OZARK — The Dale County commission approved two issues on Monday that were discussed multiple times over the years, while an issue surrounding liability of the Dale County Sheriff’s office air program was not finalized.
The commission unanimously approved the implementation of a four-day work week for the Dale County engineer’s office, which includes the road and bridge department. The office is expected to remain open with at least one employee on Fridays.
Dale County Commission Engineer Derek Brewer said the four-day, 10-hour shifts would likely warrant more productivity on larger products, as well as help with attendance. The schedule will be implemented on a trial basis for about a month before a final decision is made on whether to continue the schedule.
The commission also approved allowing inmate labor at a rate of $25 per day per inmate, which will be taken off the inmate’s fines. The Dale County court system is not expected to be compensated those fees, but Dale County Commission Chairman Mark Blankenship said the court system could be compensated if the county is reimbursed through the Alabama Department of Environmental Management.
Blankenship said the inmate plan will be implemented with the purchase of liability insurance with a premium of $2,642 from Circle Insurance.
Dale County Commissioner Doug Williamson opposed the measure.
In the working meeting, the commission discussed insurance for volunteer pilots that fly in the Dale County air unit. Dale County Sheriff Wally Olson halted the unit two weeks ago – with the exception of Chief Sheriff’s Deputy Tim McDonald – after he said the commission cited issues with the program’s liability insurance coverage.
Officials said the air unit, which has operated at least since 2002, operates at an estimated $40,000 annually and mostly runs off volunteer pilots that double as reserve sheriff’s deputies.
Blankenship said the Association of County Commissions of Alabama was in the process of seeking some coverage for the state’s 13 counties with air programs that could better protect the commission from liability.
The ACCA meets again in June.
Olson questioned if the volunteers could fly before then, particularly when requested to rescue autistic children or residents diagnosed with autism.
“The questions comes down to how much is a life worth,” Olson said. “From my understanding until now the insurance we’ve had has been sufficient. With the one pilot that has been killed, the federal government paid the state for that.”
Blankenship said it was best the county wait until the insurance matters were settled, including the signing of a release form by each of the volunteer pilots, before they flew again.
“I think that until we get this resolved, we need to do what counties are doing without helicopters,” Blankenship said.
The commission also approved:
- hiring Corey Baldwin as the county’s new compliance officer
- designating 30x30 storage building behind the Dale County Annex building as a climate-controlled storage facility for the entire county
- creating revenue department satellite office in Ariton if a feasibility study warrants an office there
- allowing engineer to perform work on Dale County Road 348