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Independence

This July 4th, we celebrate 239 years of our independence. I’ve always had a fondness for the history of our revolution and in studying it, one learns that it was a miracle it even succeeded.

We like to complain about an inept Congress today but the Continental Congress under the Articles of Confederation, which gave us our first form of government, was without even the power to levy taxes for support of the war effort. As a result, the Patriot armies were underpaid and undersupplied while taking on the British Empire.

After Washington’s disastrous planning and execution of the Battle of Long Island, his army was routed. Hemmed in, he decided to evacuate his forces overnight before the British could advance on his position, destroy his army, and capture or kill Washington, himself. The evacuation went slowly, and only by a lingering morning fog did Washington escape across the East River as the British began to march on his position.

In a latter battle, Washington was so distraught over his men’s performance, that he rode along their ranks trying desperately to rally them, to no effect. Some of his men thought he intended to die that day, rather than suffer another defeat at the hands of the British. Paces from the enemy, he was under constant fire until his officers calmed the wild-eyed General and convinced him to quite the battlefield.

In the battle of Brandywine, a Scottish rifleman fixed his sights on an unassuming rebel commander. Ultimately, the Scott made the gentlemanly decision not to fire because the commander was only walking with fellow officers and not an imminent threat. The unassuming rebel commander, the rifleman later learned, was General George Washington.

At the time when each event occurred, these probably seemed like minor miracles which only revealed their magnificent importance in subsequent years. We might very well not have a country of our own were it not for a fortuitous fog, an enemy column that suddenly couldn’t aim, and a rifleman who decides, for whatever reason, to not shoot a high-ranking officer. How can one look at these events and not see the guiding hand of Providence? As we celebrate this month, let us remember our country’s blessings and how fortunate we are to call ourselves Americans.

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Storm Debris Pickup Announcement

MARK CULVER, CHAIRMAN
HOUSTON COUNTY COMMISSION
PRESS RELEASE
For Immediate Release
April 27, 2015

HOUSTON COUNTY ANNOUNCES DEBRIS PICKUP PLAN

As has been our policy in previous storm situations, Houston County Road and Bridge and Sanitation will be picking up debris created by Saturday night’s storm at no charge to our citizens. The damage is so widespread, the pickup will be county wide but the debris must be a result of Saturday night’s severe thunderstorms that struck the county.

Please be aware of the following guidelines:

Citizens will have until May 15th to get the storm related debris to the right of way for the county to pick it up. It will take the county several weeks or possibly months to get up all the debris so be patient and know that, while you need to get it out to the right of way now, it may be there a while. Separate limbs, building debris and metal into separate piles. They go to different disposal sites. DO NOT stack debris on the road! This is very important!

We appreciate your cooperation and are glad to provide this service to our citizens in this time of need. Also, we are again thankful that there were no significant injuries.

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Public Meeting: Highway 84 and Bay Springs Road Intersection

Alabama State Senator Harri Anne Smith and Houston County Commissioner Brandon Shoupe invites the public to attend an information session regarding the Highway 84/Bay Springs Road intersection. The session will be held at 6:30 pm on Monday, March 16th at the Bay Springs Volunteer Fire Department, which is located at 1500 S Bay Springs Road.

Plans for the proposed improvements will be on display and officials from the Alabama Department of Transportation will be on hand to answer questions and listen to your feedback.

This is the only public session that will be held regarding the intersection. If you have an interest in the outcome of this project, you are strongly encouraged to attend.

Sign up to Attend

Complete this form so that we may have a headcount of how many people plan to attend this meeting. Be sure to leave your email address in case we have to change locations to accommodate the expected crowd.
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Thank you

Just a few days ago, we were worrying about whether or not the community would turn out to support Fort Rucker at the Listening Session. It seems those worries were completely misplaced. By all accounts, the Listening Session seems to have been a big success. I do not know if the local elected leaders and community members could have done a better job fighting to preserve our local post.

Thank you for turning out to support this effort. Now we wait to see if Congress can get its act together.

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Help Shape Our Libraries

The Dothan Houston County Library System wants your input about the role of libraries in Dothan and Houston County. We asked you what you wanted the physical space to be and you told us – that led to the beautiful new facilities in Downtown Dothan and Westgate Park. Now we are asking you to help shape our Strategic Plan for the next 5 years by telling us what you want to see, do, experience, read, watch, listen and download as you connect – learn –discover the world by way of your libraries. Beginning February 1st, please complete the survey at www.dhcls.org to be entered in weekly drawings for prizes ranging from Nook Glowlights to gift cards at local retailers. (Hint – the biggest prizes will be awarded the first week of February, next dollar value down will be awarded the second week of February, etc.) You may also fill out surveys in person at all library locations.

Help us write the next “chapter” in our story.

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January Update

I hope your year is off to a great start. I can’t believe January is already coming to a close! Since it has been a while since I posted, I wanted to update everyone on a few important areas of note.

  1. The first widening project of the Ross Clark Circle will begin on February 9. Expect only minor delays and lane adjustments at first. Bigger headaches will come in mid to late 2015. Please be patient when driving in the area and understand that the inconvenience of road construction is the price we have to pay for an improved transportation system.
  2. The drainage issues being caused by discharge from the water tower in Wicksburg will soon find a permanent solution as the city of Dothan is building a retention pond near the tower to handle the runoff.
  3. Work on my spending efficiency program is still underway. A draft of the proposed program has been completed and will undergo revisions before it lands on a meeting agenda.
  4. Early indications suggest that ALDOT is going to do something to make the intersection of 84 West and Bay Springs Road more safe. While the intersection does not meet federal requirements for a traffic light, I’m hearing that the problematic utility pole will likely be removed. I believe this is a good start but probably won’t fix all of the problems with that intersection. I plan to follow up with ALDOT in early February.
  5. Grow Dothan, the Dothan Area Chamber of Commerce’s Economic Development program, is ahead of schedule with their capital campaign. I believe this will be a key asset in the coming years when it comes to recruiting companies to the area.
  6. I’ve asked the Houston County EMA to provide performance statistics related to the volunteer fire and rescue squads which operate in the rural portions of the County. I don’t like to rely on opinions and here-say and believe these statistics will help quantify the health of the system.
  7. My next town hall meeting will be at the St. Peter Community Church at 241 Marshall Road. It will be held February 11 at 7 pm.
  8. Hamp Baxley, the Dothan District 6 Commissioner, and I plan on holding a joint town hall meeting with the new Dothan District 5 Commissioner some time in the coming months once the D-5 election is settled.

Other items of note:

  • Grading of the dirt roads in District 4 is currently underway. Hollis Dairy road has been graded but some ditch work is yet to be completed. Expect grading on other dirt roads to begin soon, if they have not begun already.
  • I hope to soon have prisoners pick up the trash that is beginning to become a eyesore on Fortner Street near the intersection with Brannon Stand Road.

Garbage cans being left on right of way

If you received a vague but sternly worded message about your garbage can recently, I apologize. The message which was told to be delivered to you by the Road and Bridge administration and the message that made it to your door was not the same thing. The Department will do a better job next time making sure that more accurate (and friendly) information is given to you.

If you received this unfortunate letter, is is probably because you are leaving your garbage cans near the roadway and not removing them at the end of garbage pickup day. As you can imagine, leaving cans near the road can be a hazard to public safety. It is for this reason that any household who makes it a habit of not removing their cans, may have their cans taken away. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact me.

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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!