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County commission addresses 2020 census, price to house county prisoners

The Morgan County Commission voted last week to spend $20,000 out of its contingency fund “for the purpose of promoting the 2020 census count in Morgan County.” 

Chairman Ray Long said the census money will pay off in the long run, as an accurate count ensures accurate numbers when it comes to federal funding for several programs. 

Getting an accurate count means more money for the state,” he said. “It helps ensure we get as much money as possible from grants and more funding from places like TVA. A lot of the funding we rely on is based off population. This isn’t the best year for us for a census because numbers are down.” 

Long said low population numbers could result in Alabama losing a congressional seat in Washington D.C. 

“That hurts because losing that representation loses millions of dollars for Alabama,” he said. “We want to make sure we’re doing everything we can to get as much money as possible for roads and education and all the things we find important.” 

Long said the largest part of the $20,000 will be spent printing materials he hopes to put in front of as many of the county’s approximately 120,000 residents as possible. He said each person counted means roughly $1,600 for the state of Alabama.  

“We are going to work to get the material in front of as many eyes as possible,” he said. “We are working with the school system so students can get the forms in front of their parents, and we’re working to make sure households that don’t have students are also seeing the material. We are going to put information up in our senior centers and push it in our newsletter. Every response to the census helps the county.” 

Long said the commission wants to work to alleviate worries some people have about participating in the count. 

“A lot of people get worried there will be privacy issues if they participate,” he said. “We want to make sure everyone knows that any information gathered in the census will not be used for purposes other than the census.” 

The census also offers short-term, flexible jobs that could pump more money into the local economy. 

“I applied for a census job in 2010 but never heard back,” said Hartselle native Jackie Radley. “I applied again this year and was hired to help with the count. It’s temporary work, but the hours are good for my schedule, and the pay is good. I’m trying to bridge the gap between jobs now, so having this come along really helps out.” 

In other business, the commission voted to adopt a resolution authorizing the chairman to advertise for bids for body armor for the Morgan County Sheriff’s Office, as well as a resolution authorizing the chairman to execute an agreement, on behalf of Sheriff Ron Puckett, between the county and Falkville, Priceville, Somerville, Trinity and Hartselle on a one-year deal, beginning April 1, 2020, that will provide space and services at the Morgan County Jail for housing municipal prisoners at a rate of $31 per day. 

“The old housing agreement was at a rate of $23 per day,” Long said. “That had been in place since the new county jail was opened years ago. We know now that it costs more to house inmates, and the municipalities that send prisoners over understand that, too. We felt $31 per day was a number that was fair to everyone.” 

Additionally, the commission voted to adopt a resolution to approve a salary adjustment of $1,000 for Morgan County Coroner Jeff Chunn, increasing his total salary to $32,000 effective Feb. 1, 2020. 

The county also approved invoices totaling $13,419. 

The commission’s next meeting, originally scheduled for 9 a.m. Jan. 28, has been rescheduled for the same time Jan. 30. Meetings are held in the County Commission Boardroom on the fifth floor of the Morgan County Courthouse.