Cotaco service center opens for county business
By Michael Wetzel
For the Enquirer
COTACO — A new Morgan County Service Center East, available to all Morgan residents and with business hours beginning at 6 a.m., opened Nov. 7 and customer Joyce Marsh of Hulaco said it’s a significant improvement over the cramped center that was housed in the District 4 shop.
“I love the convenience and there is more parking here,” Marsh said after being one of the first residents to utilize the full-time service center. “The parking is easier to access because it’s not coming off a main road.
The new 2,000-square-foot service center at 62 Guyer Cove Road in Cotaco cost $600,000 and is about 200 yards south of the District 4 shop on Union Hill Road where residents previously purchased tags and conducted other county business.
“I expect more (people to come) as customers see the nice facility and the seating available for them, also the efficient service,” said Amanda Scott, revenue commissioner.
Scott said her staff at the service center will see about 50 to 60 customers a day this time of the year, with many people visiting to pay property taxes and file for homestead exemptions. She said during the summer that number might be 30 to 40 customers daily.
“We’re hopeful we’ll see more foot traffic,” said License Commissioner Kate Terry. “January to October are our busy months for car tags. We believe more people will be apt to use this service center once they know we’re open.”
Terry said last fiscal year, her office brought in $20.7 million with $1.7 million coming from transactions in the former District 4 shop service center site.
“Now with our new service center east, we are hopeful that the people we serve will go from 8% to about 10% to 15%,” Terry said. “This building is open in this community, but not limited to this community.”
Scott and Terry said the center is open 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday. “Our hours are great for working people. That is convenient. They can stop by early in the morning on their way to work,” Scott said.
The new center will have four county workers: Kim Hubbard, lead assessment clerk, and Teresa Satterfield, assessment clerk, in the licenses commission office and Melanie Schraff, business personal property appraiser 2, and Kristen Sanders, senior assessment clerk. Scott said she will have a county mapper at the location a few days each week.
“We didn’t have to add staff here, but we now have the capability to if needed,” Scott said. “We have space for three (more) employees plus now we’re not getting in District 4 shop workers’ way.”
Commission Chairman Ray Long said the construction cost of the facility came in under budget, despite inflation and the effects of the COVID pandemic. He said the opening was delayed about six months because of sewer and weather issues.
“This is something that has been a long time coming,” Long said. “Paying for tags, taxes in the District 4 shop, if a few people were in front of you, you had to stand out in the rain or cold to wait to pay. Our residents deserve better than that.
“Any county business you can do at the courthouse, you can do at this service center.”
Brett Bryan, construction manager for contractor Sue Jac, said plans for the building began before the pandemic arrived.
“We were able to hit most of the cost issues ahead of COVID,” he said. “Materials were purchased ahead of time, but getting those items here was another issue. Labor issues as far as availability hit us pretty hard. … Supply chain issues are still out there. Companies are still having trouble getting some items. Some components are hard to get because they are COVID affected. There are some vendors out there just trying to play catch up.”
The new facility has separate offices for the license and revenue departments, a conference room, a break area for employees, a computer data/network security room and two restrooms.
“The Sheriff’s Office will have access to the back door so the deputies can come in on break and use the restrooms if needed,” Long said.
In April, Morgan County opened a $1.04 million, 7,000-square-foot service center on Shull Road in Hartselle.
Long said both facilities were paid for out of the capital improvement fund.