County Caps Emergency Spending, Approves Abatement Policy

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The Pickens County Board of Commissioners (BOC) is starting to define the new government, as it approves new policies. Meeting for its first regular meeting last week as a multi-person board, in one of its first decisions the BOC moved to cap the emergency spending authority of the board chairman. During the meeting, Chairman Robert Jones explained that as chairman he does not have the authority to approve any extra expenditure beyond the approved budget. Similarly, a county ordinance dictates any purchase over $40,000 must be put out for bid.

Addressing the board, Jones said in case of an emergency, such as repairs needed for a pump station or a fire engine, the chairman could authorize the expenditure to make the repairs, saying time may not allow for a special meeting to be called.

“Other counties have it set up where the commission chair would have a 20 to 40,000 dollar emergency expenditure without having to call a special meeting,”

he explained. He went on to say most of the county’s pumping stations could cost between 12 and 18,000 dollars if one gets hit by lightning. However, he said the budget would account for some of the cost. Further, he said fire engines could also cost between 12 and 18,000 dollars to repair.

District 1 Commissioner and Vice Chair Jerry Barnes made a motion to approve a $20,000 cap on emergency purchases. The board approved the motion unanimously.

During the meeting, the board also approved its tax abatement policy for potential businesses and industry wishing to come to the county. The policy standardizes requirements between the county and the City of Jasper. In early January, Jasper City Council approved its part of the policy. During the BOC meeting, though, Chairman Jones read the resolution, listing the requirements for businesses and industry to participate in the tax incentive program.

According to the policy, businesses must receive request approval from the Pickens County and City of Jasper Economic Development Council. Additionally, they must invest between $150,000 and $2 million in a facility or equipment within a calendar year and create a minimum of five new fulltime jobs paying $12 an hour. The policy also outlines the tax payable schedule. In year one, the business pays 0 percent; year two 25 percent; year three 50 percent; year four 75 percent, and year five and beyond 100 percent.

“Over the years,”

Jones explained,

“the problem we were having was that there were different policies and nothing finalized between Pickens and the City of Jasper. This right here standardizes it…so we’re not battling one another.”

County Attorney Philip Landrum III said the standardization of policies also speeds up the process.

“It gives (Economic Development Director) Gerry (Nechvatal) something to show prospects as far as what’s available,”

he said,

“as opposed to the prospect having to ask for it and waiting for a presentation.”

The board approved the policy unanimously.

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