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BOC discusses body armor, excise tax, and Livestock Authority at Feb. meeting

By MICHAEL MURRAY

AMERICUS – The Sumter County Board of Commissioners met for its monthly regular meeting on Feb. 21 at the Sumter County Courthouse in Americus.
After calling the meeting to order, board chairman, Randy Howard, issued a proclamation honoring Sumter County Tax Assessor’s board chairman, David Jennings. In the proclamation, Howard thanked Jennings for his years of service to the community both as a member of the board of assessors and as a former member of the Board of Commissioners. Jennings was chair of the tax assessors’ board during the aerial mapping of Sumter County in 2014, and the re-evaluation of all Sumter County properties in 2016.
“I appreciate all of you and the opportunity to serve,” Jennings responded. “It was really a good experience.” Jennings went on to sing the praises of the organization’s staff and his fellow board members.
“I’m sure the good work will continue,” he concluded.
One week prior, at the Board of Commissioners’ monthly work session, Howard issued a similar proclamation, honoring long-time Sumter County Human Resources director, Leah Watson.
Following the proclamation at the regular meeting, Sumter County Sheriff’s Lt. Chuck Hanks addressed the commissioners, asking them to approve the purchase of new bulletproof vests for the sheriff’s office. Hanks advised the board that the office will soon be applying for a grant that will, potentially, cover the $28,160 price of the 40 vests needed for the Sheriff’s Office. In addition, Hanks requested the commissioners approve the purchase of a pair of vests needed for the Magistrate officers and one needed by the code enforcement department.
Hanks advised the board that the deadline to apply for the grant is June 30, and, if approved, it could take several months for the funds to be received by the local Sheriff’s Office.
“The [body] armor that we have right now has been expired since October,” Hanks told the board. “… If we have to wait until the grant comes through or not, it could be as late as December or next January before we actually receive any funds.” He then asked the commissioners if they could look for funds in the budget to make the purchase as soon as possible with the understanding that the county will be reimbursed if the grant is approved. “We will diligently work at getting this money. Whatever money we receive, of course, we’ll return back to the [county],” Hanks said.
Howard asked Hanks to set up a meeting with county financial director, Janis Jarvis, the following morning to work toward making a plan to ensure that the equipment can be purchased as soon as possible.
“Our first priority is the safety of our officers,” Howard stated. “Safety is always important.”
According to www.bodyarmor news.com, experts recommend that body armor be replaced every five years.
Sumter County Human Resources manager, Towanna Howard, then addressed the board to discuss possibly giving full-time county employees the opportunity to enroll in the Paxen Program for workforce development. Howard stated that the county could be eligible for a 50 percent rebate from the program costs, up to $3,000.
The discussion then turned to the proposed roundabout at the intersection of Southland Road and Ga.  Highway 27. Commissioner Mark Waddell stated that he had been in touch with administrators at Southland Academy to discuss the proposed project and that he would be contacting individuals involved with businesses and churches in the area that would be affected by the project in the near future. The discussion was tabled and will be picked up at the board’s March meeting.
The board approved an amendment to the county’s financial policy with Jarvis’ recommendation.
County attorney, Kimberly Reid then led a discussion of proposed changes to the county’s local vendor preference policy, which would allow businesses with a physical presence in Sumter County the opportunity to match an outside business’s lowest bid for a county contract if the local company’s original bid falls within a seven percent margin of the lowest total bid. At the same time, for a local vendor to be eligible to take advantage of this policy, the organization must not have an outstanding debt to the county and must not sub-contract more than 50 percent of the project to an organization outside the county. Reid stated that local vendors would be required to sign an affidavit affirming that they meet the required conditions.
County administrator, Bill Twomey, then led a discussion about the possible implementation of a two percent manufacturing energy excise tax. Twomey explained that a similar tax was recently phased out on a state level and that the state government had decided to leave the decision to the counties as a local preference. He explained that the tax is designed to make up for a decrease in SPLOST funds. Reid advised the board that the proposed tax could not be enacted until the beginning of the next calendar quarter 90 or more days after the tax is voted on.
Reid advised the board that, in order to pass the measure, the commissioners will have to notify the community and hold a public hearing within 10 and 30 days of the decision, respectively.
More information on this tax can be found by visiting www.accg.org and entering the words manufacturing energy excise tax in the search bar.
The board then discussed the Sumter County Livestock Authority facilities on Southerfield Road.
Twomey advised the commissioners that the county has begun renovations on portions of the facility that had fallen into disrepair. In response to an inquiry from the Times-Recorder, Twomey stated that a request for proposal (RFP) and a request for qualifications (RFQ) will be issued soon to source and price new pens for the facility. Twomey also informed the Times-Recorder that there are parties interested in leasing the property from the county in order to continue holding livestock auctions there. He also stated that the terms and conditions of any proposed lease would need to reflect whatever capital and improvements the county puts into the facility.
“The livestock producers in Sumter and surrounding counties have asked the Board of Commissioners to do what they reasonably can to help maintain a cattle market for this area,” Twomey wrote. “That concept is the impetus for the improvements at the barn. Cattle farmers, in particular, are stopping by the site almost daily to ask about a time table for reestablishing an auction. Interest seems high.”
Twomey went on to say that if the county is unable to reach an acceptable lease agreement with a private entity for the property and the county eventually decided to sell the property, the cost of improvements made to the facility would be reflected in the sale price. “The actions taken will produce returns for the taxpayers of the county,” he wrote.
For several months, the board of commissioners attempted to maintain the auction facilities but, with fluctuating market prices for cattle, the decision was recently made to temporarily close the facility until a beneficial solution can be arranged.