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EMA Director Nigel Poole informs County Board of Commissioners on situation with tornado at its regular meeting

AMERICUS – Sumter County EMA Director Nigel Poole gave an update on the situation regarding the neighborhoods damaged by the tornado that hit Tuesday morning at the Sumter County Board of Commissioners’ regular meeting on Tuesday, August 17 at the Sumter County Courthouse.

Due to the recent spike in COVID-19 numbers here in the county, the work sessions and meetings are still not open to the public, but can be viewed virtually via Zoom.

Poole mentioned that the tornado hit the northeast side of Americus at approximately 1:30 a.m. Tuesday morning, August 17 and that there were no injuries or deaths associated with this tornado. Poole went on to say that Americus Mayor Barry Blount and the Americus City Council issued a curfew that went into effect Tuesday evening at 8 p.m. That curfew lasted until 7 a.m. for these affected areas:

  • All of Pinecrest Dr.
  • All of Douglas Drive, including Sunnydale Circle and Copper Hill Dr.
  • All of Wanda Way
  • All of Sharon Drive
  • All of Sharon Circle
  • All of Pine Avenue
  • Douglas Circle to the intersection of Pinecrest Dr.

On Wednesday, August 18, Poole told the Americus Times-Recorder that there will be no curfew in the effected areas from here on out, but there will be increased police patrols in those areas until further notice.

Poole also told the BOC that as of Tuesday evening, 124 residents in the affected areas were without power, but that some of those residents who’s houses were capable of receiving power would have it back on by noon Wednesday, August 18.

However, he also stated that several residences would not be able to receive power because in those cases, the damage from the tornado pulled the entire side of the power source from the houses. “We told the citizens that they need to consult with electricians to make sure their homes are ready to receive power,” Poole told the BOC. Poole also mentioned to the Commissioners that Americus Chief of Police Mark Scott and Sumter County Sheriff Eric Bryant want to remind those citizens who are using generators to use them in well-ventilated areas inside their homes.

Poole also mentioned that a shelter for those displaced by the tornado is available at the Central Baptist Church gymnasium, which is located at the rear of the church on 190 Upper River Rd. That shelter is being operated by the American Red Cross. Speaking to the BOC from the CBC shelter, Poole said that as of Tuesday evening, there are an estimated 28 families that may be at the shelter and added that Americus Fire Department Chief Roger Bivins wanted to remind everyone that burning is not allowed within the city limits. Poole also took the time to thank the surrounding counties for sending in help. Those counties include Crisp, Dougherty, Lee, Dooly, Macon and Schley. “It happened early in the morning and when I got there, it was too dark to see exactly how bad it was,” Poole said. “When sunlight came up, we had a pretty bad, significant area that was damaged. I’ve uploaded some pictures on to the Facebook page for Sumter County EMA.”

Poole also mentioned that Sheriff Bryant was able to fly over the damaged areas in a helicopter and got some aerial pictures of the damage and he also told the BOC that he would be meeting with officials from the National Weather Service at 9 a.m. Wednesday morning to go over some of the affected areas to see what the rating the tornado would be (Class EF1 or EF2 Tornado). “We are monitoring any issues that we might have in that area,” Poole told the BOC. Poole added that all of the county and city departments work like a well-oiled machine. “It’s always so refreshing to see when these departments come together and work so efficiently. It’s a testimony to how well we work together,” Poole said.

In a somewhat related issue, the BOC voted unanimously to approve the acceptance of a proposal for siren maintenance from ANS Services, LLC out of Macon. This is basically approving the hiring of ANS Services, LLC to do the upgrading of the county’s weather sirens. Commissioner Scott Roberson made a motion of approval and Commissioner Jesse Smith seconded the motion. The BOC voted and the approval passed unanimously.

In other news from the meeting, the BOC voted unanimously to approve a letter of support for the Lake Blackshear Area Water System. Clark Harrell, the County Administrator for Crisp County, told the BOC that the soul source of water for those on the system in Sumter County comes from a tank and well on Hwy 280 next to Striplings Convenient Store just across the Flint River in Crisp County. “What I would like to do is to put a tank and a well over in Sumter County,” Harrell said. “We are currently serving over 450 customers. What I propose would pick up 60 new services. I’m proposing adding a well and tank in the vicinity of the ConArt facility and this would allow the Sumter system to operate independently should the need arise.” Harrell went on to say that if something were to happen to the existing lines that run across the Hwy 280 Flint River Bridge, those on the Sumter County side of the river would be without water until it could get repaired. Harrell stated that in expanding the system, he would like to loop the existing dead end lines that are in Sumter County and that the benefits of doing this would be the increase in fire protection and having more fire hydrants in Sumter County and potentially reduce the ISO insurance rates. “The expansion could have a very positive impact on future development, both residential and industrial,” Harrell said.

After further discussion, Board Chairman Mark Waddell asked for a motion to approve the letter of support for the Lake Blackshear Area Water System. Commissioner Roberson made a motion for approval and Commissioner Smith seconded the motion. The BOC voted and the approval passed unanimously.

During the time of the meeting in which each department head gives his/her report to the BOC about the happenings in their respective department, Sumter County Parks and Recreation Department Director Tim Estes told the BOC that the SCPRD will once again be having football this fall after not having it a year ago at this time due to concerns over COVID-19. “We did not have football last year. We didn’t even have enough kids to make one team in each age group,” Estes said. “This year, we’re up to where we have two teams in each age group, so roughly 40 kids per age group.” Estes went on to say that Dwight Harris, the Athletic Manager for the SCPRD, has been in touch with the recreation directors of Schley County, Terrell County and Macon County and that all of those agencies have agreed to bring their teams to Sumter County to compete. In the case of Terrell County, Estes said that they would compete against Sumter County teams on a home and home basis, so the Sumter County teams will only have to travel once. Estes also mentioned that the fall sports registration ended last Friday, August 13 and that 130 kids have signed up to play recreational soccer and that it will be back at full capacity.

As far as rec football is concerned, Estes told the BOC that he and his staff have spent the last two weeks sanitizing all of the football equipment and that anything older than 2015 has to be thrown away due to refurbishing and certification rules.

Estes also told the BOC that the SCPRD has come up with its “Return to Play Guidelines”. “We felt that it was important that all of our folks: soccer, football, any of our parents at least have a plan in place and it gives us a good guideline as staff members. What if somebody gets COVID,” Estes said. “How are we going to handle that? What if it’s not on my team, but it’s on the team that we’re playing? How do we handle that?” He went on to say that he talked with Steve Card, the director of the Georgia Recreation and Parks Association (GRPA) to get some input. As a result, Estes, along with Dwight Harris and Jeff Fussell, have come up with a plan to deal with the COVID situation should it arise. “One of the biggest changes and probably complaints you will hear about it is we’re going to take all of the bleachers off of the sidelines and we’re going to paint 10 x 10 squares on the ground,” Estes said. “If you’re family comes to watch a ball game, they can put their lawn chairs in that square so that you know that’s just your house hold that’s sticking in there. They’ll be six feet off of the fence, so if it’s an individual that comes, they don’t have to take up a whole 10 x 10. They can stand up on the fence and we’re still six feet away.” Estes went on to say that all of the guidelines will be on paper and that all of these guidelines will be given out to all of the football and soccer parents. He added that all of the guidelines will also be posted on the SCPRD website.

Estes also talked about the upcoming Sumter County Fair, which had been scheduled to run from September 29 to October 3. Estes told the BOC that in light of the recent rise of COVID-19 cases throughout the county, he is hesitant about hosting the fair this year. However, he also said that he understand the position that Andrew Stringfellow is in. Stringfellow is the CEO of “A Community Affair”, an organization that sets up various fairs and carnivals throughout Georgia. Stringfellow is the one who operated the Sumter County Fair when it was at the fairgrounds a couple of years ago. A year ago, having been turned down by both the city and the county to host a fair, Stringfellow was able to find some private property to operate a fair and did so.

Estes told the BOC that he had a meeting with Stringfellow earlier that day when he came in to put his paperwork in to rent the fairgrounds for the fair that he would be meeting with the BOC to discuss the matter. “I’m just not sure with COVID dong what it’s doing. Do we want to, at this point, approve something like that, or are we hesitant? I’m kind of hesitant to do it,” Estes told the BOC. Waddell asked Estes what the daily rental charge would be to rent the fairgrounds for the fair and he replied that it would be a full rent of $500 per day with no discount. After further discussion, the BOC decided that due to the increasing numbers in the county of people contracting COVID-19, there will be no new large gatherings at the fairgrounds until further notice. That means that as of right now, the Sumter County Fair will not take place September 29 to October 3 as had been previously scheduled.

Here are other resolutions that the BOC voted unanimously to approve at the regular meeting:

  • Approval of Sumter County Board of Commissioners Resolution Number 2021-011 Authorization to accept GDOT Contract for CRRSS Act Funding associated with Jimmy Carter Regional Airport in Americus.
  • Approval of the 2021 Millage Rate Resolution and Attachment A
  • Approval to ratify the State of Emergency Resolution from Hurricane Fred on August 17, 2021
  • Intergovernmental Agreement between the City of Americus, Georgia, the Board of Elections and Registration of Sumter County, Georgia, and Sumter County, Georgia, by and through its Board of Commissioners, for the Conduct of the City of Americus’ Elections
  • Intergovernmental Agreement between the City of Andersonville, Georgia, the Board of Elections and Registration of Sumter County, Georgia and Sumter County, Georgia by and through the Board of Commissioners for the Conduct of the City of Andersonville’s Elections
  • Intergovernmental Agreement between the City of DeSoto, Georgia, the Board of Elections and Registration of Sumter County, Georgia, and Sumter County, Georgia, by and through its Board of Commissioners, for the Conduct of the City of DeSoto’s Elections
  • Intergovernmental Agreement between the City of Leslie, Georgia, the Board of Elections and Registration of Sumter County, Georgia, and Sumter County, Georgia, by and through its Board of Commissioners, for the Conduct of the City of Leslie’s Elections
  • Intergovernmental Agreement between the City of Plains, Georgia, the Board of Elections and Registration of Sumter County, Georgia and Sumter County, Georgia, by and through its Board of Commissioners for the Conduct of the City of Plains’ Elections
  • Approval of the Quitclaim Deed from the Sumter County Board of Commissioners to the City of Americus for the purpose of conveying the park at the corner of Bell Street and Oak Avenue
  • Approval to declare items surplus to be disposed of by NEOS