Commission approves resolution supporting School Safety Act
by Shane Dunaway
TALLADEGA COUNTY — After 20 minutes of discussion, the County Commission approved a resolution supporting the School Safety Act by a 3-1 vote during a meeting Monday.

The School Safety Act, an initiative born from a collaborative effort by local officials in Calhoun and Talladega Counties, introduces a $3.5 million property tax for the purpose of providing armed school resource officers for public schools, advanced radio and alert communication systems, and a fund for general public safety needs.

In Talladega County’s version of the proposal, proceeds from the tax would be divided between three recipients.

The bulk of the new revenue, 55 percent, will be distributed to the radio and alert notification district.

“The 55 percent will go to the (Alabama Regional Communications Systems) Board to maintain and upgrade the system,” said Talladega City Police Chief Alan Watson. “We’re also incorporating the sirens. We’re going to take over maintenance of the sirens and in two to three years, eventually replace them.”

The remaining revenue will be split, with 35 percent allocated to the Talladega County Board of Education and 10 percent allocated to the Talladega County Commission.

John Luker, District 2 commissioner, fervently opposed the resolution, expressing concerns regarding the type of tax implemented.

“You’re going to have a whole lot of people who don’t own property, but have children in those school systems,” Luker said in response to the tax. “Those people wouldn’t be paying anything, but they’d be reaping the benefits.”

Luker also disagreed with the way the tax money would be distributed..

“Please don’t misunderstand me, but I’ll tell you right now, I’m going to oppose this and it’s not because of the school safety aspect of it,” Luker said. “I’m concerned about the $3.9 million going to the ARCS board.”

Greg Atkinson offered his own take on why he approved the resolution.

“We’re all benefiting from this because if you make the schools safe and the community safe with the resources out there, I think it increases the likelihood of people moving to the county.”

Jimmy Roberson, District 4 commissioner, took the driver’s seat for the majority of the discussion, asking many questions before he ultimately made his motion to approve the resolution.

“We’ve got some senior leadership in Montgomery, some of whom have been there for many years,” Roberson said. “If there’s a glitch in this, I’m going to trust that they will deny approving this. All we’re doing at this table is giving them the authority to proceed to give the taxpayers the authority to vote on this.

“I’m not going to let a parent of a student or a senior citizen who needs our radio system for public safety sit there and have people point the finger at me because I didn’t give them the opportunity to vote,” he added. “I want them to decide, because if we don’t even take it to the next level for our senior leaders of our state delegation to proceed, they’re going to point the finger at us and they’re going to say, ‘You are the ones to blame for not even giving us a chance.’”

District 1 Commissioner Jackie Swinford did not attend because he was out of town.

Other commission actions include:

• Presented a proclamation recognizing the Civilian Marksmanship Program for its contributions and expressed gratitude for the organization’s investment in the county.

• Approved the March 11 meeting minutes.

• Voted 4-0 on Talladega County Jail Dietitian Vivian Nix’s request to award food and coffee bids for the jail.

• Approved a $5,000 Department of Homeland Security grant applied for by Deborah Gaither, county Emergency Management Agency director, for an April 11 exercise at Talladega Superspeedway.

• Voted 4-0 on Gaither’s request to apply for a 2014 Hazardous Material Preparedness grant.

• Approved Gaither’s request to use Bemiston Recreation Center as a storm shelter during inclement weather and emergencies.

• Voted 4-0 on Gaither’s request to submit an updated emergency operations plan before the March 31 deadline arrives.

• Approved a resolution authorizing and approving execution of a contract with BancorpSouth Equipment Finance.

• Voted 4-0 on all conference requests, personnel changes and expenditures.

• Atkinson announced a clean-up day scheduled April 6 in Sycamore between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. near the post office.

• County Commission Offices are closed March 29 in observance of Good Friday.

Contact Shane Dunaway at sdunaway@dailyhome.com

© 2013