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County approves needs assessment project

By By ROBERT BLANKENSHIP – Managing Editor
The Escambia County Commission approved to fund a needs assessment project that should make the county eligible for funds through the Delta Regional Authority.
Ruth Harrell, director of the Coalition for a Healthier Escambia County (CHEC), presented the commission with a proposal for the needs assessment project. The project will be funded using a $5,000 grant issued by the Delta Regional Authority (DRA). This is the first money that Escambia County has received through the agency. In order to receive funding in upcoming years, the county must perform and submit the needs assessment project.
Escambia County is among several Alabama counties that were recently made eligible for Delta Regional money. There are 240 counties or parishes eligible for grant money through the authority which began to assist counties of the Mississippi Delta area. Escambia County officials learned last year that it would be added to the list of DRA-associated counties.
Because of its status as a new member, Escambia County must perform a needs assessment which will be submitted to the DRA. The assessment will look at several key areas including transportation and healthcare needs.
Once the assessment has been submitted, the county will be eligible for the same funds that already-existing DRA counties are allotted. While Escambia County received $5,000 in its initial DRA grant, other counties may have received up to $17,000.
Harrell told the commission she felt the county is fortunate that it can get the assessment completed with $5,000.
The commission approved to use the initial funding to perform the needs assessment as recommended by Harrell.
In addition to addressing the commission on the DRA, Harrell also announced that the CHEC has been approved for additional slots for the Ozanam Charitable Pharmacy, a charitable pharmacy that provides free medicines to qualifying seniors and low-income families.
Harrell said a donation of $20,000 made by the McMillan Trust has enabled the pharmacy to add an additional 100 slots to the program. That raises the total number of slots to 250.
Harrell said that those interested in applying for the program could do so at the health departments in Brewton or Atmore. For more information on qualifying for the program call 867-4765 in Brewton or 368-9188 in Atmore.
Other items discussed by the commission included:
The commission approved by a unanimous vote to levy ad valorem taxes for 2003 with no changes. According to County Administrator Tony Sanks, the ad valorem taxes have not changed in 77 years. The levy included no change in distribution or in rates.
The measure was approved by a unanimous vote;
According to provisions for the county's investment of Oil and Gas Trust monies, the money must be invested in funds backed by the U.S. Treasury Department. According to Commission Chairman Larry White, investing the money into cash deposits could cut the county's general fund budget by $200,000 to $300,000.
In order to change the structure to allow the county more options in investing the money, a bill will have to be introduced and passed in the state legislature. State Representative Greg Albritton was on hand at the meeting and agreed to work with the county on preparing the bill.
White said he hoped the legislature would pass the bill in time for the county's next investment period which will be in mid-summer;
He said the vehicle has two vinyl seats in the front and has a rubberized surface throughout. The vehicle will be driven by contract employees only and will be parked on county property when it is not in use.
The next commission meeting is scheduled for Feb. 23, 9:30 a.m. at the Escambia County Courthouse.