County continues discussion of 2020 SPLOST funding

Published 2:42 pm Saturday, March 23, 2019

By Ken Gustafson

AMERICUS — At its monthly meeting at the Sumter County Courthouse on Tuesday, March 19, the Sumter County Board of Commissioners (BOC) continued to discuss the 2020 Special Option Local Sales Tax (SPLOST) funding for both the county and the cities of Americus, Plains, DeSoto, Leslie, and Andersonville.
The discussion took place one day after a special called meeting on Monday, March 18, at which time the BOC and representatives of each municipality discussed how the SPLOST funding would be distributed to the county and each municipality. Commissioner Mark Waddell was not present at Tuesday’s BOC meeting.
The main issue is the percentages of SPLOST money each city in the county would receive for their 2020 SPLOST projects. County Financial Director Janice Jarvis also mentioned that the county and its municipalities are considering which radio communication system would best suit their needs and wouldn’t be too expensive.
The two main radio communication systems being considered for usage are the VHF Digital System and the 800 MHZ System. Jarvis mentioned that Michael Nix of the Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA) was at Monday’s meeting and gave a presentation on the benefits and drawbacks of both systems and that GEMA was proposing a plan to go with the 800 MHZ System. However, at Tuesday’s meeting, Jarvis said that before the SPLOST meeting on Monday, she met with the county’s public safety officials concerning the matter. “Unanimously, they still recommend that we go with a digital system” Jarvis said. “That’s the way we left it. The county, at this point, is looking to go with a communications project that is digital, which will be less expensive than the 800 MHZ System, as well as the cost of maintenance.” Jarvis said that everyone she talked to who understands how radio communication works seems to be really happy with the digital system.
Jarvis also mentioned that negotiations over SPLOST funding percentages took place during Monday’s special called meeting. “We presented the representatives of the municipalities a couple of options,” Jarvis said. “One of the options was that the city of Americus remain at 41.96 percent and that the county take a hit, or give up a few percentages to help out the smaller cities.”
In other words, under this proposal, the city of Americus would get $9,021,400 in SPLOST money (41.96 percent) and the county would lose $528,900 so that the smaller cities of Andersonville, DeSoto, Plains, and Leslie would receive more funds for their SPLOST projects.
Jarvis went on to explain that under this proposal, the county’s allocation of SPLOST funding would drop to 52.54 percent from 55 percent and that Americus would stay at 41.96 percent. “We would take Plains up to 2 percent, Leslie up to 1.5 percent and both Andersonville and DeSoto up to 1 percent. That would help them out quite a bit,” Jarvis said. She went on to say that Americus was given another option in which they would receive an additional 0.54 percent and the county would take a 3 percent reduction. Under this second proposal, the other cities would get the same percentage increase in SPLOST funding as outlined in the first proposal. Jarvis said that under the second proposal, Sumter County would lose $645,000 and the city of Americus would see an $116,100 increase in their SPLOST funding. “Of course, they (Americus) are opting to go with the second option,” Jarvis said. “They agreed to go with that option. Now the Board needs to decide which option it wants to go with.”
Board Chair Clay Jones said he was really hoping that the city of Americus would show compassion toward the smaller municipalities and expressed disappointment that, in his opinion, Americus didn’t show that compassion. “With that being said, we’re taking a $528,900 hit and they’re not willing to do anything for these other cities,” Jones said. He went on to say that he would rather the city of Americus stay at 41.96 percent of SPLOST funding ($9,021,400) without any increase. Both Commissioners Thomas Jordan and Scott Roberson agreed with Jones. “They (Americus) are not losing any money,” Roberson said.
Jarvis said that the representatives of the other four municipalities were very appreciative and happy that they were getting any extra funds. Jarvis asked the BOC if they wanted to make a motion or if the matter is still in the negotiation stage. County Attorney Kimberly Reid replied that everyone has to agree on a resolution before a motion for approval can be made. “Once everybody agrees, you can give the final resolution to me,” Reid said. “I will have the final resolution written and laid out with all the requirements and language along with the distributions and allocations.” Reid said that she needs the final draft of the resolution by April 15.
The BOC also dealt with Board appointments, such as the Sumter County Library Board and the Sumter County Board of Elections & Voter Registration. County Administrator Rayetta Volley told the BOC that advertising is still going on for the library board and that the Sumter County Board of Elections & Voter Registration is looking for someone to serve in place of Crystal Cleveland, who resigned on Feb. 15, 2019. Volley said that advertising for service on that board will continue for 30 days.
The BOC also voted to approve the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) Local Maintenance and Improvement Grant (LMIG) for the fiscal year of 2019. According to Sumter County Department of Public Works Director James Littlefield, GDOT notified his department about the Safety Action Plan. He said that GDOT had identified the top 20 intersections and the top 40 corridors in the county that have the most wrecks. “To improve the safety, they’re offering $50,000 to counties for striping and signage and to raise pavement markings,” Littlefield said. “We would like to apply for this.” The deadline is April 1. Littlefield went on to say that he and his department prepared a project list for roads that need to be resurfaced. Three of the roads he mentioned were Bumphead Road, Southerfield Road. and a small part of Mayo Street. “The intersection of Southerfield Road and Mayo Street was the only intersection in the county that was in the top 10,” Littlefield said. Commissioner Roberson made a motion for approval and Commissioner George Torbert seconded the motion. The BOC approved it unanimously.
Bill Starr, coordinator for the University of Georgia’s Sumter County Extension Office, made a proclamation at Tuesday’s BOC meeting to honor Thomas Harrell for his many years catering production meetings for the extension service. Tammye Jones, field representative for Congressman Sanford D. Bishop Jr., accompanied Starr in presenting the proclamation. “Mr. Harrell has done so many production meetings for me over the years,” Starr said. “He has served the extension so willingly. To me, this seems like a tremendous honor to have Congressional recognition for his many years of service.”