County addresses road damage with new ordinances

Published 5:30 pm Saturday, March 21, 2015


AMERICUS — The Sumter County Board of Commissioners is having its attorney review a draft for an ordinance governing parking on rights-of-way of County roads.

County Public Works Director Frank Whitaker told the Board that tractor-trailer trucks parked overnight and on weekends on the shoulders of County roads are a safety hazard, damage the edges of roads and the shoulders. He said the County is constantly having to pay to repair such damages.

“We’ve been discussing this issue for a year now,” Whitaker told the Board at Tuesday’s regular meeting.

He and Kimberly Reid, County attorney, drafted an ordinance that applies to trucks weighing 6,000 lbs. and more. The trucks will be allowed a three-hour period if loading or unloading, or if a truck is not working and awaiting repair. Parking will not be allowed between 30 minutes after sunset to 30 minutes before sunrise.

The first offense is will get a $300 fine, the second a fine of $500. The driver will also be responsible for the cost of repairing the road and/or shoulder.

“This is a deterrent,” Whitaker said.

Sumter County Fire Chief John Ekaitis wanted to know to make sure the ordinance includes hazardous materials haulers.

Commissioner Clay Jones asked where trucks can park. Commissioner George Torbert suggested truck drivers park their trucks on their own property. Board Chairman Randy Howard asked if the drivers will receive a warning.

Whitaker said the ordinance also applies to any vehicles (passenger vehicles, pick-up trucks, etc.) parking on the County right-of-way, with some exceptions such as highway vehicles, wreckers, law enforcement and emergency vehicles.

“This ordinance is a chance for us to define what we want for public safety and managing damage to County property,” Whitaker said.

Torbert asked about dirt roads.

“Yes, all roads, and this applies to tractors and other farm equipment, too,” Whitaker said.

“This is relevant because the County is having to spend money repairing roads. We’ve already had to spend money we shouldn’t have to. We need to protect taxpayers,” observed Commissioner Thomas Jordan.

Reid said the ordinance doesn’t need to be consistently applied for enforcement.

“It will be at the officer’s discretion,” Howard said.

County CAO Bill Twomey said the only reservation he has is if people have a birthday party or funeral, vehicles will have to park on the shoulders.

“Having officers deciding brings up problems,” Reid said. “It needs to be clear in enforcement.”

Whitaker commented, “Think about a football game, after having rains and lots of vehicles along the shoulder. The County has to pay for those repairs.”

Howard suggested Reid redraft the ordinance to include only heavy trucks and other vehicles can be decided on later. The Board will consider adoption next month.

The County unanimously approved an ordinance Tuesday dealing with agricultural irrigation.

Whitaker again reported that irrigation systems that place water on County roadways cause damages to the roads and safety hazards.

“We have problems with school buses,” he said. “If the water sits in the bottom of a road, the buses can’t pass.”

This ordinance has a 30-day warning period so the farmer can adjust the system or shut it off at the end gun. If this is not accomplished within 30 days, the fine is $500, and $1,000 for the next offense. The party (owner, operator or leasee) is also responsible for the repairs to the road.

“This also will help with emergency vehicles getting down these roads without getting stuck,” Whitaker said.

Reid said, “This applies to dirt and paved roads, to the right-of-way and the road itself. It is becoming more and more common in other counties. Without the ordinance, the County would be liable for injury.”

Whitaker is to advertise the new ordinance for 90 days.

“Every farmer I’ve met with where we’ve had problems has said they were unaware of the problem and said they would cut it off that day,” Whitaker said. “Think of all that wasted water. Last summer we had wells that ran dry.”

Commissioner Mark Waddell commented, “I don’t want to cause anymore heartache or trouble. I don’t want to make it hard on anybody but it protects County property.”

The motion to approve was offered by Waddell and seconded by Jordan. Reid was instructed to amend the draft with stipulations and get a final copy to the Board next month.

The Board presented a proclamation Tuesday in recognition of the Sumter County Parks and Recreation (SCPRD) 12-and under basketball team which recently captured the GRPA state championship. Under the direction of coach Dwight Harris and assistant coach Brandon Goodin, the local team was commended by other coaches for their manners and sportsmanship. Tim Estes, SCPRD executive director, also had high praise for the coaches, players and their parents.

A public hearing was held during the meeting concerning an alcoholic beverage license for Bowman Wiley for Reflections Sports Bar & Grill at 222 Loop Road, Plains.

Howard said Wiley had been hand-delivered a letter stating that the hearing was to be held so Wiley could show cause why his license should not be suspended or revoked. The letter states that Wiley has failed to maintain his state alcohol license and is in violation of the code stating that he cannot purchase alcohol and then sell it wholesale.

Wiley thanked the Board for the hearing. He said he has provided all the required information for the state except for “one item.” He said he runs several businesses and had gotten “behind” in filing his monthly sales tax but has corrected that.

“I am not opening that club,” he said. “I am not am criminal. It will remained closed until this is resolved. I’m not asking for any special privilege; just please give me a little bit longer to get my state license. In the meantime the club will remain locked down.”

Wiley asked for 35 to 45 days.

The County attorney said the Board could revoke or suspend the license until Wiley’s problems are resolved or they could include the stipulation that he must have his state alcohol license and then have 10 days to make a decision on Wiley’s County license.

Reid said there needs to be a time limit, 60 days or 90 days or whatever, and not open-ended.

Clay Jones said, “I like the option to give him 60 days to become compliant.”

“If I don’t have the state license in 60 days,” Wiley said, “I will surrender my County license to you.”

George Torbert said, “I wish we had talked about this in March of 2014, instead of now.”

Wiley asked that if “the worst” happens and he doesn’t get his state license in time, can he lease the building to someone else?

Reid said the leasee would also have to apply for a County and state alcohol license.

The chairman told Wiley they would get back in touch with him with their decision.

Other business at Tuesday’s meeting included the following.

• Approved a check in the amount of $78,986 to resolve the water bill with the City of Americus.

• Approved the appointment of David Baldwin to serve the unexpired term of Ted Horton, who resigned, on the Zoning Board of Appeals.

• Approved the appointment of Bardin Hooks to serve the unexpired term of Willie Paschal, who resigned, on the Americus and Sumter County Hospital Board.

• Approved the appointment of Scott Ivey to the Land Bank Authority.

The Board voted to go into closed session to discuss “litigation.”