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Sumter County Board of Commissioners approves the establishment of fire fees on solar farms

AMERICUS – At its monthly meeting on Tuesday, August 18, the Sumter County Board of Commissioners (BOC) voted to approve the establishment of fire fees on solar installations. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the meeting was once again held virtually by way of a Zoom conference call.

Fire fees on solar farms was a topic that was discussed at length by the BOC at its monthly work session on Tuesday, August 11, but no decision on the matter was made. County Financial Director Janice Jarvis told the BOC that she revisited the formula to establish fire fees on solar farms. “I sent an email out over the city manager’s list serve hoping to get some input. I got absolutely zero input back from them,” said Jarvis. She went on to say that she sent out a work sheet to the BOC showing some proposed fire fees using a per acre charge and also using a commercial rate as a base wage. “We used that because with the small solar farms, if you don’t use that base rate, they’re basically not going to have a fire fee at all,” said Jarvis.

Commissioner George Torbert said that he is in favor of having a fire fee in which the charge is $5 per acre with a flat $300 commercial fee. “I think that helps to have an adequate charge to cover what we need,” said Torbert. “But at the same time, it does help limit it from being too astronomical.” Sumter County Fire and Rescue Chief Jerry Harmon stated that if the $5 per acre model were to be used to charge a fire fee on a 10,000 acre tract, the total fire fee would be $50,300.00 a year.

All of the commissioners stated that they were in favor of using the $5 per acre model to charge fire fees to solar farms.

Commissioner Torbert made a motion to approve Solar Fire Fee 1 for the new solar farm fire fees. This particular fire fee plan includes a base rate of $300 for commercial fee and an additional $5 for every acre. Commissioner Mark Waddell seconded the motion. The BOC voted and the approval passed unanimously.

The BOC also approved the resolution of the appointment of Wesley Scott Ivey to the Sumter County Board of Tax Assessors. County General Operations Administrator Rayetta Volley stated that the Board of Tax Assessors approved Ivey’s reappointment, but also stated that a resolution still must be submitted. “This is asking for the board (BOC) to approve the resolution,” said Volley. Commissioner Scott Roberson made a motion to approve the resolution and Commissioner Waddell seconded the motion. The BOC voted and the approval passed unanimously.

The BOC voted to approve a Memorandum of Understanding for the 2020 Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) for law enforcement. Col. Eric Bryant of the Sumter County Sherriff’s Office told the BOC that this JAG grant is an annual grant that the county receives every year, but this year, it is slated to go to the county’s police department.

“We have to submit a Memorandum of Understanding that they received these funds for this particular calendar year,” Bryant told the BOC. “This is a JAG grant that we get every other year through the federal government and they need this document in order to execute the processing of their grant for the police department.”

Commissioner Roberson made a motion to approve the Memorandum of Understanding and Commissioner Waddell seconded the motion. The BOC voted and the approval passed unanimously.

Sumter County Parks and Recreation Department (SCPRD) Director Tim Estes told the BOC that registration for fall sports is ongoing, but that it’s slower than normal. “I have extended the registration deadline through this Friday (August 21) to try to get some more in,” said Estes. “Soccer is looking a lot better. I think it will end up making it. Football, we’re really low in.” Estes went on to say that right now, the SCPRD will have enough players to form one team in each age group and that he has called around to other recreation departments in nearby counties to try to schedule games against their teams. Estes went on to say that all of the recreation gymnastics classes, with the exception of one, are at full capacity and that the Sumter County Gymnastics Team has been practicing. As far as recreation gymnastics is concerned, Estes said that they have lowered the number of participants that can be in each class and that they are only running one class at a time. They are doing this to try to comply with social distancing guidelines.