Traffic cameras at school zones, salary increases for DA’s Office and Board Elections discussed at BOC Regular Meeting
Published 5:54 pm Saturday, January 22, 2022
AMERICUS – At its monthly regular meeting at the Sumter County Courthouse on Tuesday, January 18, the Sumter County Board of Commissioners (BOC) discussed several important issues, such as salary increases for Sumter County DA’s Office, as well as refurbishing and repairing the DA’s Office building. The BOC also approved a proposal by Sumter County Sheriff Eric Bryant to allow for the installation of cameras and speed detecting devices at all county school zones.
All of the commissioners were present in the courthouse, as was County Attorney Kimberly Reid. The public was not allowed to attend in person due to COVID-19 issues, but the meeting was streamed live on Zoom.
At the BOC’s work session the week before, Sheriff Bryant told the BOC that he was contacted by a company that specialized in the installation of these cameras and speed detection devices, as well as mailing out citations to those who were caught violating the speed limit within a school zone. Bryant told the BOC that after looking it over, he thought it would be a good idea to have this technology installed in the school zones to cut down on speeding. He further added that neighboring counties have been using this technology in their school zones.
After some discussion, the BOC agreed to approve the proposal that would allow the Sumter County Sheriff’s Office to install the cameras and speed detecting devices in all of the county’s school zones. County Attorney Kimberly Reid mentioned that as far as who is responsible for enforcing the citations and fines for violators, that, in her opinion, that responsibility belongs to the state court rather than the magistrate court. Reid added that she is comfortable with approving the ordinance as long as it mentions that the state court would handle citations.
The official ordinance reads like this:
- Ordinance of the Sumter County Board of Commissioners to add a new Article IV Section 104 through Section 109 of Chapter 66 of the Code of Ordination of Sumter County, Georgia to enact provisions pertaining to the use of Automated Traffic Enforcement Safety Systems in school zones located within unincorporated Sumter County; To repeal conflicting ordinances; To provide an effective date; and for other purposes.
Commissioner Roberson made a motion for approval and Commissioner smith seconded the motion. The BOC voted and the approval passed unanimously.
Bryant, who attended the meeting via Zoom, told the BOC that his office will be working on public education as it relates to the ordinance and before the implementation of the camera system. “We want to be sure that we get the word out to everyone how this system will work and how it will effect not only our school employees, but as well as parents and students that will be driving within the school zone,” Bryant told the BOC.
In addition to the approval to implement Sheriff Bryant’s proposal and Sumter County District Attorney Lewis Lamb’s proposal for salary increases for the DA’s Office, the BOC had a short Reorganization Session in which Board Chairman Mark Waddell was re-elected as Board Chairman and Commissioner Scott Roberson was re-elected as Vice Chairman.
Waddell then entertained a motion to appoint Latoya McCants to the position of County Clerk. McCants use to serve as the Deputy Clerk for the county. Commissioner Roberson made a motion for approval and Commissioner Jesse Smith seconded the motion. The BOC voted the approval passed unanimously.
The BOC then voted unanimously to appoint Della Griffin, the county’s finance director, to the role of Deputy Clerk. Griffin will step in to fulfill McCants’s duties at the BOC meetings when McCants cannot attend. Waddell entertained a motion to approve Griffin’s appointment. Commissioner Roberson made a motion for approval and Commissioner Smith seconded the motion. The BOC voted and the approval passed unanimously.
The BOC then voted unanimously to re-appoint Kimberly Reid as County Attorney. Commissioner Roberson made a motion for approval and Commissioner Smith seconded the motion. The BOC voted and the approval passed unanimously.
The BOC then turned its attention to Sumter County District Attorney Lewis Lamb, who attempted to make his case as to why there should be salary increases for the DA’s Office and that the building in which the DA’s Office operates needs upgrading.
Lamb began his presentation by saying that there are two issues with the DA’s Office: one involving the state court budget and the other involving the DA’s Office building. Lamb told the BOC that he and the commissioners discussed these issues on more than one occasion, but the budget never changed. Lamb, who was in the meeting via Zoom, posted a Power Point screen with pictures of monetary figures, such as the current State Court Budget, which is $93,066. “As we discussed before, the Public Defender’s Budget for that same court, y’all are paying $150,000 to the three public defenders, which is significantly more than what we’re getting paid and, of course, we have to handle every case that comes up there,” Lamb told the BOC. “The difference comes out to $56,934.”
While he spoke, Lamb posted a picture that stated that the Public Defenders are being paid $150,000 and the District Attorney is being paid $93,066, with the difference being $56,934.
Lamb went on to show the BOC a picture of the “Legal Obligation to Fund” and stated that he didn’t know that there had been a local act that was enacted in 2006 that changed the Solicitor for State Court from what he thought was an elected solicitor to the District Attorney’s Office. “As part of that act, the legislation specifically says that the District Attorney is authorized to appoint an Assistant DA to be compensating an amount determined in accordance with provisions in Code Section 15-18-20, which provides for essentially state funded or Assistant District Attorneys,” Lamb said. “In addition, the District Attorney is entitled to at least one administrative or clerical person to provide support for state court.”
Lamb went on to say that this code states that the governing authority of Sumter County will determine the compensation for the number of additional court personnel. “Originally in 2007, when this went into play, I think the budget was $93,000. The salaries have changed significantly then,” Lamb told the BOC.
He went on to explain via Power Point that the lowest pay for an assistant district attorney under state law is $50,000, but added that by the time personnel and administrative costs kick in, such as Worker’s Comp and Unemployment Compensation, it goes to $81,500. “That’s for an Assistant DA that has zero years of experience,” Lamb said.
He then showed another slide that stated that the average salary for assistant district attorneys in his office is about $85,000, but with expenses, climbs to $138,550. He further added that a starting secretary in his office is paid a starting salary of $32,000, but added that by the time personnel costs are added, it figures out to be $52,160. Lamb then showed a screen that stated that with the two positions added together (Assistant DA and Secretary), the total current salary in his office is $117,000, but with expenses, rises to $190,710.
Lamb showed another screen that read that the lowest pay grade salary with the two positions combined is $82,000, but after expenses, increases to $133,660. “At $93,000, we are basically essentially being underpaid under state law considering what the county’s legal obligation to provide those salaries for those two positions,” Lamb said to the BOC. “The state court budget, as it currently exists, we are being underpaid somewhere between $40,000 and $97,000.”
Lamb went on to say that at an earlier meeting with the BOC, he discussed the HR commitment that his office makes to the county, which is about $1 million a year. “The personnel commitment to state court alone is easily about $250,000 to $275,000 that we make each year,” Lamb said to the BOC. He went on to say that he is asking the BOC for a second time to raise the amount of the salary of the DA from the current rate of $93,000 to something that is much more suitable for the amount of work that is done.
Waddell asked Lamb what exactly is he proposing. Lamb replied that he is proposing that the county’s state court budget be raised to about $190,000 for an Assistant DA with mid-range, mid-level experience so that he would have the necessary funds to provide full-time clerical help. To sum it up, Lamb expressed his opinion to the BOC that the county is not reimbursing his office the amount that it should and he is asking the BOC to allow for the proper reimbursement. “We are not getting paid the amount that we should be getting paid for the staff that we are providing state court,” Lamb told the BOC.
Waddell asked Lamb to give the BOC the amount of increase for state court and stated that the BOC needs to look at revenues, which, according to Waddell, have dramatically decreased. He further asked Lamb to come up with a proposal with a specific amount of money and that the BOC will review the proposal and the budget to see what options are available.
Lamb also addressed the situation with the DA’s Office building and showed slides of the flooring, carpet, cracks on the inside walls and other things, such as the storage area for records, that are in need of refurbishing and repair. He added that the building needs to be inspected by an engineering firm to determine whether or not it is structurally sound and he also mentioned that there is not enough adequate parking available and no handicap access.
Lamb further stated that there is not enough space in the building for all of his staff. When Waddell asked him what his proposal would be to solve these issues, Lamb stated that he proposes that the BOC increase its contribution to the DA’s Office’s operating budget and, in turn, the DA’s Office will provide its own space at no expense to the county.
Waddell told Lamb that Sumter County Chief Building Inspector Daryl Dowdell told the BOC that the cost to totally redo the building would be around $120,000 to $130,000 and he asked Lamb what the other proposal is for renting a building somewhere else. Commissioner Roberson then chimed in and asked Lamb how much of an increase would he need. Lamb replied that if the county would raise the operating budget of the DA’s Office by $4,000 a month, his department would provide its own space and it would no longer be Sumter County’s issue.
Waddell asked Lamb to come up with an estimated amount of space needed in the building and to present it to the BOC so that it can come up with an amount to be determined if the building is big enough to do that.
There was also further discussion about redistricting in the county based on the 2020 Census. During that discussion, Waddell thanked his fellow commissioners for meeting with GIS Director Beverly Butcher for the purpose of gaining more information on the redistricting. However, he added that when he looked at one of the district maps, there was a section in the district that belonged to the late Commissioner William Reid and a section in his (Waddell’s) district that was logged together.
“Actually, an area separates them where no one lives,” Waddell said. “And then there’s this other section that they pulled in, but they’re not asking for that to be pulled out.” Waddell added that he thinks about 10 to 15 houses are in that one little section. “It just to me would be easier just to pull it back out,” Waddell said. He added that he asked Mrs. Butcher to submit a request to see if this section can be pulled out. “I don’t know if it can, but I at least want to find out,” Waddell said.
There was further discussion on this issue. Stay tuned to the Americus Times-Recorder for further information.
There were other issues at the meeting that were discussed, voted on and approved unanimously. They are as follows:
- Approval of a Request for Proposal (RFP) for a new metal roof and repair for two buildings. Commissioner Roberson made a motion for approval and Commissioner Smith seconded the motion.
- Approval of Memorandum of Agreement between the Prosecuting Attorney’s Council of the State of Georgia, the Sumter County Board of Commissioners and the District Attorney for the Southwestern Judicial Circuit for a period of October 1, 2021 to September 30, 2022 for Coronavirus Emergency Supplemental Funding in the amount of $50,000. Commissioner Roberson made a motion for approval and Commissioner Smith seconded the motion.
- Approval to reappoint Frank Joiner to Americus-Sumter County Airport Authority for a two-year term. Joiner’s current term expires March 31, 2022. Commissioner Roberson made a motion for approval and Commissioner Smith seconded the motion.
- Approval to reappoint Michelle Williams Seay to the Sumter County Board of Tax Assessors for another three-year term. Seay’s current term expires on January 20, 2022. Commissioner Roberson made a motion for approval and Commissioner Smith seconded the motion.
- Approval of Michael Coley to be reappointed to another three-year term on the Board of Tax Assessors. Coley’s current term expires on January 20, 2022. Commissioner Roberson made a motion for approval and Commissioner Smith seconded the motion.
The BOC then had to approve the resolutions of the reappointments of both Seay and Coley to the Sumter County Board of Tax Assessors, which it did. In both resolutions, Commissioner Roberson made a motion for approval and Commissioner Smith seconded the motion.
- Approval of the resolution to declare a Local State of Emergency due to rising numbers of COVID-19 in the county. Commissioner Roberson made a motion for approval and Commissioner Smith seconded the motion.