Effective leadership in Wilcox County will need some support, By Ethan Van Sice
The first County Commission meeting of 2020 was sort of hard to watch.
Chairman Bill Albritton was placed at an unfair advantage while fending for our County’s finances. A gaping door was left wide open with the absence of Moton and Lawson, allowing the dynamic duo of Southall and Saulsberry to play with money, pass ill-conceived motions, and bully the Chairman from start to finish.
As a result of this meeting, the County could find itself in even deeper, totally avoidable debt. During his opening remarks, Albritton proposed an opportunity to make $50k through the sale and rotation of used dump trucks. An evaluation had been done on some property, and the County could not only salvage some discretionary funds, but also gain new equipment. It’s a win-win situation the Commission has capitalized on for years, at times relying on the extra income to pull out of some very deep holes.
Instead of embracing this as a safety net, Southall saw it as money that should be spent right away—and on something virtually useless. He made a motion to purchase MORE trucks, six of them to be exact. “Each district should have their own dump truck,” according to Southall. But the county doesn’t need 6 dump trucks. We don’t even have 6 licensed CDL drivers; and during what utopian fantasy will all 6 districts be servicing the County all at once?
It sounded to me more like an attempt to secure each commissioner a vehicle that felt like “their own”, which causes some anxiety. Especially since the trucks we do have can already be seen hauling dirt to random, undisclosed locations. The Chairman opposed to making this decision, but the motion passed anyway due to the lack of members who could argue and vote against it.
During the same meeting, Albritton tried to get the men to agree on a Work Session date for Mariah Thompson, of Auburn, to implement a pay-scale for County workers. He reminded them that this service has already been paid for by the County. The only thing holding things up was an invite from the commissioners to get the ball rolling. Saulsberry thought it’d be better to cut ties with the already-paid Thompson, and hire somebody else.
“They’ve had plenty of time to respond to the County’s request,” Saulsberry said. With that, he made a motion to hire another evaluation expert to come down. It would cost the county over $15,000. This motion passed quickly with Southall’s second, but neither could say where the money was going to come from.
Dr. James Wright, the newly agreed upon contractee, delivered his presentation during the next scheduled Commission meeting. The County has not yet agreed to his services, but we moved another week closer to spending $15k on work that’s already been paid for.
This much damage was done in one, single meeting by two commissioners who have only proven to look out for each other’s interests since they were re-elected.
It’s my understanding they both had legitimate reasons for their absence, but I believe if Vice-Chairman, John Moton, and Commissioner Lawson had attended this meeting, a little logic could’ve been injected.
That was proven during our most recent Commission meeting; All members were present, and the 6 truck request was revisited. Vice-Chairman Moton argued against it, voting in opposition to the purchase of any extra dump trucks whatsoever. Southall’s request was downgraded to a compromisable 5 trucks, a relieving save of $140,000 we were on track to spend.
These hasty spending decisions could’ve been avoided from the beginning and dismissed if Albritton had some backup. This is why it’s very important for each commissioner to maintain their responsibility to the County. They need to at least attend the meetings. Just like a living body, a governing body is ineffective with missing limbs, but it’s downright useless without brains or a backbone.