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Like being doused with cold water…

Today, I had an opportunity to reflect upon three events that transpired within the last few weeks. Collectively, they have served to remind me just how much being a County Commissioner matters.

A few weeks ago, our community lost a long-time resident in an accident at the intersection of Highway 84 and Bay Springs Road. That intersection is something that has been atop my mind since before I even took office. When I was campaigning for this seat, I kept hearing complaints about the traffic and hazards of that intersection. It is also one that I travel at least twice per day, having almost been involved in an accident myself twice within the past year. When I was campaigning for office, I would often say that I hoped to be able to do something about the problem “before someone lost their life.”

Before a few weeks ago, they were just words. They were words I meant, don’t get me wrong, but all the same they were still just words. A few weeks ago, someone did lose their life. Those words suddenly took on much more meaning than before. Like being doused with cold water, I realized that this job as a Commissioner is more than just about the ideas I brought into this office. It affects people, their property, and even their lives. The decisions we make and the things we work towards have consequences.

Last week, I spoke with a relative of the gentleman that lost his life. While the person I spoke with was very pleasant, the call was the most difficult one, by far, that I have taken as a Commissioner. They had just lost a loved one – in an accident – at an intersection that I had tried to make safer – “before someone lost their life.”

Another issue which needs attention is the volunteer fire and rescue system that we use to provide emergency services to the rural parts of the County. Our current system grows increasingly underfunded each year. And while the system has a good number of volunteers, those volunteers are finding it increasingly difficult to get away from work during the day to make emergency runs.

I have always had a great appreciation for what our volunteers do. In my aging grandfather’s final years, the volunteers in Wicksburg took him to the hospital several times. Within the past 10 days, they have had to rush two more family members to the ER. To every volunteer fire and rescue person, I say “thank you.”

If you live within the city limits of Dothan and you think the volunteer system doesn’t affect you, you couldn’t be more mistaken. If you drive towards Enterprise and get into an accident in Bay Springs or Wicksburg, suddenly the volunteer fire and rescue system will be very important to you.

At the end of the day, we must have a viable volunteer system or we must have a professional system. Personally, I’m a fan of less taxes and less fees, so I’m going to do everything I can to sustain and strengthen the volunteer system. And I’m also going to keep on ALDOT about that intersection!

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Update on 84W and Bay Springs Road Intersection

When I was campaigning for office, one problem I kept hearing about was the intersection of Highway 84 West and Bay Springs Road. Since I go through this intersection almost every day, I am very familiar with how dangerous it can be, especially during the morning and afternoon rush.

Checking traffic as you cross from North to South on Bay Springs Road, a utility pole, complete with strategically placed box, stares you in the face.

Checking traffic as you cross from North to South on Bay Springs Road, a utility pole, complete with strategically placed box, stares you in the face.

Prior to taking office, I requested that Houston County ask ALDOT to look at installing a traffic light at this location. A study was conducted, the results of which can be download here, and it was deemed to not have sufficient enough cross traffic to justify a traffic signal.

Then just a few weeks ago, our community lost a valued and long-time resident when he was involved in an accident at 84W and Bay Springs Road. I never spoke to the gentleman, although I would often see him picking up trash beside the road near his home. His wife, whom I spoke with at length during the campaign, was also in the car when the accident occurred. From what I have been told, her injuries were substantial.

As a result of that accident, I have had several nearby residents ask again about the intersection. I want everyone to know that I have been in communication with the person at ALDOT who ran the traffic study and he has informed me that they are looking again at the intersection. They will study the number of accidents that have occurred and look into what improvements can be made to reduce them in the future. This does not mean a traffic light will be installed and may only mean that the speed limit will be reduced. But I will support any change that will make our community a little bit safer.

I will post an update once I have more information.

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Wrapping Up the Wicksburg & Bay Springs Town Hall Meeting

I recently held my first two town hall meetings, the first in Wicksburg and the second in Bay Springs (I will hold two more in Dothan after the first of the year). There were several issues that were raised during the meetings and I wanted to address them publicly for everyone’s benefit.

Yearly payments of sanitation fees

In the past, you could pay for a full year’s worth of garbage pickup instead of making a payment every month. While the county doesn’t offer the option to pre-pay for the full year, if you pay $180 anyway, the overpayment is credited to your account. This means you won’t owe a balance until 1 year later.

Residents were concerned about garbage trucks seen speeding on Judge Logue Road

I have notified the county engineer who will remind his drivers to obey the posted speed limits. If you notice speeding garbage trucks in the future, please notify the Sanitation department at 677-4705 or 677-4789.

Potholes in parking lots of Bay Springs and Wicksburg Volunteer Fire Departments

I am working with the people at both departments to have the county patch the potholes.

Reflective lettering missing from mailboxes and homes hampering volunteer fire and rescue

While there may be postal regulations requiring lettering on every mailbox, the county has no authority to force people to place reflective lettering on their mailbox or home. However, I strongly encourage everyone to place highly visible lettering on your mailbox and your home. If you ever need emergency police, fire, or medical care, reflective lettering may make the difference between life and death.

You can buy reflective lettering at any home improvement store and at Wicksburg Volunteer Fire & Rescue at Five Points in Wicksburg.

Residents expressed concern about garbage on the sides of Judge Logue and Winslette Roads

I have notified the county engineer to coordinate prisoners to pick up trash along those roads. In fact, I have heard that trash has already been picked up along Winslette Road. If you want trash picked up along any other county maintained roads, please use the comment feature below to let me know.

Cost of mowing vs. spraying

Someone was interested to know the difference between the cost of mowing the sides of county roads versus controlling growth with herbicide. It costs anywhere from $35 – $40 per acre to mow vs $4 – $16 to spray.

Can the county force people to remove garbage piling up on their property?

No, we cannot unless the Health Department believes there is a public health hazard.

There is confusion among the dispatchers about dispatching rescue squads to Houston County residents who happen to have Slocomb addresses.

I will discuss with the sheriff the best way to resolve this confusion.

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FAQ: New Garbage Containers

There have been several questions about the new garbage containers so I thought I’d answer most of them here as well as provide a few tips.

Q: When am I supposed to begin using the new garbage containers?

A: You can begin using them immediately. For the next two weeks, the county will continue to service your old garbage cans. After a two week grace period, the county will only empty the new containers. I’d encourage you to begin using the new containers as soon as possible.

Q: Where should I place the container?

A: When the containers were distributed, they were placed in the exact spot where the county wants you to place your container going forward. The containers were placed in the best position for the automated arm to grab and empty your container, so don’t get “inventive” with your garbage container placement. If you do, there is no guarantee that your container will be emptied.

Q: Can I get an additional container?

A: Additional containers can be obtained by calling 677-4705 or 677-4789. There is an additional deposit for each additional container you request.

Q: Do I still need to bag my garbage or can I throw unbagged garbage into my container with reckless abandon?

A: You must continue to bag your garbage. Unbagged garbage has a habit of blowing away from the truck, and back onto your property, when it is being dumped into the garbage truck.

Tip: Make sure the front of the container and the white arrows face the road.

Proper placement of your can will make it last longer. If you misalign your canit will increase the strain on the lid and increase the likelihood of it shearing-off completely.

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Meet your new Garbage Trucks

Houston County will soon begin collecting garbage using the new automated trucks. In the long run, the new trucks will save the taxpayer’s money and reduce the number of accidents which will generate a savings on insurance.

We will begin distributing your new garbage cans in November. Please remember where they are placed when they are delivered; this is where you will need to place your garbage can every time you bring it to the road for collection.

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The Road

Over the course of my door-to-door campaign, whenever I thought about it, I would take out my phone and snap a photo of the area I was walking. It was great getting to better know the people that live in Houston County. While the cold, and later on the heat, did get old after a while, I never tired of speaking to people about my campaign and ideas. On the night of the primaries, all the work paid off. I am forever grateful for the support I received and I look forward to serving the people of District Four.

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My ride-along with the Sherrif’s Department

I rode with a Sherif’s Deputy a few weeks ago on a Friday night. As a result, I got to know some of the people that help keep protect our lives and property while we all sleeping. My primary goal, however, was to get a better idea about the current shape of our Sheriff’s Department.

I came away from the experience very impressed with the people in the Sheriff’s department. We made one stop on Montgomery Highway for a vehicle whose tag was out of date. When the driver produced the tag (he had forgot to affix it to his vehicle) he was allowed to go about his business without a ticket. This humored me because the same thing happened to me a few years ago in a neighboring county. When I produced my tag I was told that wasn’t good enough and was ticketed.

On this particular night, several deputies and a few police from other municipalities met up for a late dinner at one of the establishments on Restaurant Row. I especially valued this opportunity because it was an opportunity to meet and interact with so many law enforcement personnel at once. One of the Deputies there was a Reserve Deputy. Reserve Deputies have a car, carry a badge, a gun, and have the same authority as any other Deputy. They only difference are that they are completely un-paid. They usually work a full-time job and when needed, they fill-in to help out the Sheriff’s Department.

The experience wasn’t all wine and roses, however. The particular car we patrolled in had a minor but noticeable transmission problem, was without radar, and was not equipped with a computer. With the economy seemingly in a never-ending malaise, meeting the Department’s funding needs is going to be a major challenge.

My naive view of “being on patrol” was that of a Deputy wandering randomly around the county, making a few traffic stops, and responding to calls as they come in. What I learned is that most of the activities are carefully planned out. The Deputy I was with has several locations he has to check on several times per night. The process of checking on these places is very thorough, they aren’t just slow drive-byes and glances.

What most impressed me was something that happened when we were responding to a domestic call just before midnight. Shortly after we arrived on the scene a black SUV rolled up and out stepped Sheriff Andy Hughes. This was the last Friday before he moved on to his new position on the following Monday. Even in the twilight of his career as Sheriff, he was far from being mentally checked-out; he was still out there responding to calls.

All in all, I greatly valued this experience and I plan to do this again with the Sheriff’s Department and with other County Departments. I tip my hat to all the law enforcement officers and dispatchers in our area. They have a big responsibility and a limited amount of resources. And I think they are doing a fine job.