Public Works items, County Redistricting and Americus/Sumter County Joint Comprehensive Plan discussed at BOC Work Session

Published 12:04 am Friday, January 14, 2022

AMERICUS – The Sumter County Board of Commissioners (BOC) held its January Work Session on Tuesday, January 11 at the Sumter County Courthouse, but for the first time in almost three years, the public was allowed into the chamber to attend the meeting in person.

All of the commissioners were present in the chamber, but County Attorney Kimberly Reid, who is usually in the chamber, took part in the work session via Zoom.

However, due to the rise of COVID-19 cases in Sumter County, next week’s regular meeting will once again not be opened to the public, but can be viewed via Zoom.

At the work session, several Public Works items involving roads throughout the county and the City of Americus were discussed and approved. There was also a discussion on county redistricting, as well as the Americus and Sumter County Joint Comprehensive Plan.

During the first part of the work session, a Public Hearing was called to discuss the Americus and Sumter County Joint Comprehensive Plan, which is basically the intentional process of identifying mitigating liabilities and accentuating assets with the goal of improving the quality of life in Sumter County. Gerald Mixon, Director of Planning and Development for the River Valley Regional Commission (RVRC), stated that he was there to help the BOC satisfy the requirements for updating the Comprehensive Plan and by state mandate, two public hearings must be held. This public hearing was held to begin the updating process and the next one will be held two to three months down the road to complete the draft of the plan.

“As I mentioned to y’all maybe a month ago when I met with you last, the plan is needed for the community’s sake if y’all want to identify what improvements you want to make in the community,” Mixon told the BOC. Mixon went on to say that the comprehensive plan is important because it will maintain the county’s eligibility for certain state grants, loans and permits. “Some of the state funding and grants you won’t have access to if you don’t satisfy the planning requirement,” Mixon said.

He went on to explain that the RVRC will be assisting Sumter County and the City of Americus with this plan and that all four of the other municipalities in the county are going through the same process, but collectively as a separate update. “This is just a public hearing to notify the community that the process is starting,” Mixon told the BOC. He further added that he, along with another member of the RVRC, have already started meeting with some of the city and county personnel for the purpose of collecting background information and that the RVRC will be advertising public meetings and public input sessions over the next couple of months. Mixon also stated that the RVRC plans to post a survey to obtain community input from citizens who may not be able to attend the public meetings. In short, Mixon reiterated that he and his staff at the RVRC plan on getting information from citizens of the county by advertising the public input sessions and meeting with critical community staff, such as local government officials and economic development practitioners. Mixon also stated that the requirements call for identifying stakeholders, which has been completed for the most part.

“There’s an outreach that will be made to them for their specific input because these typically will be the people who are most interested, most involved, civic-minded in making improvements in the community to get things done and achieve,” Mixon said. He concluded by saying that no further public meetings have been scheduled yet, but he hopes to get an advertisement in the newspaper possibly this week or next week.

The BOC also had discussions on several items involving Public Works in the county, such as the maintaining of roads and bridges. One of these items was the approval of a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) by and between the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) for the right of way at Murphy Mill Rd. Sumter County Department of Public Works Director Jim Littlefield told the BOC that this is a Memorandum of Understanding between the county and the GDOT concerning the replacement of a bridge on Murphy Mill Rd. “Several years ago, the county agreed to obligate a certain amount of funds towards this project,” Littlefield said. He added that the MOU stated that the county would contribute $50,000 towards the bridge-replacement project and that the county would not be responsible for any more funds after that. Littlefield went on to say that right now, the GDOT has estimated that the project will cost $2.1 million. Littlefield said that the project will include replacing the existing bridge, relocating utilities, attaining right-of-way and it pays for the engineering.

“That’s what this Memorandum of Understanding is about and right now, no payment is due,” Littlefield told the BOC. “I’d recommend the county do this and obligate itself.”

BOC Chairman Mark Waddell asked Littlefield if the money for this project is supposed to come out of any certain funds and are those funds designated.

Littlefield said that these funds, to his knowledge, are not designated funds, but that the TSPLOST could be an option. However, County Administrator Rayetta Volley replied that it is not recommended to use TSPLOST funds for the project because, in her words, “That’s been coming in over what we had projected it to come in at.” Littlefield went on to say that there are three “tiers” to the payment for this project and that the $50,000 that the county would contribute towards the completion of this project is Tier 1, which is the lowest amount for any project that the GDOT would consider taking.

Commissioner Scott Roberson asked Littlefield if the spillway on the dam on which the bridge runs over would be replaced. Littlefield replied that the entire bridge will be replaced and two 12-foot lanes will be put in, along with constructing two approaches on either side coming in. Littlefield also added that both the preliminary engineering and surveying are already underway and that the right-of-way utilities will take place in about another two years and that the bids for the contract to do the project won’t go out until February 2025. As far as the spillway being replaced, Littlefield said that he hasn’t seen the exact concept and plans as far as that is concerned. Waddell stated that he wanted to discuss this further in the BOC’s Executive Session as part of litigation concerns.

No approval was made regarding this issue and it was tabled until at least next Tuesday’s regular meeting.

Another issue that was discussed was the TSPLOST Road List Modification and the approval of the SPLOST/TSPLOST/LMIG Paving Project Documents and Bid.

Littlefield asked the BOC to approve a change in the roads being paved by Local One Cent Sales Tax, SPLOST/TSPLOST. He also asked the BOC to allow Hooks Mill Road to be paved in 2022 and Joe Buchannan Road and Styles Robinson Road to be paved in 2023. According to Littlefield, Joe Buchannan Road and Styles Robinson Road were both scheduled to be paved in 2022, but in Littlefield’s opinion, Hooks Mill Road needs more immediate attention and is in dire need of repairs. “Styles Robinson and Joe Buchannan can be maintained for another year or two, so that’s not a burden in that sense” Littlefield said. He also requested that the BOC remove Roy Vaughn Road from this project and treat it as a separate project in hopes of locating economic development funds to combine with TSPLOST. “What the changes will mean is it will actually increase the mileage that will be paved from 14.6 miles to 17.25,” Littlefield told the BOC. “We will still stripe Thomas Mill Road. That will give us a total of 20.85 miles, which is actually a little bit less than the total project,” Littlefield continued.

In short, Littlefield requested that the BOC modify the originally approved list of roads, replacing Styles Robinson, Joe Buchannan and Roy Vaughn Roads with Hooks Mill Rd.

Waddell then entertained a motion to approve the road list modification taking Roy Vaughn, Joe Buchannan and Styles Robinson Roads off the list and replacing them with Hooks Mill Road. Commissioner Roberson made a motion for approval and Commissioner Jesse Smith seconded the motion. The BOC voted and the motion for approval passed unanimously.

The second phase of this road list modification and approval of the SPLOST/TSPLOST/LMIG Paving Project is the approval of the contract documents. Littlefield stated that he wanted to get this approved right away so that the bidding process can start as soon as possible. He stated that he has until 2 p.m. February 11 to accept these bids. Waddell entertained a motion for approval to bid out the 2022 TSPLOST/SPLOST/LMIG Paving Project. Commissioner Roberson made a motion for approval and Commissioner Smith seconded the motion. The BOC voted and the motion to approve passed unanimously.

The next item to be discussed was the Approval of a resolution designating the official list of private roads in Sumter County with the submission to Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Director Beverly Butcher. This is an official list of private roads in the county that are not owned or maintained by the county and there are at least 80 roads on this list that span a combined 24.7 miles. Littlefield stated that this is to officially clarify what roads are not owned or maintained by the county. Waddell entertained a motion to approve the resolution designating the official list of private roads in Sumter County. Commissioner Roberson made a motion for approval and Commissioner Smith seconded the motion. The BOC voted and the motion for approval passed unanimously.

Another somewhat related topic that the BOC had to tackle was the discussion and approval of a resolution designating the list of roads within the City of Americus that are not owned or maintained by the county after December 31, 2021. This list will also be submitted to GIS Director Beverly Butcher. Littlefield stated that these roads were at one time county roads surrounded by county property. However, over time, due to consequences and effects from annexation, the surrounding properties on both sides of the roads are now in the City of Americus. Littlefield stated that according to a state law that has been on the books since 1981, unless there is a joint resolution agreement between city and county, once land on both sides of a road has been annexed, then that right-of-way belongs to the government that has annexed the property on both sides of that road and that government is responsible for maintaining that road. Littlefield told the BOC that his department is pushing this to turn approximately 11.4 miles of roads in the city that would no longer be maintained by Sumter County. “We will still continue to maintain a little over nine miles of roads within the city,” Littlefield said. “And those are roads where you may have property on one side of the road that is in the city and the other side straight across is in the county.” Littlefield added that there are roads that he recommends the county still should maintain, such as Lakeshore Dr. He also stated that if City of Americus officials wanted to sit down with the county to discuss the issue, at that time, it could be done in a joint resolution.

Waddell entertained a motion for the approval of the resolution designating roads within the City of Americus that are not owned or maintained by Sumter County. Commissioner Roberson made a motion for approval ad Commissioner Smith seconded the motion. The BOC voted and the resolution was approved unanimously.

Another important topic of discussion that was had at the work session was county redistricting based off of the 2020 Census. This was something that was discussed at length at the BOC’s December regular meeting. At Tuesday night’s work session, BOC Chairman Mark Waddell stated that he and the other commissioners all received district maps last month, but added that the commissioners would need to visit GIS Director Beverly Butcher, who has received all of the information from the state regarding redistricting in Sumter County. “I actually went today (last Tuesday) and sat down with her,” Waddell told his fellow commissioners. He added that the commissioners really need to go to Butcher’s office as soon as possible to see that information so that they can compare the district maps given to them from what they currently have to what is proposed. Once that is done, Waddell said the BOC would need to get back together to discuss whether or not to accept the changes as far as redrawing county districts. “When we do that, we’re still going to probably have to meet in her (Butcher’s) office, because that’s where everything is because she can’t bring her whole computer system here,” Waddell told his fellow commissioners. Waddell added that Butcher is still trying to work out the racial demographics because what County Administrator Rayetta Volley received from the state was not accurate. This is an on-going issue and updates will be forthcoming.

There were other items discussed and approved by the BOC at the work session. They are as follows:

  • Approval to accept the bid from Mesotech for the replacement of the Automated Weather Observation System in the amount of $109,000 with funding from the FAA in the amount of $81,750 and the Americus Sumter County Airport Authority in the amount of $27,250. No county participation or funds will be required. Commissioner Roberson made a motion of approval and Commissioner Smith seconded the motion. The vote to approve was unanimous.
  • Approval of the Agreement for American Rescue Plan Act between GDOT and Sumter County Project Number AP022 – 90AR – 33(261) SUMTER PID – T00791. Commissioner Roberson motioned for approval and Commissioner Smith seconded the motion. The vote to approve was unanimous.
  • Approval of a resolution to fix and public a qualifying fee for each county office to be filled in upcoming primary or election in calendar year 2022. Commissioner Roberson motioned for approval and Commissioner Smith seconded the motion. The vote to approve was unanimous.