The Sumter County Board of Commissioners held three meetings in two days this week in the Commissioners’ Meeting Room at the Sumter County Courthouse. In the special called meetings at 6 p.m. Monday and at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, as well as the regular meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday, the board discussed various issues mostly involving the budget for the coming fiscal year.
Monday’s meeting began with a discussion of the County’s sign ordinance. The topic was brought forth as a result of the large new electronic sign at Americus Package on East Forsyth Street.
“I’m sure all of you have seen the sign that has been put up in the City of Americus,” said Code Enforcement Officer Mike Sudduth. “If you noticed, the base of it is right against the sidewalk and it’s a projection sign that goes back over the property. I don’t know if we are going to have some requests at the County or not, but I would think there would be a good chance that we could for those same type of signs because they would be income-producing. We have nothing in our ordinance to keep someone from doing that.”
Sudduth said that in the new ordinance that Board attorney Bill NeSmith had drafted there was some verbiage in there that would prohibit those type of signs from being put up.
“I just wanted to make the Board aware that we don’t have anything in our ordinance to keep that from happening, should it happen, and I didn’t know if you all would be receptive of some type of moratorium until we can get one in place.”
Commissioner George Torbert asked NeSmith what the cons of a moratorium might be, to which NeSmith replied, “It might violate the constitution. What you’re doing is you are restricting speech ahead of time, and that’s prohibited. By doing it as an ordinance, it’s defined.”
NeSmith also pointed out that you can always amend an ordinance, and Board Chairman Randy Howard suggested that they put it on the agenda for the following night’s meeting.
The Board then began the discussion of the budget for the fiscal year 2014-2015. Bill Starr, Sumter County Extension coordinator, began the discussion by fielding questions about his department although his budget only had minor changes.
Starr said that he currently has six people working in his department and that one of those positions is federally-funded.
Commissioner Clay Jones then asked Starr what caused the surge in the water/sewage amount, and Starr responded, “I have no idea. I think that we have a water leak somewhere, and I just can’t pin-point it. We are having some issues with water flow.”
Starr discussed a few more items before giving way to Tim Estes, executive director of the Sumter County Parks and Recreation Department (SCPRD).
County administrator Bill Twomey said that the Board had some questions on the income side of the recreation department, and he applauded Estes for his constant communication and quick responses about budget questions.
Torbert asked Estes if the new electronic registration process has made any difference, to which Estes responded, “We loved it. In fact, it’s reduced our in-house registration. Over 50 percent of our registration happened online, and what I really like about it is that it generates a true statement of our income.”
Estes gave the Board several updates:
• Adult softball has seen a big decrease in participation across the state, including Sumter County. This year, Sumter County did have five teams sign up, however, which was one more than last season.
• The Splash Pad line item in the budget was Splash Pad rentals, not overall Splash Pad usage. He said that rather than renting the Splash Pad for $150 for two hours, most people who want to have a party will rent the program room for $75 and pay $3 per person to go to the Splash Pad. He said that he thinks the usage is picking up every year, and that the public appreciates the fact that they can do a party like that for a very good price.
• Concessions are down this year because they haven’t hosted as many tournaments. Estes said that they bid for tournaments in November, and they find out in September if they get the tournaments. He added that they would be aggressively pursing one baseball and one soccer tournament in November.
The Board also discussed the grounds keeping at the Columns and the complex on U.S. Highway 19 South, and the potential for bringing back the summer program before moving on to the Sumter County Fire and Rescue report.
Sumter County Fire Chief John Ekaitis informed the Board that he would be giving a presentation in July on a replacement program for fire equipment over the next three years. Ekaitis also answered some budget questions from the Board, and said that he would bring a revised report to the following meeting.
Finally, members of the Board scanned their budgets for other potential errors and questions. After making several small changes, the meeting was adjourned.
On Tuesday evening the Board continued to review the budget and make adjustments, among other items. The budget will be finalized and adopted at a special called meeting at 6 p.m. June 24.
After listening to citizen comments, Commissioner Thomas Jordan motioned to approve the consent agenda, which was seconded by Jones. The SPLOST General Obligation Bond was then discussed, and Howard said that that would be discussed in more detail at a 6 p.m. meeting on June 25 on the third floor of the City Municipal Building.
The Board’s next item was to discuses the termination of the lease agreement for Barnum Pond. NeSmith said that the next step is to write a letter, which he would do in the coming days.
The Board then began discussions on the County’s sign ordinance, but no action was taken on the matter other than NeSmith offering an update that he is also drafting a variance provision.
The Board then heard from Director of Public Works Frank Whitaker about a vegetation services agreement between the Sumter County Board of Commissioners and Georgia Power. The six-month contract at the same price at the current contract, will finish out the year. Torbert made a motion to approve the vegetation services agreement, and Jordan seconded the motion, which passed unopposed.
Whitaker then gave an update on TSPLOST projects for the Board and the citizens. Whitaker said that funding is slightly down from last month, but it is pretty close to where it was at this point last year. He added that his crew spent approximately a week on Watermelon Road, Kitchen Cemetery Road and Wohlwender Road pulling ditches and sanding. He said they are currently working on Devoe Road and Brown Small Road.
Torbert then asked Whitaker how long he thought it might take to complete projects on Ga. Highway 377 and Lee Street. Whitaker said that that project would probably be completed around the end of July, so drivers should make plans accordingly.
The next two items involved personnel who were already employed by Sumter County. The Board voted to approve the employment contract for the position of county administrator between the Sumter county Board of Commissioners and Twomey after a motion by Jones and a second by Jordan, and they also voted to appoint Janice Jarvis as the Deputy Clerk at the recommendation of Twomey after a motion by Jordan and a second by Torbert.
The final item voted on was an approval of the renewal of ACCG property and liability insurance in the amount of $258,576 with an additional amount of $27,805 for an increase in the limit of liability from $1 million to $2 million for a total amount of $286,381. NeSmith agreed with Twomey’s recommendation to raise the limit, and after a motion by Torbert and a second by Commissioner Mark Waddell the motion passed.
Following a quick report by Ekaitis, the Board voted to go into closed session to discuss personnel and legal matters.