Author: Jane Nicholes

Legislation gives Baldwin commissioners hefty raises

Baldwin County commissioners will get raises of about 50 percent thanks to a bill passed during the chaotic last week of the Legislature’s regular session. The exact amount of the raise is unclear. Current salaries are $33,600. The commission chairman, currently Chris Elliott, receives an additional $5,000 because the position includes executive, administrative and ceremonial duties. Using a formula, the new salaries will be tied to Baldwin County’s median family income and could go up to $50,000 or more. Every four years at the end of a term, the salaries would be recalculated and could rise or fall depending how well the income of Baldwin citizens has fared. “I just thought it was deserved,” said Rep. Steve McMillan, R-Gulf Shores, the chief sponsor of the bill. “If someone is going to run countywide in as large a county as Baldwin, it really is a full-time job.” The commissioners did not ask for the additional compensation, McMillan said, although they did thank him for it. “I just felt like it was time for it to be done. It hasn’t been done in years.” The new salaries are effective when the next term begins in 2018. In future years, the reset of the salaries will also be effective with the new commissioner terms. The salary structure is similar to that of the Legislature, which several several years ago gave itself hefty...

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Baldwin sewer service costs a lot more in some places than others

As Baldwin County continues to grow, the need for sewer service continues to increase. A survey of single-family residential sewer fees in Baldwin County revealed a wide variation in both tap fees for new construction and monthly usage rates. Apples-to-apples comparisons are difficult, however. Some sewer system operators charge minimum fees per thousand gallons used, some have standard base or monthly rates and some charge more for single-family residential service outside city limits. Commercial rates often take into account the size of the business and essential questions such as how many people work in the building. Despite the challenges, it is possible to draw some conclusions. People who live farther away from a population center are probably going to pay more, particularly in tap fees, which are charged to connect a home to an existing sewer line. In Baldwin County the highest sewer rates seem to be charged by the privately owned Baldwin County Sewer Service. Officials have said that’s because BCSS isn’t eligible for the types of grants and loans that nonprofit municipalities can apply for, so its expenses are higher. Likewise, BCSS is building new lines mostly outside city limits. BCSS is based in Summerdale and serves a large and growing area of Baldwin County including Summerdale, Silverhill, Elberta, Perdido Beach, Spanish Fort and Lillian. Lagniappe surveyed current rates countywide, using system websites and a survey put...

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Fairhope employee files complaint against Mayor Wilson

Few people know what happened between Fairhope Human Resources Director Pandora Heathcoe and Mayor Karin Wilson, but it was serious enough to involve lawyers and an insurance company. On Friday, Heathcoe filed a civil complaint with the city against Wilson, who took office in November. It is known that a police report was made in connection with whatever happened. People who have seen the report would not discuss its contents. Lagniappe is filing official requests under Alabama’s public records law to obtain the police report and the civil complaint, however Alabama law allows police departments to withhold such records at will. Asked via her Facebook page for comment Saturday afternoon, Wilson sent this statement to Lagniappe: “Legal counsel will be handling responses internally. I’m confident the facts will demonstrate very quickly the allegations are false.” Lagniappe was unable to reach Heathcoe. City Attorney Marion “Tut” Wynne said he received the complaint Friday. He said the filing of a such a complaint is a necessary first step in seeking reimbursement from the city’s insurer, the Travelers. “I don’t think there is a criminal issue,” Wynne said. Without discussing any of the details, Wynne said what happened was best described as “an incident.” The incident occurred several months ago and apparently did not result in charges. After news of Heathcoe’s claim became public Friday evening, Wilson made the following post on...

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Northcutt running for Pittman’s seat

Fairhope dentist David Northcutt has announced that he will run for the state Senate seat currently occupied by Trip Pittman. Primary elections are June 5, 2018. “There are several things that are going wrong in our state over the last several years. We have been let down by our top leaders, we have constant threats of tax increases and we are not getting the solutions we deserve,” Northcutt, a Republican, said. “I believe we need to send people to Montgomery with real life business experience and high ethical standards.” Northcutt completed his undergraduate work at Auburn and graduated from...

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