SUMMERDALE, Alabama — The Central Baldwin Chamber of Commerce hosted its first Business@Breakfast in more than a year Thursday, April 15 at the 519 Event Center in Summerdale.
The event, sponsored by the Baldwin County Sewer Service, featured guest speakers Baldwin County Sheriff Hoss Mack, District Attorney Bob Wilters and Commissioner Billie Jo Underwood.
All three spoke about the challenges of 2020, facing the threat of COVID-19 and Hurricane Sally, along with upcoming projects in 2021.
“Our office works closely with the District Attorney’s office and County Commission, among others to serve the citizens of Baldwin County,” Mack said.
Over the last year, all three agencies have worked closely with the Baldwin County Emergency Management Agency, both to help coordinate state COVID mandates and the coordinated efforts between all county and state agencies in the recovery efforts following Hurricane Sally.
“All of those agencies have done a great job in coordinating our efforts,” Mack said.
Mack also talked about the challenges of facing COVID at the county’s jail facility and the plan to more than double the capacity of the facility over the next few years.
“We did everything we could to minimize the effects of COVID at our jail facility,” he said. “We did not have any issues until the surge that occurred after Thanksgiving, and even then, we had no deaths and no hospitalizations among staff or inmates.”
Wilters also talked about the challenges of dealing with the growing population in Baldwin County, which more than doubled over a 30-year period.
“Our biggest challenge is always going to be in funding,” said Wilters, adding that the office operates on a budget of about $4 million per year. “I believe it is better now than when I took office in 2017, and more funding allows us to do more things.”
The District Attorney’s Office helps coordinate with the Sheriff’s Office and local law enforcement with the Baldwin County Major Crimes Unit.
The office is also hiring a staff member to work on crimes against the elderly and will help set up a Mental Health Court following the passage of a bill sponsored by Alabama Rep. Matt Simpson of Baldwin County.
Wilters also talked about the employment with the Baldwin County Child Advocacy Center (CARE House) of a dog named Platano, who works to calm children in interview and court situations.
“The dog has been specifically trained to be docile,” Wilters said. “And he has been trained very well.”
Underwood spoke about the County Commission’s role to bring communities in Baldwin County together, of which the need became even more evident during the crises of COVID and Hurricane Sally in 2020.
“It’s our job to work to connect all 14 municipalities in Baldwin County,” she said, “and it is a collaborative effort between all of (the County Commissioners) and the agencies that we work with.”
Underwood urged all of those present to follow the County Commission on social media and to download the County Commission’s App which is available on Google Play and the Apple App Store.
During the month of April, the county commission is also working to coordinate a statewide cleanup effort by providing bags for trash pickup at local landfills throughout Baldwin County.
“Over the last year, the people of Baldwin County have been hit hard by the pandemic and Hurricane Sally,” she said. “But we are resilient and we are recovering and FEMA is here to help us, thanks to the coordinated efforts of municipal and county officials. We are recovering together.”