Tucker: Probate doing large workload as lines continue

By ED HOWELL
Daily Mountain Eagle
ed.howell@mountaineagle.com
Posted 6/3/20

Walker County Probate Judge A. Lee Tucker said Tuesday long lines of people are still standing in front of his office each day, and his staff has done good work despite the caseload.

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Tucker: Probate doing large workload as lines continue

Posted

Walker County Probate Judge A. Lee Tucker said Tuesday long lines of people are still standing in front of his office each day, and his staff has done good work despite the caseload.

Tucker spoke at Tuesday's meeting of the commission, delayed a day due to the Jefferson Davis birthday state holiday. He talked during the comment time from public officials, extending a pre-meeting conversation where he told District 1 Commissioner Keith Davis and others that his office had experienced "a solid line" for two weeks, doing as many as 60 drivers licenses handled a day. He said at least 150 people were lined up that morning.

Long lines were still seen Tuesday morning in front of the Probate office.  

Tucker told commissioners, "I really want to thank my probate staff. They have really been working hard for the past two and a half weeks. We've just done an amazing amount of work in the month of May so far since we've reopened. We've done 248 transfers, 333 titles, 81 MLI's, 462 boats, (and) 5,500 tags."  He said before the meeting the numbers date back to May 11. 

Commissioners voted to close county offices to foot traffic on April 1 due to the spread of COVID-19, although employees continued to work and handle some work by mail, internet and phone. In reaction to a number of businesses being allowed by the state to reopen with restrictions on May 11, county offices such as the Probate Office were allowed to reopen May 18 with social distancing and protection barriers. Only so many people are allowed in the building at a time.

The employees have a good attitude and are trying to help the public, Tucker said Tuesday.

"It's amazing how hard they work down there right now. I just want to give them a pat on the back because they are really working hard," he said.

Tucker also thanked the Walker County Sheriff's Office for sending a deputy to "help us control the flow from time to time, because the line down there gets sometimes gets to be over 100. It is this morning. It's been that way every day since we reopened." 

While he said he didn't see "a light at the end of the tunnel," he and his staff would keep working to get done. 

People buying vehicles from dealers could go online at https://altags.com/walker_license/. Davis said he had purchased a car for his daughter and used the Easy Tag online system, finding it simple to use. Paperwork later came in the mail in a couple of days. Tucker said such items are processed each afternoon and get it out in the mail. 

"If you can conduct business online, please do so," Davis said. "That will help limit the line and help limit your wait time, of course, and the stress on staff."

Tucker said the office continues to have people coming in to sign a list and give a cell phone number. The idea is for those people to wait in their cars until it is time for the staff to call call them when it is their turn to come in.

"If you've got something to do, go do it for a while," he said. "Sometimes it takes a couple of hours to get to you, but we call everybody." 

He said the staff makes an effort to quickly take care of items that come in online or in the mail, getting it taken care of and back in the mail that afternoon. 

"If you have got an address change, make sure we get that so we can get it correct in the mail to you," Tucker said. 

He also said penalties are waived for March, April and May until June 19, "so everyone still has plenty of time." 

Davis later in the meeting thanked county employees for their work, calling this "a difficult times for many reasons across our country." He said the workers have helped in keeping the county open, adding it was crucial to provide service to the citizens. 

Chairman Jerry Bishop and District 4 Commissioner Steven Aderholt were not present, with Davis chairing the meeting. Social distancing was still practiced.

In other action, the commission: 

• Heard from County Administrator Robbie Dickerson that coronavirus warning signs have been installed in county facilities and more signs will hopefully go up this week. She also said she has been in contact with department heads about filing now to get reimbursements for county COVID-19 expenses. 

• Heard Dickerson say a meeting was held about Century Benefits, a firm that should help with human resources, making it more professional and easier for employees to do more online and cut down office foot traffic in terms of employment

• Heard the back to school sales tax holiday is still set for July 17-19. 

• Heard Dickerson say work on the Fiscal 2021 budget will start this week, with labor figures being sent to department heads. She said medical expenses may increase, but that won't be known until about September. 

• Heard County Engineer Mike Short's office has been cataloging missing signs and replacing them. 

• Heard Short say a tractor is down, which is slowing down the grass cutting until repairs are made. 

• Approved a bid approval and award for liquidation of 27 surplus Walker County Sheriff Office vehicles that have been parked near the old airport in Jasper. Nick Key, director of operations for the Sheriff's Office, said the minimum bid was $250, noting all the vehicles were taking up space on the impound lot and were disposed of. He said the vehicles were "not worth much monetarily." 

• Voted to approve a $58,000 U.S. Department of Justice grant which has been awarded to the Sheriff's Office to reimburse in several different areas, dealing with expenses for the COVID-19 pandemic. The funds are for the period running from Jan. 1 of this year through Jan. 31, 2022. Key said the funding can be used in a number of areas, ranging for equipment to overtime reimbursement. Dickerson said the department will have to document how it spends the money. Davis later thanked the Sheriff's Office and staff, saying it will come in "handy." "There has been money spent to combat this virus and make preparations so we can function as a county," he said. 

• Agreed to a quarterly budget amendment for the Sheriff's Office amounting to $245,966, although it was noted most of the items, such inmate housing and transportation, traffic grants, school resource officers, the litter program and the operations out of the Sipsey Substation are reimbursed. "This is more like a pass through on some of this," Davis said, and Dickerson agreed. She said the amendments are made quarterly is that Sheriff Nick Smith agreed to a level budget for this fiscal year on the condition he could amend if revenues are found to cover him hiring for needs. The funding has already been spent, and much of it involves payroll. It was noted the amendment did include the purchase of two vehicles from Carl Cannon in January, approved that month by the commission, for $32,473, and for the payoff for clear title of two Tahoes for $21,103 at the same time due the vehicles being totaled. 

• Heard Davis thank the Sheriff's Office and the Jasper Police Department for their help in the protest held Monday at the courthouse square in Jasper. "It was a peaceful protest. It was a passionate protest, but it was peaceful," Davis said. "I saw a lot of praying. I saw some singing. In my humble opinion, that's how a protest should go. I thank everyone involved who maintained that. Again, the passion was there, but it was a peaceful passion. I was inspired by the way it was handled. Again, it shows you this is a loving, caring community and we care for each other. If things are done the right way, people will respond the right way. Again, that was the right way to handle that situation."