Luster updates group on county
by James Phillips
Jan 29, 2013 | 1177 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Walker County Commission Chairman Billy Luster spoke Monday to members of the Kiwanis Club of Jasper during the group’s weekly meeting.

Luster, who was elected chairman in November, said he and the other new members of the commission are “still in the honeymoon stage.”

“We’re all new, except for Dan Wright. He’s the grandpa of the group and he’s only been in one term,” Luster joked.

Despite not being in office for long, Luster said the group has already made some changes to county government.

“We’ve done some simple things,” he said. “We’ve parked a few vehicles. We’ve adjusted out workforce some. We’ve cut down on our overtime. It’s hard to tell people that the county is going through hard financial times if that’s not reflected in how you run the county government.”

Luster said the county is facing a $20 million debt in the coming years. He said facing that serious debt has been the biggest challenge in his couple of months on the job.

“The county spent $9 million on a new jail,” he said. “There was a $10 per month charge put on tags to pay for that, but there were changes in the way that money was distributed. The debt has had a snowball type effect, and it is time to address it and stop the downhill roll.”

Another issue Luster mentioned during Monday’s speech was safety concerns at the Walker County Courthouse. Luster said county officials have met over the issues and changes will soon be made.

“The public is going to have to work with us some, because we are going to have to close some entrances,” Luster said. “These things are being done, because we are just as much concerned for the safety of the public as we are for employees at the courthouse. We want to be accessible, but we also want to be safe.”

Luster said accessibility and transparency were two of his campaign promises to area voters.

“I keep regular office hours. I’m there from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. every day,” he said. “We are also as transparent as we can possibly be. We want to be that way, because we want the public involved in our county’s government. We appreciate input that we receive from citizens. Myself and our other commissioners are working hard to do what is best for our county now and in the future.”