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Sumter commissioners hear from Sunset Park resident

By Michael Murray

AMERICUS — The Sumter County Board of Commissioners (BOC) met on Oct. 17 at the Sumter County Courthouse for its monthly work session. The BOC reconvened the following week, on Oct. 24, for its monthly regular meeting.
In a public hearing prior to the start of the work session the Commissioners were addressed by Clay Brogden, a representative from Southern Linc Communications who asked them to approve a special exception to construct a cellular tower and a height variance to 390 feet for the tower on Rabbit Branch Road, in Plains.
The representative advised the BOC that the exemption had already been approved by the Planning and Zoning Commission.
Sumter County resident, Michael Fennessy addressed the board, stating that he owns the land on which the proposed tower would be located and urged them to approve the exemption. He stated that the 201-acre tract of land is currently used for agriculture and timber farming.
The measure was approved.
BOC chairman, Randy Howard, called several retired educators up to the front of the room and issued a proclamation honoring retired educators in Sumter County.
Sumter County coroner, Greg Hancock, addressed the commissioners, asking for approval to purchase a vehicle for coroner services using SPLOST as the funding source. Hancock advised the board that the current vehicle used by the coroner’s office is a 1992 model. Bernie Merritt, who is in charge of approving SPLOST transactions, went on to say that replacing the three-quarter ton chassis vehicle would cost between $35,000 to $40,000.
The request was approved.
Sumter County EMA director, Nigel Poole, addressed the board, requesting approval to draft a request for proposal for a contract to have the county’s siren maintained by a third-party company. Howard recommended moving forward with the request and it was approved.
The commissioners then heard from Michelle Smith, a Sumter County resident, who discussed potential clean-up efforts in the Sunset Park neighborhood.
Smith expressed concerns that several street lights are currently non-operational in the neighborhood and that individuals have a tendency to drive too fast on the neighborhood roads. She stated that she would like for the county to look into adding speed bumps to the roadways and fixing the street lights.
She also stated that Americus resident, Kent Hill, had offered to sell the community a plot of land at 116 Rainbow Terrace for $2,500 to be used to construct a neighborhood park.
Smith advised the commissioners that a child had been hit by a vehicle while playing in the road last year and that members of the neighborhood fear that it might happen again.
Sumter County Public Works Director, Frank Whitaker, stated that the Georgia Department of Transportation is discouraging the use of traditional speed bumps, stating that the bumps can cause damage to certain vehicles. Whitaker went on to say that the preferred method of discouraging speeders in neighborhoods is by installing speed tables, speed humps, or apparatuses that display the speed at which a motorist is traveling by the side of the road. Colonel Eric Bryant, of the Sumter County Sheriff’s Department, stated that the department could, potentially, install a speed monitoring device that would collect data on the motorists’ speed in the neighborhood.
The board advised Smith to contact the Georgia Power Company and inform them of the non-functional light fixtures, stating that they are usually pretty good about keeping them maintained and that the company likely wasn’t aware of the issue.
Howard also advised Smith that, if the plot of land in question, was purchased by community members, it would qualify as a public park and would need to be maintained by private citizens. Commissioner, George Torbert, suggested that neighborhood members get together to form a Home Owner’s Association to handle the management of the proposed park.
Smith inquired as to whether or not the park could be maintained by the county if the land were donated to the county. Sumter County Parks and Recreation Director, Tim Estes, told the board, “We’ll be more than happy to maintain it if you all see fit … ”
No action was taken.
Bryant and Merritt addressed the board at the work session, requesting permission to purchase five vehicles for the Sheriff’s Department to use as patrol and transport vehicles.
Bryant advised the BOC that the department had received bids for a pair of Ford Explorers at $26,075 apiece and a pair of Chevrolet Tahoes at $32,488 apiece. Bryant told the commissioners that the Tahoes would be the preferred purchase as they have more room to transport equipment. Bryant also advised the BOC that it will take between $12,000, and $15,000 to put the department’s decals on the vehicles and outfit the vehicles with the necessary equipment.
The request was tabled until the regular meeting, during which  hear from the commissioners decided not to take action until further information becomes available.
At the work session, Bryant and Roger Hayes, a representative from the Georgia Office of Highway Safety, asked the commissioners to approve a grant application to purchase in-car equipment for the Sheriff Department’s fleet. They stated that the grant money would be used to purchase in-car equipment, including radar equipment, printers, mounts, and other hardware.
The request was approved.
Bryant addressed the board one final time, advising the commissioners that the Sheriff’s Department had been awarded a body camera grant in the amount of $16,825. Bryant advised the board that, if they decided to be the fiscal agent for the grant, the county would need to match the grant funds.
The request was approved.
At the regular meeting, the BOC held a public hearing to consider an application for a license to sell alcohol at the Gas N’ Go at 110 Highway 280 West. Charlotte Everette, a representative for the organization, advised the commissioners that the store formerly sold beer and that the license needs to be renewed after undergoing renovations.
The request was approved.
Sumter County Correctional Institute Warden, Jimmy Colson, asked the board to approve a request to purchase a pair of Ford F-150 pickup trucks at a cost of $28,129 apiece.
The request was approved.
Ranger Brett McCarty, of the Georgia Forestry Commission, addressed the board to discuss the past year. McCarty informed the BOC that the county had seen 59 wild fires, burning 225.38 acres of land. McCarty stated that the number-one cause of the fires was debris burning. He also recognized Sumter County Fire and Rescue for their efforts to help extinguish the fires.