County commissioners take care of business
By MICHAEL MURRAY
AMERICUS — The Sumter County Board of Commissioners held its monthly work session on April 12 at the Sumter County Courthouse. The board then held its monthly regular meeting on April 19 at the same location.
After opening the work session, the board considered applications for alcoholic beverage licenses submitted by Double D Fast Food, at 1409 Felder St., and Suave’ at 1200 Southerfield Road. Commissioner Mark Waddell expressed concerns that the license for Double D Fast Food had previously been suspended by the county and asked the establishment’s owner, who was in attendance, if the employee that committed the infraction that resulted in the suspension is still on staff. The establishment’s owner assured the board that the individual’s employment had been terminated. Both applications were approved at the regular meeting.
The board discussed a proposed amendment to the county ordinance governing the conditional use of solar farms in agricultural, light industrial, and heavy industrial districts. Commissioner George Torbert expressed his wish that the proposed amendment include language that would ensure that equipment is disposed of properly as much of this type of equipment is not suitable for disposal in a landfill. County administrator, Bill Twomey, stated that the ordinance would include a clause that states that owners will be required to remove the equipment and dispose of it in accordance with federal and state regulations within 90 days of the site’s shutting down. The amendments to the ordinance were approved at the regular meeting.
Sumter County Sheriff’s Department Chief Deputy Col. Eric Bryant addressed the board to ask for approval for the department to purchase a new Ford F-150 truck to replace a Toyota Tundra that had been previously totaled in a wreck. The discussion was continued at the regular meeting in which Waddell asked if the county is required to solicit bids in this transaction. Twomey informed him that, unless the vehicle replacement is under emergency circumstances, that bids must solicited. Twomey stated that Torbert (who was not in attendance at the regular meeting) had previously inquired about whether or not it would be feasible to purchase a used automobile. Commission Chairman Randy Howard responded that that would require the county to purchase a vehicle without a warranty.
Bryant reiterated the department’s need for a replacement vehicle and urged the board to act as soon as possible. County attorney, Kimberly Reid, recommended expediting the bidding process and Twomey stated that the funds could be acquired through the SPLOST fund, pending board approval. Twomey also recommended that the board authorize him to accept the lowest bid for the automobile. Bryant was given the go-ahead to begin putting together the proposal for bid solicitation.
At the work session, Bryant also asked the board to approve a grant application package for body cameras to be worn by officers in the sheriff’s department. County financial director, Janis Jarvis recommended that the board approve the application.
The board then opened the floor to citizen comments.
Phillip Daniel, candidate for sheriff in the May 24 election, introduced himself to the board.
Local citizen, Paul Johnson, addressed the board, asking them to purchase a projector on which the information on the items being discussed during the commission meetings can be displayed for the benefit of the meeting’s audience.
During the citizen commentary portion of the regular meeting, candidate for Superior Court Judge, Lewis Lamb, introduced himself to the board.
Local citizen, Thomas Holloway, addressed the board at both meetings. Holloway made inquiries about the forensic investigation being conducted on all offices of the county. Howard corrected him, stating, “There is not a forensic investigation going on in all of the offices in the county. It’s only the sheriff’s office.” Holloway later asked Howard if the sheriff has cooperated with the investigation. “To be truthful, no.” Howard answered. “We’ve had to do open records requests …”
Holloway went on to inquire about $200,000 worth of bail bonds from AAA Bonding that he alleges that the sheriff has refused to allow the county to claim. Holloway claimed that AAA Bonding is not listed as a state-certified bonding agency on the Secretary of State’s website. Holloway stated that, after a letter from an anonymous couple was published in a local periodical, Americus lawyer Michael Fennessy (representing Sheriff Pete Smith and the AAA Bonding Company, according to Holloway) had responded with a letter of rebuttal, claiming that the accusations were libelous and that the sheriff had followed due process before ceasing collection efforts on 68 civil cases.
Howard responded, saying, “The best way to find out about these cases is to go to the clerk’s office. They’re all public record … ”
Holloway went on to inquire about a cell phone purchased with taxpayer funds that he alleges has been in use illegally by an individual associated with the sheriff’s office. Howard assured him that all available information has been provided to the forensic auditors.
During the regular meeting, the board addressed local Democratic Party representative, Willie Golphin, and local Republican Party representative, Gerald Smith, who discussed the requirements for qualifying to run for public office through each party, ensuring that both parties follow the same procedures and promote open positions according to established guidelines.
Other business discussed at the series of meetings is as follows:
The board heard from Sumter County Correctional Institute (SCCI) Warden, Jimmie Colson. Colson asked the board to approve a measure to hire sexual assault nurse examiners at the SCCI in accordance with federal regulations. Colson also asked the board to approve an agreement for language line services, to provide interpretive services for non-native English speakers in accordance with federal law. Both requests were approved by the board.
The board discussed approval of the 2016-17 budget/millage rate-setting calendar. The calendar was approved at the regular meeting. The agreed-upon dates will be available to the public through local radio, local newspapers, and through the Sumter County website.
The board discussed a request for a reduction of an incurred penalty (approximately $23,000) owed to the county by Pierce Manufacturing for late delivery of a piece of firefighting equipment. Sumter County Fire and Rescue Chief John Ekaitis recommended denying the request, as he feels that the accident that prevented the equipment from being delivered on time was avoidable. Twomey agreed with his recommendation, saying that the company should be required to honor their contract. The request for a reduction in the penalty fees was not approved.
The board heard from a representative of NEOS Technology Group (which provides information technology services for the county), who made a request for purchase in the amount of $127,517.28 to be used to purchase new computers and servers for county departments.
At the work session, the county approved a bid in the amount of $8,000 for demolition and debris removal services at 809 Oak Ave., to be completed by Tommy McCurley.