By Carey Reeder | Personal editor
The April 12 Chilton County Commission meeting offered more updates on attendance at the Strawberry Festival in Thorsby on April 9.
Commissioner Joe Headley thanked the Industrial Development Authority and Chilton County Chamber of Commerce for attending the festival during his Commissioner’s Report.
Commissioner Matthew Mims, IDA’s representative to the Commission, provided an update.
“It was a big turnout, estimated between 8,000 and 10,000 people (who came out), it was consistent all day,” Mims said. “Over 90% of all merchandise sellers sold at least 90% of their products. They said that was unheard of for a first event.
All the food vendors sold out except Chubbfathers. Mims said the owner of Chubbfathers said he “noted very closely before the event the type of marketing done via Facebook by Whitney (Barlow) and the IDA. We knew then it would be serious, so we have planned a big event for about 10,000 people.
Mims said four vendors who weren’t there this year reached out to reserve a place for next year’s festival.
The biggest complaint of the festival was the weather, and one affecting the growth of the strawberries. This has led to a decrease in the quantities of strawberries available. There are 14 strawberry growers in the county and most were there. Mims said they all sold strawberries at 11:30 a.m.
However, the IDA has already taken these concerns into consideration and has scheduled next year’s festival two weeks later in the month on April 22, 2023.
Commissioner Allen Williams requested an audit from the IDA in his Commissioner’s Report.
“Actually, I want to know more about the money, so I’m going to make a motion. I propose that this Commission require an independent audit of IDA’s finances for the years 2019, 2020, 2021 and provide a full financial statement for the current fiscal year,” Williams said.
During discussion of the motion, commissioner Randell Kelley asked Williams if there was a need to return until 2019, and Williams insisted that was the case.
Commission Chairman Jimmie Hardee said he had not asked IDA for an audit in recent years, nor had other Commission members. Commissioner Joseph Parnell added that IDA provided the Commission with financial statements for each budget.
The motion was seconded by Commissioner Darrell Bone. No member of the Commission opposed the motion and it was approved.
Williams also spoke about concerns from some people in the community about RV renters in Higgins Ferry and Minooka Park renting out their spaces long-term through Airbnb.
Parnell commented on how far we have come to make Higgins Ferry and Minooka Park financially independent and “coming closer every year. I don’t want to back down. »
“I understand that some people are frustrated with individuals making money with the county, but those individuals are also paying a debt for the county while they’re there,” Parnell said. “As long as they keep their land clean, I like to have rent.”
Park Ranger Donald Giles also came to talk about the concerns and thought the way things were going now was good. He was also thanked by the Commission for all the positive comments received from visitors to the parks. The Commission also thanked his wife Kathy Giles for her hard work in planning park events.
Hardee also proposed that all campers staying overnight in parks should register with the park so rangers know who is staying there at all times.
The motion passed unanimously.
Also, during the meeting, the Commission:
- Began a tradition of inviting a local pastor to each meeting to do a small devotional and say the opening prayer before the meeting begins. Tommy Williams of Clanton Church of God did this meeting.
- Dawson Reid Alexander was hired as a full-time corrections officer effective April 16, and Lee Ann Moates was reclassified as a prison shift supervisor effective April 2.
- Walter S. Elbinger was hired as a truck driver effective March 23 and Richard Allen Ray was hired as a laborer effective April 4.