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confronted. This part of our industrial life has displayed wonderful recuperative powers. They not only fed the State during the crisis, which is now rapidly approaching a finality, but they have contributed largely to the needs of others, both in food and material for raiment.
KINDRED SUBJECTS It was foreseen, that if success was to crown the departure of the agriculturist from the well trodden paths they had heretofore pursued, in which their entire energies were given over to the production of the one crop, some general aid must be rendered for destroying the enemies that were threatening to other branches of agriculture. The cattle tick had made the general raising of improved cattle impracticable. To eliminate this handicap, the Legislature made an appropriation of $30,000 per annum for four years. There has been used of this fund $76,664.60. The quarantine against this parasite has been raised in 43 counties in Alabama, leaving a balance of 24 counties or 31% yet infected. The remaining counties contain 17,816 square miles, or 35% of the total area of the State. Great progress has been made during the past four years and the policy of extermination should be vigorously pursued until Alabama has been entirely freed of this parasite. The inspection of the border line in the tick free sections will continue to be a source of expense and annoyance, so long as we may have any infected counties. The riddance from the State of this pest will be a great achievement. It will result in great benefit to live stock raising, and to the general agricultural interest, as a whole. For a considerable period, the world will have need particularly of a larger supply of live stock and we should not fail to adopt every feasible means of economically producing Alabama's share.
The hog industry has grown rapidly in the State since 1914. It has been demonstrated that they can be raised as cheaply in Alabama as in any known place. There is one great handicap to hog raising, however, and that is cholera. To assist in the fight against this disease, the State established a serum plant in 1915 at Auburn, under the charge of the State Veterinarian. The appropriation for the plant was $20,000 and for maintenance $2,000 per annum. The plant has been the means of keeping the price of serum reasonable. The effort should be made, however, to eradicate this disease from the State, so as to remove the menace entirely from this profitable industry.
In the Gulf counties, there has been great development of the citrus fruits. The enemies to plant life which had been introduced into America from foreign countries were threatening the life of the fruit industry, more especially that of the citrus fruits. The Legislature of 1915 made an annual appropriation of $5,000 for the Board of Horticulture. Its work is done in connection and
in co-operation with the National Board, and beneficial results have been accomplished.
Our county governments have suffered by reason of having no administrative head. The commissioners have chose to legislate and to look after the affairs of the county with little, if any, fixed responsibilities. In a great majority of the counties, they are in session at long intervals and it is impossible for them to give the attention to the needs of the county that one man could, who was ever watchful at his post. The judges of probate, in so far as their relation to the commissioners courts are concerned, are only the clerks of the boards, but authorized to vote in case of a tie. So far as the general welfare of the county is concerned, he is charged with no particular duties and carries no responsibilities other than accounting for the license and other monies received by him for the State and county, and keeping the records. In addition to this, he is required to hold county court, but he, or no one else has charge of, or is responsible for the general welfare of the county in an administrative capacity.
If the Legislature would give thought to reforming the laws for county government, no doubt great improvement could be brought about. The plan should be based somewhat on our aldermanic form of municipal government. This would require little change from its present status, insofar as our Legislature is concerned, but it would give the judges of probate more authortiy and place upon them more responsibility.
The present financial condition of the majority of the counties, should inspire a desire for a change of the laws in some respect, so that responbilities for conditions may be concentrated and fixed. A liberal majority of the counties are in debt up to the limits of the Constitution, and some few of them have exceeded this limitation. This indebtedness has been incurred largely in highway construction. Some counties have issued bonds which can be done only after being authorized by a vote of the people. This is the plan contemplated by the Constitution, where money is needed for improvements in excess of what can be spared from the general revenue. Where this plan has been pursued exclusively for the procurement of money on time obligations, the indebtedness of the counties are within the bounds of the Constitution. There is, however, another plan used in obtaining funds on time obligations, and that is, the issuance of interest bearing warrants, payable many years in the future. This can be done without submitting the matter to a vote of the people and, for that reason, is more often resorted to these days, for raising money than by bonds. These warrants generally draw a higher interest than would be required on bonds, and often are issued to
contractors in the payment of work, and for these reasons alone the practice has proven expensive and unsatisfactory.
The intention of the Constitution makers, no doubt, was to prevent the counties from incurring obligations beyond what could be paid in a reasonable time out of the annual revenues, unless, it had been first submitted to a vote of the people of the county. The law makers evidently did not anticipate the ingenuity of the present day developer in his search to discover ways of circumventing obstacles in the path of securing funds, or else they would have used a different term in framing this limitation. This defect may be cured by legislation.
Counties which follow the practice of issuing bonds, usually make them all payable at one time, from 20 to 30 years in the future and when they fall due, reissue them. If the general law in reference to the issuance of bonds, applicable both to counties and municipalities, should provide, that only serial bonds could be issued, whereby a certain per cent of the total issue would be paid annually, a more healthy financial condition of both the municipalities and counties, would finally result. Besides, such a policy would be looking to the future and making preparation for unforseen exigencies. It was in 1915 and 1916 when we had such great depression. No employment could be secured for the laborer whereby he could procure a living wage. Stagnation existed in every branch of industry. Thousands of our laboring people left the State seeking employment. The cities and counties of the State were tied up practically to the limit with time obligations, and therefore could not undertake other than the usual routine work, such as might be permitted by their current revenues. If the policy of systematically retiring all time obligations had been in vogue, it would have been entirely practicable through the sale of bonds, for the social units of the State to have undertaken and carried forward developments and improvements of their highways and streets, on such an enlarged and general scale as had never before been contemplated. The improvements would have been made at low cost and labor would have been retained within the State to be utilized after the return of prosperity. We will not always have with us conditions that make for prosperity and law makers and administrators should seek to equalize the extremes in our economic life which have come periodically in the past and which will not pass us by in the future. By wise and conservative legislation, we may greatly ameliorate the extremes that occur from time to time.
HIGHWAY COMMISSION Transportation facilities are the measures of the relative growth and expansion of every locality. This one idea, if successfully carried out, will give any community prestige and supremacy over others, that fail to recognize the principles involved. It
is the expense incident to the distribution of our products, that in a large measure determines the returns from our endeavors and is a factor which involves success or failure. The part of the distribution cost that is incurred by the haul over the highways, is often not taken into account. More especially does this neglect apply to farm products, where cost factors are not systematically allocated. There should be a continuous effort on the part of communities, to lessen this cost of distribution that lies at our door, because it is a vital part of the burden on production. To develop the State along this idea, was the controlling factor in the establishment of the Alabama Highway Commission.
This department was established in 1911 and since its organization there has been 5,902 miles of highway constructed. The State has 45,892 miles of roadways over which the greater part of its products are transported by varying distances and this part of the expense adds materially to the cost of production. The lessening of this hauling, wherever practicable, is an improvement that is worthy of the serious concern of every community, because every individual who has a fixed habitation, is affected in some degree, by the transportation facilities of his own particular locality.
There were 3,780 miles of improved roadways in Alabama before the highway commission was instituted, making only 9,682 miles that have been improved of the total mileage in the State. This is a great work before us. Let us see what is being done at this time.
For the year ending April 1, 1918, there were $1,454,020.29 paid in the State for the construction of the highways, outside of maintenance, which was expended as follows: Amount spent by the State and counties jointly on State trunk roads..
$ 102,017.29 Amount spent by the State and counties jointly on State aid bridges.
12,478.85 Amount spent by counties (no State aid)
1,057,438.71 Amount spent by counties on bridges (no State aid) 282,085.44
Total spent on building roads and bridges for 1918. $ 1,454,020.29
This was a much less amount than was spent for this same cause during preceding years, prevailing conditions having checked for the present this development. In addition to the above, the data at hand shows that during the year ending April, 1918, $847,078.68 were spent for the maintenance of roads and bridges. This brings the total amount paid out by the State and the counties during 1918 for road improvements, $2,301,098.87. During the past four years the amount spent was $14,032,366.54. The amount spent during the preceding four years would be even greater than this sum. To the above sum should be added the
cost of maintenance, but no record has been kept of this except for the past two years, which amounted to $1,059,537.01.
This looks as if the people were really alive to the desirability and importance of this improvement. If one should ride over these improved highways, for which this respectable sum has been spent, he is likely to come to the conclusion, insofar as it relates to a majority of the counties, that the people were imbued with the idea, that it was only necessary to spend the money in the construction of roads in order to possess them, for little attention or care seems to have been bestowed upon them afterwards.
While some very few counties realize the importance of maintenance, and have in effect good maintenance systems, the majority of them have none at all, and as a consequence, the work of road improvement is confined almost wholly to original construction or to re-construction. There has been a great waste over the State in this particular. Alabama can never have good roads without a good maintenance system. In fact, this should be the first part of road building developed. A good maintenance system means a slightly better highway each year. This kind of a system would of itself finally result in a good highway from a bad road.
The absence of proper maintenance comes from a laxity of our system, or the absence of it altogether. The many neglects of road building, after we had become interested and aroused to its importance, may have caused us to act hastily and unwisely at first, but it seems the time has come when we should take a reckoning of our status in this particular. Stringent laws requiring certain percentages of the cost of construction to be set aside as a trust fund, to be used only for the maintenance of the particular road to which it relates, might remedy the defect. A provision of some kind should certainly apply to roads constructed by funds derived from future obligations of counties, whereby there would be conserved a fund to protect the investment of the county.
The requirements of the Congressional Act which grants Federal aid to the States for the construction of roads, has been complied with to the extent that Alabama has been accorded the full privilege of participating. This privilege only extends through the present legislative session. The arrangement made was only a temporary expediency and you must now take positive action, in order that the State may continue to receive its apportionment.
Alabama was among the first of the States to qualify itself to participate in the distribution of the fund provided by the National Government to encourage and aid highway improvement. She has also kept pace with the best of the others in developing projects, that have received the approval of the department which has the supervision of the Federal fund. This result has