Commissioners hear about solar farm, dangerous dogs, among other matters

Published 9:19 am Wednesday, August 22, 2018

By Ken Gustafson

AMERICUS — The Sumter County Board of Commissioners held a public hearing, followed by its monthly work session Aug. 14, at the Sumter County Courthouse. At the hearing, Ryan Sanders, on behalf of Beltline Energy, LLC, made a request to rezone 235 acres to build a solar farm. Sanders requested conditional usage of some of that acreage for the construction of the farm, which would be located at 242 Lamar Road. “We initially had looked all over the county. We’ve looked for places to do massive utility-skilled projects in consideration and median-skilled projects, one of which we are proposing here today,” Sanders said. He said he worked with Code Enforcement Director Michael Sudduth and went before the Planning and Zoning Board for a hearing on Aug. 2. “We received input from both the community and the Planning and Zoning Board itself. We’ve agreed to install a vegetative buffer along Highway 280 to prevent any aesthetic or visual impact to the community,” Sanders said. “We believe this project will result in a positive impact for the community. With Sumter County’s millage rate, we’re looking at around $400,000 in lifetime tax revenue.” Code Enforcement director, Michael Sudduth told the Board that there would be a safety fence around the solar farm with barbed wire on top. He also said that if Highway 280 expands to a four-lane highway, they will move the property back 75 feet.
Residents living in the proposed rezoned area were at the hearing. Board Chairman Randy Howard asked if anyone was against the rezoning. None said that they were. No action was taken regarding the request. It was decided to discuss it further at the Board’s monthly meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 21.
After the public hearing, the Board began its monthly work session. During the time when citizens could express their comments, Patricia Taft, a resident of Plains, said that dangerous dogs have been harassing her grandchildren and other children as they wait to get on the school. “This morning [Aug. 14], my grandchildren, along with 12 or 13 other children were accosted by potentially dangerous dogs,” Taft said. She said she called the police, but they told her that there was nothing they could do, that it’s the county’s problem to fix and that the county has a dog catcher on its payroll. “I pay county taxes and the county has a dog-catching unit. Why can’t they come out and catch these dogs?” Taft asked.
Attorney Kimberly Reid explained that according to state law, the only way Sumter County could perform dog-catching activities is through an IGA (Intergovernmental Agreement) between the city of Plains and Sumter County. Reid said that if the county sheriff’s office is going to perform any services within city limits of an incorporated municipality, there must be an IGA between the county and the city and the city must pay the expenses for those services. Taft said she spoke with the Plains Mayor Boze Godwin and he told her that the county has a dog-catching unit that her tax money pays for. “That’s something that the county provides that I don’t have access to, but I’m paying for,” Taft said. Reid said the city of Plains could contract with the Humane Society just like Americus does. However, Taft said that the Plains Humane Society building was quarantined and closed because they found some diseased dogs in front of the building. As far as the dogs the children encountered, Taft said that the local police can’t find their owners. “They have problems with dogs. These dogs are roaming the streets of Plains,” Taft said. “They’re barking at and intimidating children who are trying to go to school.” Taft said the mayor told her, “good luck.” Chairman Howard said that he would talk to Godwin to try and find a solution.
The Board discussed the maintenance and repaving of Flintside Extension Road. Residents of the area were there to request that the county start maintaining that road like they used to. According to one resident, Elton Wolf, the road is virtually impassable. “There’s a 30-foot county right-of-way down through there. It has been there pretty much forever,” Wolf said. “There’s deep mud holes and it’s not maintained.” Wolf said that the county maintained that stretch of road from at least 1976 to around 2000, but then stopped. “I don’t know why it hasn’t been maintained. We tried to do it ourselves,” Wolf said.
Director of Public Works Frank Whitaker recommended putting gravel on the road and then paving it 14 feet wide so there’s a good structure down the middle of it. The board chair suggested that Whitaker go out and take a look at the length and width of the road and then come back for the regular meeting with a written proposal that the board can discuss and vote on.
The board approved the 2019 Local Maintenance & Improvement Grant (LMIG) Application. Whitaker proposed to the Board an LMIG application to receive LMIG funds for 2019 LMIG projects. One project is to fix a stretch of McMath Mill Road from U.S. Highway 280 to Wolf Creek Bridge. The other is fixing a stretch of Pryor Road from U.S. Highway 280 down to the Lee County line. A motion for approval was made by Commissioner Mark Waddell and seconded by Commissioner George Torbert. The approval passed unanimously.
Once the work session was over, the board voted to go into closed session to discuss litigation and personnel.