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Commissioners honor basketball; discuss Sunday alcohol, elections

By MICHAEL MURRAY
michael.murray@americustimesrecorder.com

AMERICUS — The Sumter County Board of Commissioners (SCBOC) held its monthly work session on March 8 at the Sumter County Courthouse. The board convened again on March 15 for its monthly regular meeting.
Halfway through the regular meeting, the board resumed a discussion, carried over from the work session, about Sunday alcohol sales in the county. The board approved a measure to allow package sales of alcoholic beverages on Sundays as dictated by the recent referendum results. Sales by the drink will be restricted between 2:55 a.m. and 8 a.m. on Sunday mornings.
“So, if we approve this tonight, then vendors can start selling on Sunday. Is that correct?” Board chairman, Randy Howard asked Sumter County attorney, Kimberly Reid. “If they already have a valid license,” Reid responded.
The ordinance was approved.
After opening the regular meeting, Howard issued a proclamation honoring the Americus-Sumter High School Lady Panthers for their historic sweep of the state championship series earlier this month.
Howard presented a plaque to the team’s head coach, Sherri Harris, before issuing each team member a certificate of appreciation.
Members of the Sumter Airport Authority, Frank Joiner and Terrell Templin, addressed the board, asking them to approve funds in the amount of $32,104.88 to repaint the striping on the Jimmy Carter Regional Airport’s runway. Joiner advised that the City of Americus had pledged around $35,000 in support of the project.
Commissioner Mark Waddell asked Joiner if the contract for the painting includes a warranty on the work. Joiner said the warranty guarantees that there will be no deterioration in the paint job for one year.
Joiner informed the board that the proposed contract includes a provision that a layer of biocide (a paint additive) will be added that will extend the life of the paint.
The request was approved. The cost of the project will be provided through TSPLOST funds.
The board addressed Mike Tracy, chairman of the Sumter County Board of Elections, and Raven Payne, the board’s vice chairman, with concerns about recent and upcoming elections.
Howard opened the discussion, saying, “We all know that you have a tough job. We have some concerns here that people have contacted us about. I hope you can help us clear up some of the concerns that we have.”
Howard inquired as to why Republican candidates were not announced as having qualified to run until the final deadline. Tracy responded, “That’s actually the purview of the party. That’s not ours. We don’t even really know until right at the deadline … until that point, exactly who they’ve got running … the only thing we control is the deadline.”
Howard asked Tracy who’s in charge of checking the applications to ensure that all requirements are met for qualification and Tracy stated that board supervisor, Robert Brady, reviews the applications after they are submitted to their respective representative.
Waddell expressed a concern that citizens looking to qualify for an upcoming election may have errors on their applications that are unable to be addressed prior to the qualification deadline. Tracy informed him that the board of elections is currently dealing with a similar issue. “We’re making every effort that we can to accommodate the person … It leads into several other issues. It’s not just that one issue,” he said.
“That being said,” he continued. “If [the paperwork is returned right before] the deadline, we’re at a disadvantage … The deadline is the deadline.”
Commissioner George Torbert then informed the board that, when he went to submit his paperwork for the upcoming election, a representative told him that he intended on turning in the paperwork right before the deadline. Torbert went on to say that he had requested the paperwork be submitted earlier to avoid possible complications.
Tracy stated that verification of paperwork should be the responsibility of the party office if they are waiting until the last minute to submit the applications. “We can’t do anything that might affect the election,” he said. “We can’t do anything that might be construed as partisan.”
Howard expressed a concern that, if the information on who has qualified to run is not released promptly, others might decide to run for the positions, thinking that they are running unopposed. He said members of the department are under the impression that they are not allowed to point potential qualifiers in the right direction when they ask where need to go to qualify on the Democratic or Republican ticket. Commissioners Thomas Jordan and Clay Jones stated that they had run into the same problems when qualifying for the upcoming election. Tracy informed them that, if they could be more specific about who had told them this, they would promptly address the problem.
Howard expressed concerns about the conditions at the polling spots during the March Presidential Primary elections. He said that there were issues with equipment malfunctions, potholes and high grass in parking lots, and insufficient air conditioning at certain polling spots in the last election that need to be addressed. Tracy assured Howard that they are already looking into some of these issues and that the polling spots will be ready for the May election.
Tim Estes, director of the Sumter County Parks and Recreation Department, addressed the board, seeking approval to accept a bid of $8,000 from Tommy McCurley for the demolition of the Bell Street  pool. Estes stated that, though two bids came in lower than $8,000, he recommends accepting the bid from McCurley.
“McCurley … walked the grounds with me. I think that the folks that took the time to actually come and see what the project was about bid accordingly,” Estes said, on his justification for the McCurley recommendation. The request was approved after Estes provided details of the contract to the board.
County administrator, Bill Twomey, led the board in a discussion of the viability of providing longevity increases in the salaries of long-time county employees to help retain qualified staff in county positions. Twomey stated that the proposed increases would include 2.5 percent raises for county employees as they continue in their positions and gain more experience. The proposal was approved pending a change in the language of the proposal to stipulate that the availability of funds for the raises would be at the board of commissioners’ discretion.
John Ekaitis, Sumter County Fire chief, discussed a proposal to purchase a 2016 Ford truck in the amount of $28,586.54 from Sunbelt Ford in Americus to be used as an emergency vehicle. Ekaitis said that other accessories will be required as well, including lighting and communications equipment, a camper shell, and an extended bed (retractable rack designed to store equipment). In total, Ekaitis said the equipment and the truck will cost $42,245.50.
Torbert suggested that the department look into purchasing used vehicles with low mileage in the future. “You could get some cost savings from doing that and spread your money farther,” he said. Ekaitis stated that he recommended this purchase because it will last longer before needing replacement.
The request was approved.
The board then discussed longevity incentive raises of four or five percent for elected officials. “My concern is that I don’t think it’s right for someone who was just elected to start with the same salary as another person who has been serving in the same position for years,” Howard stated. The discussion was tabled until a later date.
Howard asked the board to approve a proposal for the demolition of a dilapidated chapel on the grounds of the Sumter County Correctional Institute (SCCI). The board had previously discussed the demolition at the request of the SCCI, who stated that the chapel has not been in use in for years and is becoming a hazard on the grounds of the facility.
A proposal to accept bids for the project was approved.
Sumter County Public Works Director, Frank Whitaker, led a discussion on a TSPLOST paving project. Whitaker recommended awarding the contract in the amount of $2,249,223.55 to Reeves Construction, of Americus.
Whitaker said that, with the board’s approval, he can draw up the contract to be approved at next month’s meeting.
Whitaker also asked the board to approve an advertisement of the Public Works Department’s “No-Spray” list, so that property owners will know their options when opting out of the county’s spraying policies on public rights-of-way.
During the board work session the previous week, the board approved Ekaitis’ proposal to declare three pieces of equipment owned by Sumter County Fire and Rescue as surplus.