By David Palmer
The Cullman Times
A compromise has been reached by representatives of three area governments that could restore the original members to the North-central Alabama Council of Local Governments.
In a meeting in Montgomery last week, Cullman County Commission Chairman Kenneth Walker, Morgan County Commission Chairman Ray Long and Lawrence County Commissioner Bobby Burch discussed the compromise in the presence of a mediator through the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA).
The proposal would make NARCOG’s voting powers similar to those of several years ago when population decided the number of votes each county is entitled to on the board. In this case, Morgan County — with the largest population — would have a slight majority of votes, followed by Cullman County and Lawrence County.
“That’s what we would like to see, that it be based on population. Morgan County has 51 percent of the population and this compromise would restore that. At that point we would be willing to rejoin, and that could open the way for Decatur to become a part again,” Long said.
The bylaws were changed years ago, which allowed Cullman County to carry the majority of votes. Long said this opened the way for one county to control who serves as director.
“Politics shouldn’t be an issue where the director is concerned, but it became an issue,” Long said. “What I would like to see, if we can get this plan approved, is that the next director be approved on a recommendation from an outside firm. The qualifications of a director should be the issue, not where that person lives.”
Walker, speaking at the Cullman Rotary Club Thursday, confirmed the compromise proposal and said it would be presented to the full NARCOG board. That meeting is likely to occur in January 2013.
“What we want is to get NARCOG back to its mission of helping seniors across the area,” Walker said.
Stanley Yarbrough, a Cullman County commissioner, recently began serving as chairman of the NARCOG board. He said he favors the compromise that was offered in Montgomery and believes it will best serve area residents.
“I think it’s great that the commission chairmen sat down and discussed this. I’m going to do everything in my power to get NARCOG back on track. Every town and entity would still be represented whether they have a vote or not on the board,” Yarbrough said. “I think everybody realizes the benefit of staying together instead of moving off to other councils.”
Walker said if a compromise is not reached, Cullman County would likely be forced to join the council of governments serving Jefferson County, while Lawrence County would end up with the organization serving northwest Alabama and Morgan County falling under the Huntsville area.
Long said approval of the compromise would be up to the NARCOG board’s current voting members, which includes only Lawrence and Cullman counties.
“Our voting powers in Morgan County stopped at the end of June because we pulled out. But we’ll be back at the table if this is approved,” Long said. “We’ve asked the governor to hold up on approving us to join another organization so that we could try this. If Morgan County remains in NARCOG, we’re not going to run over anyone just because of the voting structure. We all have a mission to deliver services for our seniors and that’s what we want to effectively maintain.”
NARCOG’s next regular meeting is scheduled January 23.
David Palmer may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 256-734-2131, ext. 213.