By Kim West
The clock is ticking for two deteriorating cedar trees ringing the Limestone County Courthouse after being deemed dangerous and a liability.
Commissioners held a lengthy discussion Monday at a regular meeting.
The east side and west side of the courthouse each has an Atlas cedar tree that has been dropping limbs, and both Doug Chapman of the Alabama Cooperative Extension System and Dr. Joe Eakes, a horticulturist and professor at Auburn University, have recommended the removal of both trees, which are estimated to be under 90 years old.
“There’s personal liability that comes with this job when you fail to act on a recommendation,” said Menefee.
“What if a group of folks had been standing there (when two 16-inch to 18-inch limbs fell from the cedars in August)?” asked Menefee. “A vast majority of people who stand there are older folks and younger kids.”
Steve White, a local resident who disagreed with claims that the trees are life threatening, asked Menefee, “Are you going to cut down the oak trees (at the courthouse), too? Are you going to cut down all the trees in Athens?”
Menefee said based on the recommendations from experts and the possibility of liability, he has decided to accept bids for the tree removal. At the urging of all four commissioners, Menefee said he was open to preserving the west-side tree if local tree trimmers were able to prune it. District 4 Commissioner Bill Daws asked Menefee to consult with local tree trimmers before cutting the trees down, and District 2 Commissioner Gerald Barksdale pointed out the lumber from the trees could be used for keepsakes to preserve the trees’ history.
“I’m not a tree hater, and I don’t love to cut trees down,” Menefee said. “I’m going to go ahead and let bids for the removal of the trees, and I’m open to preserving them. But I don’t think they’re as old as people say they are, and I don’t think any Civil War deals took place under them … there comes a time in life when you have to do what you have to do, and these trees are a problem.”
In other business, the commission:
• Approved a contract with TARCOG (Top of Alabama Regional Council of Governments) for $118,812 and a $212,740 Hazard Mitigation Grant for a community safe room at 15199 Brownsferry Rd. The county will contribute $53,185 and the federal contribution will be $159,555.
• Accepted bids for a Voter Education Web Portal to SOE Software with a total first-year cost of $53,400 and printing for the license commissioner’s office to Currie Systems for $171.84.
• Approved these personnel actions: transferring Lance Royals to investigator/evidence technician in the sheriff’s department and Johnny Smith to nutrition site manager at the East Limestone Senior Center; promoting Josh McLaughlin to lieutenant in the sheriff’s department; and accepting family medical leave for Kenny Thompson from Oct. 30 through Dec. 31, 2012. A job description for district clerk, grade 6, was also approved.
The holiday schedule for county workers will include Nov. 22-23 for Thanksgiving, Dec. 24-25 for Christmas and Dec. 31 and Jan. 1, 2013 for New Year’s.
The commission approved the removal of four desktop computers from the engineering department inventory, including a MPC Tower, an IBM Thinkpad 390X, an Acer Power FH and a Dell Optiplex GX620.
A Mayberry Drive subdivision located north of Highway 72 on the north and west side of Mayberry Drive was also green-lighted.
In other business, the commission voted to amend the fee schedule for the Limestone County Event Center to include a $500 flat rate for non-profits and schools based on the prior recommendation of Event Center Director Mike Nave.
The flat rate will include set-up, cleaning and security costs, which are typically charged by the hour.
The commissioners authorized a reimbursement to Shireman’s Barber Shop for the difference in a 1-inch tap and 5/8-inch tap for $41.32, and they also sanctioned a two-week extension for a resident at L&S Property.
The commission will hold an organizational meeting and work session Wednesday, Nov. 14 at the Washington St. Courthouse Annex.