County makes first payment on principal

Let’s clean out the notebook... • In case you wondered, District 1 Walker County Commissioner Keith Davis recently told me that the county was able to make its first principal payment this month on its debt, to the tune of $1.2 million. The big concern had been the effect on payroll, but so far so good. Another $300,000 is due later in the year. As I have said, any attempts to get more revenue will likely wait until after the 2018 legislative elections. I take from the mood of commissioners at their meetings that they want desperately to get to 2019 to find a solution. I think they are realizing that debt and roads should have been more of a focus during last year’s failed referendum. I think they had to go through the public cutting process, too, and that most uncomfortable process has still not won over everyone, but I think more people are becoming more satisfied that something might work next time. (My take: You gotta concentrate on the debt, and I would pay ahead of schedule and get it out of the way to save interest.) • Winfield attorney Daryl Burt has been appointed by Gov. Kay Ivey to be a circuit judge in the 25th Judicial Circuit, replacing the retiring John Bentley. As a result, I am sure he will be seen some on the bench in Winston County, and many Jasper lawyers will be seeing him in that circuit. I grew up with Daryl in my neighborhood and always like him and his family; he was always bright and capable. Another friend in the county who knows everyone in the judicial offices in this area — and who knows where all the skeletons are, and a few more for good measure — said they could not think of a bit of dirt on Daryl, and I think everyone would agree on that. He’s a good Joe and I’m glad he is getting the chance. • I don’t know if it was ever announced, but for those of you who have had problems with the Daily Mountain Eagle’s answering machines, we had a crew of technicians who spent the better part of a day recently and we got everything repaired and in some ways improved. We’re sorry for the prior inconvenience, but we are ready to go. • Carbon Hill City Council has moved its council meeting to Tuesday, so I am in much better position to attend a meeting tonight between various Marion County mayors and Jasper Mayor David O’Mary, who is a Winfield native. (No other local mayors or officials will be involved, but if all goes well it is expected more meetings will take place and other mayors or officials may be brought in interact.) This was an outgrowth of my suggestion Hamilton Mayor Bob Page and O’Mary meet, as they are also retired bankers. They recently met with me for lunch and hit it off, which led to the suggestion on their own of bringing in other Marion County mayors to meet informally with O’Mary, as many of them are connected with U.S. Interstate 22. I am hopeful, as I think the mayors from the two counties — and maybe other surrounding counties, certainly those along I-22 — eventually could meet on an informal basis to share common needs, ideas and plans. It is still in the developing stages, but I am glad the area mayors are showing interest in cooperating. We have to cooperate and interact as an area to progress, and I think we are coming along. • I was blown away by the cinnamon apple balls from Warehouse 319 that were served at the recent Walker County Republican Party meeting; there were some left over and I took some home and tried a few with vanilla ice cream. But by themselves they were super. For that matter, I finally decided to ask Cracker Barrel if I could buy a box of biscuits so I could warm up through the week in the microwave. A half-dozen was rather affordable I found out. We are blessed to have so many great restaurants. I rarely get to visit Dad in Winfield, as he keeps wanting to come up here to visit. Hint: I think it has to do more with the menus up here than my sparkling lunchtime personality. • I started going to Senate Majority Leader Greg Reed’s Sunday School class at Jasper’s First Baptist Church. Those who have heard him on the stump will not be surprised to know he has a great command of presenting the lessons in that class. (He sang in church the other day, and his pipes are holding up pretty well, too. I told him the old vaudeville line, “I wouldn’t follow that spot with a leopard.”)  • I was truly sorry to hear that the Journal Record in Hamilton and the Northwest Alabamian in Haleyville have gone to once a week on their print editions on Wednesdays, dropping their Saturday paper, although they are beefing up their presence on the internet. In addition, the TimesDaily in Florence and the Decatur Daily will cut out their print editions on Saturdays and Mondays, starting March 5. (We’re staying put, in case you wondered.) 

• Here is a happy 25th anniversary to The Curiosity Shop, which has been a faithful advertiser with the Daily Mountain Eagle for many years. • I was wondering the other day after I had covered a work session in Jasper about where the city stood in terms of the loan for the Jasper Civic Center. City Clerk Kathy Chambless emailed that information to me: The City paid $1,809,543 for the Jasper Civic Center. The purchase price was $2.2 million, but the CHS Properties and Community Senior Life made a gift of $390,456.57 to the City of Jasper. They also agreed to delay payment for 18 months and finance the building at a finance rate of 1.5 percent annual interest rate. The City has paid $36,000 to date on the loan, which runs for 15 years. • I read in Politico’s daily email on Wednesday that there is not much incentive for Republicans in Congress to do gun control. Surprisingly, they said the NRA is not known for giving much out of its coffers, calling it 'inconsequential.” (As an example, Yellowhammer reports, “On the high-end, Congressman Robert Aderholt received $43,749 lifetime contributions, which isn't even close to the top tier donors in his campaign account. He raised over a $1 million in 2016 alone.”)  According to Politico, “Many Republicans feel like they go home to their safely red district and interact with constituents who are gun-toting NRA members -- many of whom show up to barbecues, fundraisers and political events carrying a weapon. Multiple Republicans told us they have held events at high-end shooting ranges .... But many GOP voters exist in a media environment where they read the NRA's magazines, pay attention to their scorecards come election time and wonder if the long arm of the U.S. government will come get their guns. Most Republicans exist in a climate in which their only political fear is a primary challenger on the right. To these Republicans, national polls mean squat. Getting on the ‘wrong side’ of the gun issue would be going soft on guns -- that's the way to lose a primary election. Few of these Republicans believe they'll lose an election by not supporting stringent gun regulations.” It also reported that many in the party feel current regulations are not enforced strongly anyway, and if you ban one weapon, then would you ban a pistol used at the next shooting?  It also reported many GOP members of Congress feel the media has lost “all objectivity” on the issue of gun control. At the same time, many are split on whether this is a turning point, but, then again, remember they have not acted in the wake of attacks on their own members. By the way, they also reported that President Trump’s crackdown on bump stocks and support for a stronger background check system are already backed by the NRA, so he won’t run afoul of that group. Ed Howell is the Daily Mountain Eagle’s news editor.