Permanent road closure, Drug Court discussed by county

Published 6:30 pm Friday, June 15, 2018

By Ken Gustafson

AMERICUS — On Tuesday, June 12, the Sumter County Board of Commissioners conducted three meetings: The first was a public hearing on the FYE 2019 Budget.
The meeting began with Chairman Randy Howard calling the meeting to order, followed by the roll call. All commissioners were present except Mark Waddell.
Issues concerning the FYE 2019 Budget were the General Fund Budget revenues FYE 2019, the General Fund Budgeted Expenditures FYE 2019, the Fire Fund Budgeted Revenues FYE 2019 and the Fire Fund Budgeted Expenditures FYE 2019.
Bill Twomey, county administrator, addressed the board concerning the FYE 2019 Budget. “As you know. The budget has been the subject of several workshops,” Twomey said. “There has been quite a bit of work done by Ms. Jarvis (Janice Jarvis, county CFO) as she consulted with each department head and each elected official. After rounds of trimming and tweeting, she went back and prepared the budget according to what you directed her to do. At the last meeting, that was sent out to you and presented. We also had some dialogue on the subject of considering raises for the employees.” Twomey said the subject at hand and the subject of the public hearing is the setting of the budget. “I want to remind the board, if I could, that the law requires you to set a budget ahead of setting a millage rate,“ he said. “We don’t have the final numbers yet from the board assessors, so you can’t do the math at this point of the millage rate. That comes later.” Twomey said he and Janice Jarvis were having an informal conversation with the tax commissioner on the subject of a sales tax rollback which, according to Twomey, fits into that computation. “Miss Jarvis has told you all meeting after meeting that sales tax revenues have been falling over a period of time,” Twomey told the board. “You might have one month that glitches up, but overall, for the year, it’s falling. That makes your rollback smaller when it comes to the millage rate. Other than that adjustment, I don’t foresee you having to make any adjustment in the millage rate with the budget that has been presented,” Twomey continued. Twomey told the board that he wanted reiterate the fact that the board cannot say now what the millage rate is going to be.
Janice Jarvis told the board that the budget presented before them contained the corrections that the board instructed her to make at the last budget workshop. “We’ve included the salary increase as instructed by the board, and it will be ratified tonight when the budget is adopted, that being 50 cents per hour per employee across the board, which is included in this budget,” Jarvis continued. She said the budget is balanced, but that it contains the $190,000 to $200,000 increase in the health insurance for employees that the county is picking up on their behalf, along with that salary increase and also the increases in the defined benefits related to the salary increases.
Commissioner Clay Jones asked Jarvis what the lease payment on the fire apparatus is. Jarvis replied that the lease payment was a little over $340,000 and that it’s principle only for the coming year.
Next, the BOC held its monthly work session. The only commissioner not present was Waddell.
A public hearing was held to consider abandoning and closing the following county road or portion thereof: the length of the Renecker Road extension from the end of the pavement on the Highway 19 end to Renecker Road, which is approximately 1,850 linear feet or .35 miles. According to County Clerk Rayetta Volley, the closing ad was published in the Americus Times-Recorder twice. Frank Whitaker, director, county Public Works, told the BOC that they will take down the green county-owned signs and put up the blue private signs. “It will still be a private road because there’s an address there,” Whitaker told the Board. “We will no longer maintain it. … We’ll put up some road closure signs at the end.”
A certified letter was sent to Adam Graft for the closing of the road. Graft farms the land and has an irrigation system that he would like to have to utilize the other end of the road. Graft asked that the road be closed. “Every time it rains, somebody gets stuck in the ditch,” Graft said. “There’s a bunch of people four wheeling. They come up to the dairy and we’re struggling to get done what we need to. You see … they want us to pull them out.”
Howard asked if anyone wanted to speak in opposition to closing Renecker Road or a portion thereof. No one spoke. A motion for the approval was made by Commissioner Jordan and seconded by Commissioner Torbert. The Board voted unanimously to close the road.
A public hearing was held to consider condemning property located at 2817 S. Lee St., Americus. A deed was prepared, but wasn’t fully executed for the fire station property before the owner died. It is now owned by the estate. The county had already paid $2,000 for the property before the fire station was built on the property. The purpose of the hearing was to authorize the commissioners to proceed with the condemnation proceedings so the title of the property can be in the county’s name. The current owner is the H.L. Shellhouse Estate. It is believed that the value of the property is approximately $3,000. A special master will be appointed after the condemnation is filed and they will determine the value of the property. Interested parties have been personally served, which include Donna Stinson, Ashley Martin and Jason Martin.
A notice has been run in the legal organ, posted at the courthouse, posted on the county website and posted on the property itself. No objections, concerns or questions have been received regarding the condemnation. The property is currently being used as a fire station. Another purpose of the hearing was to allow citizens to express any concerns they may have before the condemnation is filed by the county. No one spoke out against the condemnation.
Next was the introduction of David J. Nadler, a warning coordinator meteorologist. He was introduced by Nigel Poole, Emergency Management Director for Sumter County. “He is the warning point coordinator for the National Weather Service. He has helped me finish getting our Storm Ready Declaration,” Poole said. Nadler came to the podium. “It gives me pleasure to formally recognize Sumter County as a ‘Storm Ready county’,” Nadler said. “Storm Ready is a national weather safety initiative that focuses on the relationship that the National Weather Service has with local emergency management first responders and decision makers. One big thing in the guidelines that the county has to follow is the ability to receive monetary-disseminating appropriate weather information for the public across the county. It’s a pretty stringent program. It’s a three-year recognition. After three years, we’ll sit down again and make sure everything is up to speed.” Nadler said it is an evolving thing. “The relationship, on behalf of Nigel and his group here, is great,” Nadler told the Board. “We really appreciate the effort that you have brought to the table to make this happen.”
Next on the agenda was the request for the Sumter County Board of Commissioners to serve as the fiscal agent for the accountability court grant (Sub grant Number J19-8-043) with federal funds in the amount of $104,983; matching funds in the amount of $11,665 for a grant total of $116,648. David Edmiston of the Adult Felony Drug Court, stated that they have been approved for the grant and it will start July 1. “We really want to extend a thank you. In the past, it’s been seamless and really a pleasure to work with you all,” Edmiston told the Board. “You all delivered the best service we could ever ask for.” Superior Court Judge James Sizemore, of the Southwestern Judicial Circuit, told the Board that there are 20-25 participants in the program. “We haven’t gotten Lee County on board, but we’re meeting the requirements just for this part of the circuit, which is Sumter County, and the four counties that surround Sumter County,” Sizemore said. “If we ever get it going in Lee County, and we’re working on it, I think we might even double that without spending a great deal of more money.” Sizemore said this program is to help repeat offenders, some who have mental health and substance abuse issues. “Our mental health provider is the same as our drug treatment provider,” Sizemore said. “It’s Middle Flint. They assigned a person to help us do it ….” The judge said they only have one mental health participant in it so far. “We have some other people that have been evaluated. We’re learning a lot about it. We can’t handle structural mental defects. It’s more people like bipolar, people that have mental issues that can be dealt with through medicine, treatment and that sort of thing as opposed to people who can’t really be treated by the court.” The Board asked about the graduation of individuals out of the program. Sizemore stated that graduations are held on Fridays and that they would inform the Board about the next one. ACCG has set up a committee to deal with mental health issues and opioids issues. After the discussion concluded, a motion for the approval of the request was made by Commissioner Torbert and Commissioner Jones seconded the motion. DATE funds will be used for the matching funds. It passed unanimously. Blake Hill, director of Court Services for the Southwestern Judicial Circuit, was also present and inquired about continuing to sign as the designee for the county. County Attorney Kimberly Reid is to draft a form that shows designation for Hill to be approved by the Board at the next meeting.
The approval of Resolution # 2018-064 was also discussed. This was a resolution to authorize the initiation of condemnation proceedings for real property located at 2817 S. Lee St., Americus for public use. The law requires a waiting period of 30 days after the resolution was passed before the petition can be filed. A motion for approval of the resolution in which this property is being used as Fire Station 6A was made by Commissioner Torbert and seconded by Commissioner Jones. The resolution passed unanimously.
Also on the agenda was the approval of the agreement for the performance of economic development services for the benefit of the citizens of Sumter County, Georgia between the Sumter County Board of Commissioners and the Americus-Sumter County Payroll Development Authority in an amount not to exceed $185,380. Attorney Reid said she had not heard back from (Americus City) Attorney Jimmy Skipper concerning the matter. The issue was recommended as a separate item.
The board also discussed the approval of the acceptance of the two Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA) checks in the amount of $36,784.82 and $60,214.00 totaling $96,998.82 for Hurricane Irma Reimbursement. According to Nigel Poole, Sumter County received these checks from GEMA. “What happens is FEMA gives the money to GEMA and GEMA gives the money to us,” Poole said. “As Chairman Howard said, the first check was in the amount of $36,784.82, and the second check we received was $60,214.00. These aren’t going to be the only checks we will be receiving. The way FEMA did this, we broke it down into projects. These are projects getting funding for this.” They will discuss it at the board’s meeting on Tuesday, June 19.
The Board discussed officially approving the Service Delivery Strategy as approved by the Georgia Department of Community Affairs on June 1, 2018. A motion for approval of the service delivery strategy was made by Commissioner George Torbert and Commissioner Clay Jones made the second motion. It passed unanimously.
Also on the Board’s agenda was the approval to hire Watkins and Associates to prepare plans and grant for the Transportation Alternative Program (TAP) to add bike lanes to District Line Road. Frank Whitaker addressed the board concerning this matter: “This is a grant that we’ve just found out about, and it’s a combination grant from GDOT and the Federal Highway Administration,” Whitaker said. “It’s called TAP: Transportation Alternatives Program. It’s geared more to rural areas and it can only be used for pedestrian facilities or bike paths … that type of thing.” Whitaker explained the requirements are that you have to have more than 5,000 people in your county and less than 200,000 in a municipality or county. “It’s not for the larger cities,” Whitaker said. “It’s funded right now through 2020. It may be picked up again as they move forward.” Whitaker said he wants to review the plans and budget with the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) before the board approves this request. He asked the board to table this issue until next week’s meeting. Whitaker said that the grant information is due by August. The issue was recommended as a separate item.
Whitaker also discussed with the board an approval of the acceptance of a bid for the 2018 TSPLOST/LMIG Paving Project. “We received the bids last week for our 2018 paving project,” Whitaker told the Board. “We had two bidders: Reeves Construction was $1,253,723.25. Robinson Paving Company was $1,019,489.10. … Our estimate was right at $1 million. We’re finally seeing the effects of prices going up.” Whitaker said that since the last contract, the price per ton of liquid asphalt has gone up $100. “You put about an average of about 5 percent liquid in your mix. That’s a $5 per ton increase just on the mix.” Whitaker said the truck drivers have raised their hourly rate from $65 to $80 an hour because the price of fuel has gone up. “Everything is going up, so we’re not going to get as much for our dollar as we have been, but I would recommend that we award this to Robinson Paving Company,” Whitaker said.
A motion for awarding the bid to Robinson Paving Company, based in Columbus, in the amount of $1,019,489.10 was made by Commissioner Torbert. Commissioner Jordan seconded and it passed unanimously.
Next on the Board’s agenda was the approval of the 2018 TSPLOST/LMIG Paving Project Contract Documents. “This is the project you just approved,” Whitaker told the Board. “This is just the contract documents combined with our bid documents that will be bound and sent for signature.” According to Whitaker, the county attorney had already reviewed what changes were made. A motion for approval of the contract documents was made by Commissioner Torbert and seconded by Commissioner Jones. It passed unanimously.
The Board then turned its attention to the proposed approval of change in order for Eaton Road, with an increase amount of $77,562 for the addition of the cul-de-sac. Upon completion, the road will be turned over to Sumter County for addition to the county’s asset list. Bill Twomey addressed the Board concerning the matter. “Just briefly, you will recall that the road itself is the subject of that One Georgia Grant. They’ve been working on this for two years now,” Twomey said. “Frank Whitaker was instrumental in doing part of the initial consulting work when they filed the grant. The scope has changed on the project. Frank, in my opinion, was not consulted at a critical time and should have been, but we worked this out. We got some credits in the process with some negotiations with the engineers several thousand dollars.” Twomey said that the cul-de-sac design is still not 100 percent designed in the way that he and Whitaker would have liked it to be. However, Twomey said it does meet Whitaker’s requirements at this point. The cul-de-sac was originally designed as a drive and not as a road. A motion of approval of the change order was made by Commissioner Torbert and seconded by Commissioner Jordan. They made these motions for approval with the understanding that the funds are to come from the 2014 SPLOST PDA for economic development. It passed unanimously.
Next on the agenda was the approval to ratify the Notification Services Subscription Agreement. Twomey stated that the board agreed to the service and this was a process to ratify their agreement. A motion for approval was made by Commissioner Torbert and seconded by Commissioner Jordan. It passed unanimously.
Next on agenda was the approval of the application for continuation of the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety Grant. This grant is a continuation of the GOHS grant that the Board approved in October 2017. This is a $20,000 reimbursable grant. The county has no match expenses. Janice Jarvis addressed the board concerning this matter. “I’ve actually polled the Board on this and I’ve had a few responses,” she said. “ … This is a continuation grant through the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety. The county has no match.” Jarvis said she recommended that the board approve this proposal. A motion to approve this proposal was made by Commissioner Jones and seconded by Commissioner Torbert, and passed unanimously.
The next item of business for the board was the approval of the ACCG Interlocal Risk Management Agency (ACCG-IRMA) renewal for the property and liability insurance coverage provided to Sumter County for the coverage period from July 1, 2018. through July 1, 2019, in the amount of $286,920. Twomey told the board, “The premium is the result of the largest single credit that the county has received against this coverage.” The county received a credit in the amount of $38,804. “The bottom line is the actual coverage renewal amount is $335,724. We did receive the $10,000 normal savings credit. The special dividend credit of $38,804 netted from that figure leaves a final premium amount of $286,920.”
A motion for approval of the renewal was made by Commissioner Jones and seconded by Commissioner Jordan. It passed unanimously.
Next was a discussion of the lease agreement for Juvenile Justice. Twomey stated that he had received the draft copy of the lease itself late that afternoon and he has forwarded the draft copy of the lease to the county attorney. According to Twomey, the rental rates have been negotiated for an increase over the next several years. He also stated that utilities are added in the lease as well. “I put some wording in the copy that I initialed and sent back to them under the authority of the utilities, so if there’s any change, Ms. Reid and I are going to be paying close attention to the contract,” Twomey told the Board. “We understand that we have to pay all of the utilities that are included in this reimbursement. What I don’t want to happen is for somebody to decide they need bigger and better Internet speed, or they need something else that somehow the state says, ‘OK, that’s a utility and you have to pay for it’. No! If there’s any change in the level of service, we need to be consulted and that would be the point of additional negotiations.”
The effective date of the lease is July 1. According to Twomey, this is the second time that this lease has been negotiated. Twomey said he got a fairly healthy increase when it was negotiated three years ago. He told the Board that he will bring the final lease agreement back to the board. “You don’t have to take any action tonight,” he said. Twomey and Jarvis will be absent at next Tuesday’s meeting.
The next item of discussion was the Land Bank Authority. Scott Ivey (Joint Appointment with the City of Americus) is now a current member of the tax assessors’ board and can no longer serve on this board. His term ends March 19, 2019. The moard decided to discuss this item at next week’s meeting.
Keith Lee and William Bird are both on the Sumter County Library Board of Trustees. Both of their terms expire on June 30, 2018. However, according to the county clerk, both want to be reappointed. The Board decided to renew that discussion at next Tuesday’s meeting as well.
Next up was the discussion of the proposed Indigent Defense Contract between the Office of the Circuit Public Defender of the Southwestern Judicial Circuit and the Governing Authorities of Lee, Macon, Schley, Stewart, Sumter and Webster counties for the second half of 2018. The proposal contract price had a request for a $10,000 increase that was not approved by the board. Twomey said he recommended that they not approve it and thanked them for not approving it at that time. “When we talked to the Public Defender about the fact that his request for an increase of $10,000 was not approved, there was somewhat of a spirited discussion on the matter,” Twomey said. “We finally concluded the discussion that there would not be an increase of $10,000 in the contract, and that there was another issue that should have been discussed had we known that he was going to break the contract when he did because we had just renegotiated with the state the rental rate on the space below him. We needed to mirror the rental rate that he was paying to us on his offices.” Twomey said the Public Defender needed more money in his contract to rent, but Twomey said that they would not go up on the price that they were allocating to his office. “He went back and reworked the contract and notified the other counties in the circuit that we had raised rent on him and that he was having to rework his contract,” Twomey said. “He did rework the proposed contract very recently. I just got that to Ms. Reid. She’s had a chance to look over it. There were a couple of things in there that she raised an eyebrow on. We discussed them. I don’t know if there is any update from our conversation.” According to Reid, the contract has a broad view of the budget instead of the itemized budget. According to Reid, the agreement needs to confirm the county’s obligations.
Next on the agenda was the discussion of the Inmate Telecommunications General Service Agreement with Combined Public Communications, LLC. According to Reid, Rayetta Volley got the agreement to her and she will research the law on the compensation. The issue was recommended as a separate item on next week’s agenda.
Sumter County Fire Chief John Ekaitis addressed the board about the recent drowning at Lake Blackshear. “We have the report in front of us about what we had this weekend. The drowning at Lake Blackshear was on the Crisp County side,” Ekaitis said. “Our dive teams were requested to respond. Our dive team spent probably 24 to 30 hours over there diving, along with DNR, who came in with SONAR and RADAR. The State Patrol came in with a helicopter.” Ekaitis said it was absolutely a good process. “[Crisp] Sherriff [Billy] Hancock took care of us. He was very professional. He fed us … It was a joy to work with that group over there.” Ekaitis said they would be very proud of the Sumter County Dive Team and that they spent a lot of time in the lake doing their job.
Next, Tim Estes addressed the Board about what is going on at the Sumter County Parks and Recreation Department. “I’ll give you a quick update on The Columns. If you’ve driven by there recently, you’ve seen that all of the framing is up on the building. They actually put up some siding this week on two different sides of it, so we’ll be dried in on that by the end of next week,” Estes said. “Our hope is to be through with that building by the end of July.”
He then discussed day camp. “Our Day Camp is going really well. We’re in the second week of Day Camp and that’s really good,” Estes said. According to Estes, 47-50 participants are signed up for Day Camp. “I want to give you a quick update on the pools and splash pads. We had some concrete work that had to be done on both pools,” Estes said. “We had it scheduled for two weeks prior to the pool opening, and, as you know, that’s when all the rain started coming in for a week and a half. We do have all that completed now. We have water in both pools, chemicals going in.” Estes said the Rucker Street pool and the Splash Pad were scheduled to be inspected on June 13. Estes told the board if the pool and the splash pad pass inspection, they would open that same day.
“We need one more day on the Barlow Street Pool, so it will probably open on Thursday,” Estes said. “Our plan is to keep those pools open one week later than we had scheduled because we were a week late getting them opened,” Estes continued.
Estes said they have three youth baseball teams that will be going to district-level tournaments. The District tournaments begin Saturday, June 23. The 12u Sumter County All-Stars will be going to Moultrie for the district tournament. The 10u Sumter County All-Stars will be going to Bainbridge for their district tournament and the 8u Sumter County All-Stars will be going to Thomasville for their district tournament.
Estes then discussed the situation with lifeguards at the pools. He told the board they currently have four lifeguards, but they need five to run both pools at the same time. He said they have one person going through lifeguard certification. He said that the individual has agreed to apply if he passes. If he passes, they will be able to run both pools simultaneously.
Estes said it has been very difficult to find people who want to work as lifeguards at the SCPRD pools. He said that last year, the SCPRD was paying minimum wage when everybody else was paying $10 an hour. He thought that was the reason they were having trouble finding lifeguards. He described to the board a situation in which three lifeguard trainees were scheduled to show up for training and had agreed to do so, but none of them showed up. “We had recruited three for a lifeguard class that we set up ourselves last weekend,” Estes said. “All three no-showed on us. These were guys that we had recruited. We were going to pay their fee and they were going to pay it back as a payroll deduction. We talked to them on Friday. All of them assured us that they were going to be there, and none of the three showed up. Our instructor had come from Cordele to teach. It’s just frustrating.”
Sumter County Fire & Rescue Chief John Ekaitis requested to address the board. “I’ve been here seven years now. As commissioners, you set the budget at what you feel is right for each department,” he said. Ekaitis praised the board for putting in $195,000 toward the health benefits to the employees this year. “I really don’t think that a lot of employees understand what you’ve done in the last couple of years. With the increased cost of the health insurance, it kept their paychecks about the same. What you’re doing this year, that’s about $500,000 you’re going to do if you approve the budget with a 50-cent increase across the board for each employee, you’re to be commended for that.”
Howard discussed legislation to dissolve the Sumter County Livestock Authority. The board discussed the remaining funding in the livestock account. It was determined that the remaining funds would revert back to the county. The custodial account would need to be sent to the state by the livestock authority.
Commissioner Jones inquired about the grass growing up on the county property in the Rock Hill Subdivision. Twomet said that he will check on this matter.
Twomey discussed the fire station located at 898 Young’s Mill Road. He said the land swap between the county and New Horizons never occurred and there had been a change in the administrationsat New Horizons. “We proposed a couple parcels to New Horizons, but we don’t have any parcels for them to build a house on,” Twomey said. “Now we are at the point for the county to purchase the parcel.” Twomey said New Horizons has been paying the fire fees on the parcel. He gave them a proposal and they will be taking that back to their board. The refund for the fire fee on the parcel can be debated. Twomey said he proposed a cost of $5,000 to them for the parcel, and maybe a refund of the fire fees in the amount of $1,116.
After the meeting, a budget workshop was held in which the b discussed the approval of Resolution 2018-065 to approve adoption of a budget for the fiscal year, beginning July 1, 2018 and ending June 30, 2019 for each of the county’s funds: appropriating the amount for the various funds and departments, adopting the items of Revenue Application and affirming that expenditures in each department may not exceed appropriations. The Board also agreed to prohibit expenditures from exceeding actual funding sources and for other lawful purposes.
The motion for approval of Resolution 2018-065 was made by Commissioner Torbert and seconded by Commissioner Jordan. It passed unanimously.