2003 and 2004 jail bonds were refinanced at a lower interest rate. We were able to save about $770,000 on the 2003 bond and $2.1 million on the 2004 series, without extending the length of the debt.”
Long assured his audience that he and the district commissioners are working in harmony to move the county forward.
“There was a time when commission meetings often ended in disagreements and conflict,” Long said. “We pledged in November 2010 to work together for the good of the county and we have kept our word. I can recall only vote since that was not unanimous.”
Long mentioned three steps the commission has taken in the past year to promote a clean and esthetically pleasing environment and build a strong line of communication between county government and its residents.
“Last October, we formed a crew to walk our road rights-of-way and pick up litter and we recently hired a person to help keep our parks clean,” he said.
“We also hired a communications director and began publishing a bi-monthly newsletter county newsletter. We are mailing out 40,000 copies.”
Long commended district commissioners Jeff Clark, Randy Vest, Don Stisher and Greg Abercombie for their leadership and noted some of their accomplishments during the past year, as follows:
District 1 – repaved all or parts of six roads at a cost of $500,000, completed the Cave Springs extension in Priceville, and helped Decatur Public Words install storm drains in Delano Park.
District 2 – Implemented an upgrade project at West Park, obtained a building site and grant for a new senior center in Somerville, is assisting Hartselle on a Main Street parking lot and is replacing a bridge on Gum Springs Road.
District 3 – Purchased and renovated a building in Falkville for an upgraded district shop, assisted Falkville with the implementation of a $770,000 community storm water drainage grant and resurfaced Highway 55 from Eva to the Cullman County line.
District 4 – Developed a plan for the replacement of a senior center at Lacey’s Springs and a new senior center at Union Hill, acquired the 23-acre Brindlee Mountain Park and is upgrading its ball fields and building a new concession stand and helped get a traffic light for the intersection of Alabama 36 and U.S. 231 in Lacey’s Spring.
Long also commended County Engineer Greg Bodley for his timely planning that enabled to county to receive approval for ATRIP funds totaling $11 million for bridge replacements.
Long also expressed thanks to Jeremy Nails and his staff at the Morgan County Economic Development Association for keeping the county moving forward in industrial growth and job creation.
In 2012, the county located two new industries with the capacity to hire 228 workers and added 309 additional jobs because of expansions at 29 other industries.
“Morgan County is in good shape and I see only good things to come. I love my job and I thank you for allowing me to serve the people of Morgan County,” Long said.