In the only divided vote of the meeting, the Limestone County Commission on Monday approved an additional holiday for county employees.
Three of the county's commissioners voted in favor of making Dec. 23 a holiday for Limestone County in addition to Dec. 24 and 25, meaning county employees will be paid despite county offices being closed on those days. It also means county employees who cannot take the days off work, such as those in law enforcement and other essential roles, will be granted up to eight hours of holiday pay per day in addition to regular pay for the hours worked on those days.
District 4 Commissioner Ben Harrison said it was this idea of paying some employees extra so others could have another paid day off that prompted him to be the lone dissenting vote.
"If (the governor) declares the state employees are off the 23rd, fine, we'll be off, too, but to give an extra day in addition to that, it ups our cost," Harrison said. "I'm opposed to that."
Later, during the time allotted for commissioner comments, District 4 Commissioner Jason Black compared Harrison's stance on the county holiday to his stance on the gasoline tax, calling it "easy ... to be the devil's advocate" when the measure is likely to pass regardless. Black said he sometimes wished he could be that guy, but as elected officials who work for the employees, "sometimes you just have to do things that just might be the right thing to do."
"It was the right thing to do," Black said of his vote in favor of the holiday, "seeing that I was probably not going to have any employees here. I know the license commission, the tax assessors and all those, they have employees that want to take off."
He said allowing employees to use vacation time to take the day off would leave a "skeleton crew" at the county offices, "so county business is not running at 100% either way." To that point, Harrison later responded there are things that can be done even with a skeleton crew.
As for his position against the gas tax and the holiday, Harrison said, "If I argue for something and wish y'all would vote that way, that's the way I truly think. I never take a stance — I never take a vote — just for political grandstanding."
In other business, commissioners approved the following:
• Claims totaling $3,369,990.01;
• Resolution to adopt amended commission meeting schedule;
• Purchase of 38 or more Axon body video cameras for the Limestone County Sheriff's Office at a cost of $699 per camera;
• Purchase of motor oil from W.H. Thomas Oil at a cost of $12,864.37;
• Merit increases for Chief Appraiser Judith A. Harvey and assessment clerks Jennifer Easter and Paula Thompson, effective Nov. 8, 9 and 24, respectively;
• Replat of lots 13 and 14 in Eagle Point Subdivision;
• Transfer of Canon Copier Model IRC5240A from Emergency Management to County Commission; and
• Transfer of Canon Copier Model IR5050N from County Commission to License Commission.
District 1 Commissioner Daryl Sammet said water from weekend storms caused flooding in several areas, and crews would continue working this week to clear and assess affected roads. He encouraged residents to check areas in the yard where items could easily be swept away by rain and contribute to flooding, such as trash cans and play equipment left in ditches and near culverts.
District 2 Commissioner Steve Turner said he wouldn't talk much about flooding, but he did want to thank residents in East Limestone who maintained their yard up to the road and kept sticks and other debris away from ditches.
In District 4, Harrison said a bridge on Quinn Road near Round Island Creek has washed out and will need to be repaired or replaced. He said modifications to the bridge were estimated at $13–$14,000, but he believed it could be taken out and replaced for around $8,500.
He expected the bridge to be out of use for two to three days.
The Limestone County Commission will next meet for a work session 10 a.m. Wednesday, Dec. 11, at the Washington Street Courthouse Annex in Athens.
Before adjourning the meeting, Commission Chairman Collin Daly invited everyone to attend the Christmas tree lighting 5 p.m. Thursday at the county courthouse on The Square in Athens. The public can stay near The Square to watch the Athens Trustmark Christmas Parade, which is scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday and marches from Athens Middle School down Hobbs Street and around the courthouse before ending at Hometown Market on South Jefferson Street.
Daly also reminded those in attendance Ardmore and Elkmont have Christmas parades in the coming days. The Elkmont Lions Club Christmas Parade will depart from Elkmont High School at 1 p.m. Saturday and marches through downtown Elkmont via Upper Fort Hampton Road and ends at the Piggly Wiggly on Alabama 127.
The Ardmore Christmas Parade will line up 5 p.m. Monday at Ardmore High School, with judging of floats set from 5–6:30 p.m. The parade will then leave Ardmore High at 7 p.m. and travel along Ardmore Avenue to Main Street.