- Cullman, Alabama

January 27, 2013

EDITORIAL: NARCOG takes turn in the right direction

The Cullman Times

CULLMAN — After a year of forgettable bickering and posturing by politicians on the North-central Alabama Council of Local Governments, the board finally made some adjustments that may just salvage the organization.

NARCOG’s problems crested in 2012 when Decatur and Morgan County bailed out because of disagreements over who would be the executive director and the voting sequence practiced by the board. Cullman County, with its many towns and cities, actually had the controlling votes over the larger Morgan County. The board — last week — agreed to return to an older voting structure that gives Morgan County more votes and leaves Cullman and Lawrence counties with the rest. Reaching this point of agreement was a painful, often embarrassing journey for NARCOG.

Personality conflicts, accusations of top-heavy salaries and political bullying were all part of the story. By the end of last week, Morgan County commissioners had voted to return to NARCOG, a move that must be approved by the NARCOG board. And that’s likely to happen.

At stake in this issue was the region’s senior programs, which impacts thousands of residents in the tri-county area. Gov. Robert Bentley had made it clear to the officials seated at NARCOG that he would do whatever was necessary to protect those programs, which are also tied to federal dollars and regulations.

A representative for the state appeared at last week’s decisive meeting, informing the group that the governor was prepared to send each county into separate councils of local government if they couldn’t reach an agreement. The threat, which was real, must have worked. Cullman County would have been shoved into the Jefferson County council, Morgan County into the Huntsville area, and Lawrence County into the Shoals. Such moves would not have played out well for local residents.

The established three-county area of NARCOG has plenty in common and  should be able to work together without deep-rooted tension over who has the most votes. The organization needs to move forward, find a qualified executive director and get back to the business of caring for seniors and other needs in the region.