The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

June 4, 2014

School board member, district foreman advance to D-1 primary

Shannon, Hill vying for Republican ticket for county commissioner

By Kim West
kwest@athensnews-courier.com

ATHENS — Limestone school board member James Shannon and District 1 foreman Stanley Hill emerged from a crowded pack of Republican contenders Tuesday night, advancing to the July 15 runoff for the county’s District 1 commissioner.

With 11 of 12 boxes counted — the 12th box being the provisional ballots — only 74 votes separated Shannon and Hill. The runoff winner will not face a Democratic opponent in the Nov. 4 general election.

School board to commission?

Shannon, 72, won his seat on the school board as a write-in candidate in 2002. He is the only write-in elected official in the county.

Shannon, who was unavailable for comment Wednesday, and Hill attended the recent political forum held at Athens State University.

“I would say the roads (are the biggest priority), but I would also say (cleaning) the ditches out. Keep the water off the roads because you can’t build a road unless you keep the water off it. You can patch it, you can do whatever you want to it, but you’ve got to get the water going where it needs to go,” he said during the forum. “... We’ve got to go to Montgomery and get with our legislators and get some money in here. There is just not enough gasoline-tax money to cover Limestone County.”

Shannon has served on the seven-member school board for 12 years, and says this has given him experience managing public funds. The Limestone school system is operating with an $89.9 million budget for fiscal 2014.

“We’ve got to go get money and we’ve got to manage it right. I’ve had plenty of experience with that working with the school system. We have to manage our money — we have to work on that all the time,” he said.

Foreman to district boss?

Hill, 62, has been a county employee for 14 years, including the past 7 1/2 years as foreman for District 1. He has taken the required leave of absence while campaigning for district commissioner.

“First of all, I just thank God for the opportunity to be in the race, and I thank everyone for their support, hard work and votes,” Hill said Wednesday. “I’m looking forward to running in the race with James Shannon.”

He said the top priority for District 1 residents is improving and maintaining the roadways. District 1 has 270 miles of roads and 45 bridges, according to County Engineer Richard Sanders. All districts receive a limited amount of money for roadwork in their budgets.

“The biggest concerns that I’ve heard is the bad roads — 90 percent of the messages they were sending back to me were about wanting better roads,” Hill said. “We’ll have to use the (resources) we have available to fix the roads because we wouldn’t be able to plant-mix everything — this is the real smooth stuff. We’ll have to put tar and gravel, or chip-seal, and that would be one way to address the issue.

“Taxpayers do not like tar and gravel but in order to improve them, that’s what you have to do. Some of the roads need ripping up because they don’t have a base. We’ll need to plow it up, put a base down and put in the chip-seal.”

Hill said that “a lot of roads need attention,” adding he would formulate a plan for repairs and improvements.

“We’ll have a priority list and try to fix a schedule. State aid roads, when they get in poor shape, the state supplies 80 percent and (the county) 20 percent of the funding. If we don’t do the work when the state says we have to do it, we’ll lose the state funding,” he said. “The second priority would be the most traveled roads with hazards and third is those that are costing us more to maintain. Instead of (repeatedly) patching a 100-yard stretch of road, we’ll need to put down a new surface.”

The District 1 commissioner is paid $55,696 annually and serves a four-year term beginning in mid-November. The incumbent commissioner, Gary Daly, 64, chose not to run for re-election.

Republican primary for D-1 commissioner

11 of 12 boxes, not including provisional ballots

James Shannon — 828 votes (30.1 percent)

Stanley Hill — 764 (27.8)

Daryl Sammet — 624 (22.7)

Seth Parker — 384 (14)

Tom Combs — 150 (5.5)