Blankenship reflects on commission accomplishments

Dale County Commission Chairman Mark Blankenship

A state award for excellence in county government was among the accomplishments of the Dale County Commission in 2019.

Commitment of the county commissioners to the success of Dale County is cited by Commission Chairman Mark Blankenship for a year of accomplishments that included working with the Ozark Dale County Economic Development Corporation to secure grants, locate businesses and support a revitalization project in the county.

Blankenship said he and the commission worked with ODCEC to locate the Motobilt/Anvil manufacturer to Dale County and to locate the Sombrero Company to the East Gate Business Park.

A revitalization project for downtown Ariton and two grants for the Clopton Community Center were also part of collaborative efforts with ODCEC.

The commission also secured a $308,700 Community Development Block Grant water improvement grant for the Newton Water and Sewage Authority.

In 2019 the commission worked with Bell Helicopter to locate the Navy trainer in Ozark if Bell wins the contract for 130 new aircraft. In April 2019 Bell announced that should the Bell 407GXi be selected for the United States Navy Advanced Helicopter Trainer program, the company plans to assemble the aircraft in its Ozark location which produces the Fire Scout, an unmanned version of the helicopter.

The commission in 2019 passed an “aggressive” pay and benefit plan for all county employees, Blankenship said. They also passed a $1.5 million plan to resurface 77 miles of rural roads in Dale County.

The Association of County Commission’s Excellence in County Government Award received in 2019 was for enactment of a countywide vehicle tag tax earmarked for emergency medical services throughout the county. That was a project that spanned several years, Blankenship said, as the commission worked with area municipal leaders and EMS providers to carve out the initiative, known as Act 239, which was passed by Dale County voters.

The additional $5 in vehicle tag fees has generated some $280,000 which has been distributed to EMS services throughout the county.

The Dale County voters also approved Sunday alcohol sales with more than 64 percent of the votes cast and that is expected to be an economic development attraction.

Blankenship said a new permanent morgue in the old government annex building was completed in 2019 after the commission approved up to $4,500 to reconfigure part of the building to house a three-drawer morgue unit which the county had received from the Fayette County administrator, at no charge to Dale County.

The annex unit had served as an alternate to the mobile morgue trailer used by the county since its purchase in 2017 after the morgue cooling system used at Dale Medical Center was deemed inadequate.

The commission teamed with the Dale County Board of Education to remodel the meeting room in the Dale County Government Building, to include a new sound system, Blankenship said. The commission also teamed with the DBOE and the Dale County Sheriff’s Office to enhance security providing school resource officers in the county schools.

Collaboration with the local chapter of the Vietnam Veterans Association has resulted in the installation of a Vietnam War Monument at the Dale County Government Building, Blankenship said.

Most recently, the commission has proceeded with plans to demolish the old law enforcement firing range building and build a new 5,000 square foot facility.

“Currently the commission is collaborating with school systems in Dale County to initiate a Dale County Commission Academy with a focus on growing our future employees from our local school systems,” Blankenship said. “Even if they never come to work for the county, we will be creating better citizens that know and understand county government.”

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