WEDOWEE - Randolph County Commission unanimously voted Monday to seek legal counsel with respect to its ongoing dispute with Roanoke Utilities Board regarding Crystal Lake.
The freshwater reservoir just off of Highway 431 that supplies drinking water for the city of Roanoke has been at the center of the dispute since February when heavy rains created an emergency flooding situation.
Because the county had more resources at its immediate disposal, it stepped in to help alleviate the flooding, with the price tag of those resources and materials reaching over $60,000.
Once the emergency had passed and water levels receded, the county billed Roanoke Utilities Board for the cost of the work and repairs that had been done.
The utilities board has not officially responded to the county in regards to that invoice.
"We're going to have to have a sit-down with the Roanoke Utility Board and settle this once and for all," said Commissioner Doyle Allen at Monday's meeting.
The county agreed to seek legal counsel to help facilitate that meeting and to represent its interests should the two sides not be able to reach an agreement.
While the county will seek restitution for its expenditures, the dispute has unearthed a much more fundamental question: Who actually owns Crystal Lake and is responsible for its upkeep?
The county has paperwork that puts ownership responsibility on the utilities board, but the board says paperwork also exists that holds the county responsible for all of the county's watershed lakes, and that Crystal Lake falls under that category.
Utilities board Chairman Ronald Cameron stated at the May board meeting the board won't be able to address the issue in a meaningful way until they can meet in person. The board has been holding its meetings in an online setting for the past three months due to the coronavirus and will not meet in person until July at the earliest, according to Cameron.
Road maintenance was once again a central theme of Monday's commission meeting as the commissioners heard from two county residents seeking help in regards to the maintenance and traffic on two different county roads.
Dale Rose addressed the commission first and asked if there is a way to limit tractor-trailer traffic on County Road 82.
He said the road is too narrow and dangerous for trucks, which cannot stay on one side of the road due to the limited width.
Commission Chairman Terry Lovvorn informed Rose the county has little recourse in enforcing a truck restriction on specific county roads. Those restrictions would be weight based, and without scales to weigh the trucks, there would be no way to immediately verify a truck's weight as it travels on that road, according to Lovvorn.
Jay Herren then took the podium to ask for help with County Road 447, which sits in the far northeastern corner of the county near the Georgia state line.
Herren provided the commissioners with extensive pictures of potholes on the road, and a previous count by county engineer Burrell Jones placed the number of potholes or damaged spots on the road at 112 in a 1.6-mile stretch.
"It's getting to the point that the road is coming apart," Herren said.
Herren, who noted that 15 families live on the paved portion of the road and must use it routinely, challenged the commissioners to drive down the road at the posted speed limit of 35 mph and maintain their lane the entire way.
"You won't be able to do it," he said.
Commissioner Allen made a motion to have County Road 447 added to the county's list of chipseal paving projects for the 2020-21 budget, but the motion did not receive a second and therefore died.
"That road is going to take a lot of work before you can chipseal it," said Commissioner Larry Roberts.
Jones said he would send road crews to patch as many of the holes as he could in an effort to make the road more serviceable.
- The commission tabled the appointment of a county commissioner to the Association of County Commissioners of Alabama (ACCA) with an eye on giving the three newly elected commissioners a say in who is appointed once they take office in November.
- The county has an ongoing agreement with the state department of revenue that allows for all local revenue department employees to be paid with state funds, and the time has come to renew that agreement. The commission tabled that renewal at Monday's meeting. Before continuing with the agreement, Allen wanted assurance those state-paid employees would receive general oversight and human resources support from the state, rather than having to come to the commission. The commission will seek clarification on that and re-visit the issue at a future meeting.
- The commission decided to continue with one combined meeting every other Monday for the immediate future, rather than going back to the Thursday workshop/Monday meeting schedule that was in place prior to the coronavirus pandemic. The next commission meeting is scheduled for June 22.