Ever wondered what all is at the Courthouse and who all works there? Well, after an interview with Revenue Commissioner Michael Johnson, it was astonishing what all his office really did.
It made this reporter want to know more about just what all goes on in the Marshall County Courthouse. We will get to Michael Johnson eventually, but in this series, we will start at the top and work our way to the bottom of the Courthouse.
If you call or visit the County Commission office on the 3rd floor of the Courthouse, the first person you'll speak to is Rhonda McCoy, administrative assistant to the chairman, . Folks, I'm telling you this woman knows almost everything there is to know about Marshall County including phone numbers.
Did you know that the Commission is responsible for not only the Courthouse but many other buildings? Hutcheson said they have 20 plus offices that they care for in Marshall County.
Hutcheson has eight different county departments under him. These include animal control, license inspector/code enforcement, Council on Aging, Emergency Management, Commission office, information technology, maintenance, and park #2.
Please note that engineering and personnel are a part of the 3rd floor, but they do not officially work under the chairman. Personnel is governed by the Personnel Board and engineering is controlled by the whole Commission.
The 3rd floor is where all of the County Commission's business takes place. County Administrator Shelly Fleisher said the reason all of these departments are connected is because of the budget. The County Commission oversees the business and that budget includes other elected officials.
"By law, we provide the budgets for revenue commission, sheriff, coroner, probate, and the Commission with the chairman and the four commissioners. There are 9 elected officials that are all connected by virtue of the budget," Fleisher said.
Hutcheson explained everything funnels from the Commission office. The finances and the money that comes in is distributed to different entities such as central purchasing with purchase orders and money issued from the office.
Fleisher said her office does all of the administrative business for everyone who has to use their budget. They provide the budget, do the purchase orders, do the payroll, pay the bills and help with grants.
The Commissions office is responsible for setting the agenda for the Commission meetings every two weeks. Hutcheson said he is responsible for setting up the agenda with the county administrator for the meetings held on the second and fourth Wednesday of every month. He said he is responsible for doing the "leg work" and then having to explain to the Commissioners what is going on.
The Commissioners vote on the business and Hutcheson does not get a vote unless there is a tie. He has to make sure that the Commissioners have all the information needed to make wise decisions.
Working with different department heads, elected officials and appointed positions, Hutcheson said it is good to maintain unity and open lines of communication.
Fleisher refers to their office as the "hub." She explained when she hires someone, she tells them that they are an internal service such as IT or the maintenance.
"We are not serving the public really. My staff serves the departments. We provide them with the budget information, approving their purchase orders, getting their payroll paid and paying their bills. We are kind of like a hub in that aspect," Fleisher said.
The budget is what draws everyone together.
As for dealing with the public, McCoy does deal with the public. She takes complaints and answers questions. Hutcheson said she takes a lot of questions regarding garbage issues or animal issues. All animal control calls are taken in the office.
Most of the questions or concerns come into McCoy's office and the staff tries to get the person an answer as quickly as they can. They try to return the calls as promptly as possible and they make sure the public has their question answered correctly.
Once the animal shelter is set up, those calls will be transferred to that agency; however, right now those calls are being taken at the Commission office.
McCoy has been with the Commission office for a long time. With her time in the office, she seriously knows just about everything there is to know and if she doesn’t, she can find the answer. Hutcheson said she does an amazing job.
There are four administrative members who work under Fleisher. These people are in charge of payroll, purchasing, accounts payable, grant reimbursement requests, taking care of the minutes, and budgets. There are others, but those are the main items that they cover.
One big part of the administrative office is in charge of is keeping up with the fixed assets of the county. They are accountable for the assets and do regular audits to make sure the county property is still accounted for.
"The big thing I do is prepare the financial statements," Fleisher said. "They have to be audited every year and they are the base of our bond rating. We do our own financial statements here. I don't have an outside agency prepare them for me."
Hutcheson said any property that is sold or done away with has to come through the Commission office. The Commission has to OK any property that is traded, given away or sold. If a department wants to sell something, the department has to fill out a form and send it to the administration office. The administration office then has to make sure they have a title or need materials for the agenda. At the end of each agenda, they have a list that is for items that will be sold, traded or scrapped. With this on the agenda, this holds them accountable and shows where that property goes.
A big part of Hutcheson's job is working with the community, all the different fire departments, the legislators, the Commissioners and outside entities that have a large input into county business.
He said he spends a good part of his time making sure everyone is on the same team and working for the same goal. He explained that it can be tough at times.
With the eight departments, he basically oversees their department. He meets with them on a pretty regular basis and many of the departments he meets with on a daily basis. If the department head does not come into the office, they will talk on the phone.
Fleisher said one reason he meets with these department heads in his office is that they have a centralized mailbox in the office. When they get the mail, it goes in the box for their department. The mail is typically a lot of invoices that have to be signed.
Hutcheson has to make sure that each of the departments are staying within their budgets and making sure they are doing what the job description calls for.
None of the departments are the same. Each of them offers the public something totally different. The job description is totally different and they are their own entity. He used Park #2 as an example. This camp site has over 100 people during the months of March through October. If there are problems or concerns that they have, the one over Park #2 will come to him and speak about that issue.
Right now, they are building the animal control shelter and Hutcheson is working closely with animal control's department head, Kevin Hooks, on what all they need at the shelter. He is working closely with the sheriff's department on providing help with getting the shelter clean and ready to open.
"There are a lot of different pieces that go into each department," he said.
He is very involved in all aspects of the departments, but he allows them to do their jobs as they see necessary under the guidelines they have been presented.
Fleisher said when she first started her job with the Commission office, she did not understand how it worked until she figured out that they all work with the same budget. The Commission office provides space for probate, space for the revenue commissioner, space for the court system and that is why they are all connected.
"If everyone had their own budget and their own building, it would be completely different," Fleisher said. "I think it is important for people to understand that is why it is all connected."
It is based on the laws that the County Commission be given the responsibility to accept the money from different taxes, different fees and other funds to provide support for these offices.
"I think one of the most important parts of my job is trying to work with the different department heads and make sure we are all going in the same direction for the same goal which is to make Marshall County as good of a county as we can make it, a safe county as we can make it and provide the services that the public needs," Hutcheson said.
He explained that each department has their own agenda. He describe it as a puzzle. Each department head is their own piece of the puzzle. You have to have all of the pieces together working for the same goal for it to be perfect.
Another aspect that he is grateful for is the county employees. There are roughly 220 employees and he feels that it is his obligation to take care of these people.
"We are the hub that keeps everything together," McCoy said. "Any complaint about anything usually comes here and then is directed to the right department."
She explained that the Commission office follows strict policies and procedures. Everyone in the office is cross trained which means if someone is out, then the office will not have to shut down. Someone can take over that person's responsibilities.
McCoy is the public relations person which is not just for the news media but also for state and federal contacts as well.
McCoy said the Commission deals with every type of question that comes in and the complaints as well. She explained that there is a lot of misconception about the Commission having a lot of money, but that is not the case.
Hutcheson said he is not over the elected officials, but he does work with the elected officials to make sure they are all headed in the same direction. The elected officials all have the same goal which is provide a good service to the county.
"My quote is 'Make Marshall County a better place to live, work, and play,'" McCoy said. "I think the city of Guntersville has even adopted that."
Hutcheson said people call up all the time and ask him who is over the Commissioners. He lets them know he is not over the Commissioners. Most of these people ask who is over the Commissioners and he lets them know it is the ones that elected them.
"The governor cannot tell a Commissioner to pave a road; the President cannot tell a Commissioner to pave a road; once he is elected he controls his own district, legally," Hutcheson said.
The only way Hutcheson can control a Commissioner is if a red flag is thrown in their office. That typically means that there is something illegal going on and they can stop it. He said that has happened before. That goes for any department.
McCoy said she knows how blessed she is to have her job. It is satisfying to know she has helped someone. She admitted that she has 7 phone lines and it can get hectic at times.
McCoy is more than just the chairman's assistant. She handles all the moneys coming into the Commission office, she types up the meeting agendas, she works with media, and she makes sure the media is notified of the closures. The only job she has not done in their office is totally do payroll.
"I love what I do and I love the opportunity to help people," she said. "You think it is boring and humdrum, but it is never the same."
Stay tuned for more on the 3rd floor.