Sumter County BOC discusses horses, business taxes, and recreational vehicles

Published 4:05 pm Saturday, May 20, 2017


AMERICUS — The Sumter County Board of Commissioners met on May 9 for the board’s monthly work session. The board reconvened a week later, on May 16 for the monthly regular meeting.
After opening the work session, the board considered a request from Torrance D. Choates for a conditional use provision that would allow him to keep a horse on his property on Hillcrest Drive.
County code enforcement officer, Mike Sudduth, advised the board that Choates had met all of the necessary requirements outlined in the zoning ordinance that one must meet in order to be granted permission to keep a horse in a residential neighborhood.
Frank Bush, a resident of the same neighborhood, spoke in opposition and asked the board to deny the proposal, citing concerns that the animal may escape and create a hazard for other residents and that the horse feed and manure on the premises could attract pests. He also claimed that the tract of land on which Choates stated that he intended to keep the horse in is too small for an animal of that size.
According to Sudduth, the minimum size for a tract of land on which a horse can be kept is two acres. He went on to say that Choates’ property spans just over two acres of land suitable for housing a horse.
Choates assured Bush that the horse’s food and droppings would not create a nuisance in the neighborhood and that he would ensure that the animal’s enclosure would look attractive. He went on to say that, while the land surrounding his residence is over two acres, a neighbor had granted him permission to ride a horse in the woods surrounding the house, so the animal would be able to get plenty of exercise.
The board tabled the discussion until the regular meeting, during which they rejected the request.
At the work session, the board heard from Shirley Green-Reese, Dr. Schley Gatewood, and Choates, representing the Boys and Girls Club.
After introducing the representatives and advising the board of the mission of the Boys and Girls Club, Green-Reese told the board, “Our current financial state is in dire need of assistance to directly support our operating expenses …  The Boys and Girls Club has received various grants over the years, which have been cut significantly … Now, the board of directors are appealing to the community for support to make a difference … for the continuation of the program …”
Gatewood spoke to the board of commissioners as well, reiterating the Boys and Girls Club’s mission to the positive development of local youths.
Board chairman, Randy Howard, thanked them for their presentation before the board was addressed by John Leggett, a representative of MSI Inc., who advised the commissioners that they would need to decide on an insurance plan for county employees. At the regular meeting, the board voted to approve an insurance plan.
Next up at the work session, the commission was addressed by Mark Henry, of Windham Enterprises, in Plains.
Henry advised the board that, due to outstanding back taxes which were not paid when the property was initially closed years ago, he has been having issues attempting to work out a payment plan with the tax assessors’ office to bring the legacy taxes up to date. He also stated that he would like to dispute some aspects of the tax assessors’ reports on the value of the property.
“I’m anxious to work to try to find a solution that works for everyone …,” he said, adding that the business employs over 30 people. “This is a tremendous turnaround for our industry, but the number that’s been thrown around on taxes could be a death nail, depending on how we work it out.”
County administrator, Bill Twomey, advised Henry that the commissioners could request that the board of assessors meet with him, but that the board cannot legally intervene in the proceedings.
Twomey told Henry that he would contact the board of assessors and ask them to meet with him.
A representative of the board of assessors, Michele Seay, addressed the commissioners at the regular meeting, advising them that they had met with Henry and would like to discuss the matter further before making a recommendation.
At the regular meeting, Joe Lawrence, the president of the homeowners’ association of the Hidden Lakes neighborhood, asked the board what would need to be done to enact a waiver that would allow residents of the neighborhood to ride golf carts on the local roads.
He advised the board that a newer resident in the neighborhood had lodged several complaints with the sheriff’s office about individuals operating recreational vehicles on the public roads. The commissioners advised him to take up the matter with the homeowners’ association, suggesting that they check applicable laws and offer training programs to ensure that individuals using the vehicles do so responsibly.
Kevin Ross, a resident of the neighborhood, then addressed the board, citing ordinances that give the county license to allow people to operate low-power personal vehicles on public roads.
Commissioner, Thomas Jordan, stated that he had received a call from a disgruntled Hidden Lakes resident, who claimed that people were causing a disturbance with the vehicles, riding in the wee hours of the morning.
No official action was taken.
Sumter County Superintendent of Elections, Robert Brady, then addressed the board, asking them to approve changes to the agreements between Sumter County and the municipalities of Plains, Andersonville, and Americus for the conduct of elections.
Brady advised the board that the original contracts are more than 15 years old and that, with technological advances in the way that voting is carried out, many clauses in the original contracts needed to be revisited and updated.
The board approved the changes.
Following a closed session which was called for the purpose of discussing board appointments, the board of commissioners reappointed Sherill House to the Sumter County Hospital Authority Board. The board approved the appointment of David Kitchens to fill the position being vacated by Brenda Jennings on the hospital authority board. The board also approved the appointment of Lewis Webb to fill the position being vacated by O.A. Williams III on the hospital authority board.