Coal tax distribution divides commission
by James Phillips
Mar 19, 2013 | 1267 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A proposed change in the distribution of coal severance tax funds led to much discussion during Monday’s meeting of the Walker County Commission.

When the issue came up on the agenda, District 4 Commissioner Steven Aderholt called to squash any further discussion on the issue and asked it be removed from the agenda. No one seconded the motion.

District 2 Commissioner Dan Wright said he believes the distribution of the money should be changed. The funds are currently divided equally among the county’s four districts, which are split equally by population.

“Because that money goes to fixing roads, let the road miles in the county for each district determine how much money goes to each district,” he said.

Wright explained that District 2 and 3 have the most active strip mining operations and the two districts have the most road miles of the county’s four districts.

“We have more area, and we have more pits — it just makes sense that we would get more of the tax money to take care of those roads,” Wright said. “These roads are demolished by the trucks that go over them. I can’t keep the roads up if the trucks weigh more than our pocketbooks.”

Wright said two roads in his district have failed Alabama Department of Transportation testing two years in a row.

“It’s my understanding that if they fail three years in a row that we could lose the $500,000 we receive annually from the federal government that we usually use on bridges,” he said. “I can’t keep the roads up with the money I get now, and I don’t want us to lose that money.”

District 3 Commissioner Bobby Nunnelley said his district is strapped for funds.

“I don’t have money to fix the roads in my district,” he said. “I haven’t had any money since I came into office. I’m trying to get this money to fix the roads.”

Aderholt said he frames the situation differently.

“They basically want to take away money from my district and District 1 and give it to themselves,” he said. “I have to take my hat off to former commissioner Randy Bridges. He did a good job of managing the funds in District 4. I can’t help if that is not the case in District 3. In the past, we’ve had just as much or more strip mining in my district. What if the numbers change in the future? Are we going to call the Legislature and say we need it changed again?”

Wright said he wants to see the fund where they can be utilized the most.

“I don’t want the money,” he said. “We just need it to be where it needs to be. I’d make a motion to give it to Mr. (David) Edgil (county engineer) and let him fix the roads with it.”

Aderholt said, “That’s a unit system.”

“That’s not the unit system. I’m not saying give someone all the county’s money.” Wright said. “I’m saying this road money could go to him and he can decide which roads need it most. I’m definitely not for a unit system.”

Last year, the county received approximately $584,000 in coal severance tax funds, which was divided equally among the four districts. Edgil said that amount would only repair about seven miles of roadway.

“If you gave me $2 million, I couldn’t fix the roads that need to be fixed,” he said.

Aderholt said he didn’t find out about the possibility of changing the way the funds are given out until Friday afternoon.

“I’ve only had 48 hours to think about this,” he said. “The $146,000 may seem insignificant, but I can do a lot on the roads in District 4 with that amount..”

District 1 Commissioner Keith Davis said he was not prepared to vote on the issue Monday and made a motion to table the matter until the commission’s April 1 meeting. “We need to set a work session before that meeting,” he said.

Commissioners agreed to schedule a work session. Aderholt also asked residents to call the commission office at 205-384-7230 with their concerns over the proposal. Wright said citizens can contact him on his cell phone at 205-522-2004.