Advocate of private works discontinues practice in district - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Advocate of private works discontinues practice in district

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The county's private works practices, rare in the state, ended up under scrutiny since the arrest of District 3 employee Deborah Simms on fraud and ethics charges. The county's private works practices, rare in the state, ended up under scrutiny since the arrest of District 3 employee Deborah Simms on fraud and ethics charges.
MADISON COUNTY, AL (WAFF) -

One of the Madison County Commission's strongest advocates for the controversial practice of  "private works," county crews doing projects on private land, has discontinued the practice in his district.

District 1 commissioner Roger Jones announced Friday that county crews will no longer sell and make deliveries of gravel, a service he said made up 90% of the private works projects done in the district.

The county's private works practices, rare in the state, ended up under scrutiny since the arrest of District 3 employee Deborah Simms on fraud and ethics charges. Simms was accused of diverting thousands of dollars in private works proceeds into an unauthorized account.

The scandal touched off debate in the county commission on whether private works should be discontinued altogether but Jones was unmoved until now.

"That has absolutely nothing to do with this," he said. "This is a decision that we've made based on advice from our attorney. I've had long talks with him several times in the last few months." 

Jones said county attorney Jeff Rich was concerned with a provision in the state constitution which prohibits county governments from doing work on private properties. A Madison County ordinance authorizes such work but, given that conflict, Jones said he was concerned the county ordinance might not hold up in court.

Up until this point, Jones vociferously resisted efforts to discontinue private works citing an almost constant demand for the service in District 1. 

"Over the last 6 or 7 months, we had 298 contracts where we hauled either a half a load of gravel or a load of gravel to private properties," Jones said, adding that the district will now try to refer property owners to private businesses that could help. "They'll have to call a private firm, construction company, someone in the trucking business that can deliver gravel." 

Jones said over the past 6 to 7 months, District 1 has taken in about $66,000 for private works gravel drops but says ending the practice would lose the district only "a little" money because it was selling the district at close to cost.

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