Supes head to D.C. in search of cash

Staff Writer

Clay County supervisors have a $5 million wish list and they are taking it to Washington in search of help.

"We're asking for more money this time than ever but if you don't ask, you'll never get anything," District 4 Supervisor Shelton Deanes said of the trip to Washington for the National Sheriff's Association Conference.

Deanes, fellow Supervisor R.B. Davis and Sheriff Eddie Scott left today .

The county's list is wide ranging, covering everything from money for a summer youth program that has provided work and job skills to teenagers in the past to money for bridges and roads to help for E-911 and jail services.

Besides the summer youth program, other top items include $2 million to replace the 300-foot Caney Creek bridge that was labeled unsafe and closed by a federal bridge inspection and as much as $3 million for East Tibbee Road into Lowndes County.

"We're looking for any kind of grants, any kind of money they can help us with," Davis said, summing up the priorities he and Deanes are taking to meetings with the state's congressional delegation and their staffs.

"We need at least $5 million, that's what we are going to ask for," Deanes added.

"We are just like everybody else, we do all we can do with what we have, but you can only put so much back on the taxpayers," Supervisor Luke Lummus said, estimating that 55 percent of the county's population was retired or on fixed incomes.

"We need a little help from the big guys," continued Lummus, who has been trying to get the Tibbee project funded for 20 years only to be stonewalled or dodged by Washington.

With growth in western Lowndes County, the connector is even more important to Clay, providing access to the Elm Lake area across Tibbee Creek. The road is one of only three links from Clay to Lowndes.
Sen. Roger Wicker at one point had $1 million set aside for the project, but land owners who wouldn't donate needed rights-of-way ended up delaying the project past its deadline.

In one of the most honest assessments of the trips, Deanes addressed in advance people who question whether it's worth spending hundreds of dollars to go to Washington to lobby.

"A lot of people call it a waste of money. Don't get me wrong, we are going to enjoy ourselves, but most of all, we are going to get our business done, we are going to handle business and get our local perspective in the laps of the people who can help," Deanes stated.

"When you bring back $1.2 million or $600,000 or $240,000, tell me where the waste is," Deanes continued, referring to previous grants and funding that have been aided by trips to D.C.
"It's not a waste of money when you can talk to people all over the country about ideas, getting information that might make things a little better for everybody here at home. If you don't go and beg for it, you are not going to get it," he concluded emphatically.

While Deanes and Davis are focused on meetings with the delegation and staff, as well as attending conference sessions, Scott will be focused on law enforcement, representing the state on committees dealing with the opioid epidemic, drug interdiction and homeland security.

"Drug addiction is a way of life, all across the country. We might as well accept that," the sheriff said, repeating what he says will be an oft-discussed refrain.
The conference runs through Tuesday.

In other business Thursday, supervisors:

-- Approved Board President Lynn Horton's request to have the Tombigbee River Valley Water Management District survey and complete work to improve water flow in a creek that runs under West TVA Road in Horton's district;
-- Learned from Scott the sheriff's department will have a mock inspection on March 1 to prepare for the real thing in April as part of its accreditation process. Getting re-accredited will help hold down the county's insurance rates;
-- Learned from Scott the county's inmate work program continues to pay off, this time with ongoing work to try to repair a blocked septic tank line at the county's Health Department. "I can't say enough about the program and what it saves us. Those guys do a great job. It's a God-send to us," Scott told the board.