Gold Star makes request, Brown fights denial and courthouse sprinkler system discussed at BOC Work Session
Published 11:47 pm Thursday, January 19, 2023
AMERICUS – There was much to discuss at the Sumter County Board of Commissioners’ January Work Session on Tuesday, January 10 at the Sumter County Courthouse. Three of the various issues discussed included a request from Gold Star EMS, LLC, William H. Brown III’s challenge of the BOC’s denial of his proposed mobile home park at last month’s regular meeting and the approval to ratify the selection of Wayne’s Electric as the company to fix the sprinkler system at the Sumter County Courthouse.
All of the commissioners were present and this work session was the first meeting for newly elected Commissioner David Baldwin, who is succeeding retiring Commissioner Scott Roberson.
Headquartered in Albany, GA, Gold Star EMS, LLC is the ambulance service that services Americus and Sumter County, along with Albany, Bainbridge, Thomasville and surrounding areas. According to information on its website, www.goldstarambulance.com, it is the largest ambulance service in Southwest Georgia.
At Tuesday’s work session, Gold Star CEO Charles Proctor, along with Director Brad Harnum, made a request to the BOC that it allow the ambulance service to not have to use its lights and sirens on every single response call, being that 95 percent of the company’s responses are non-life-threatening. “It’s a little bit strange when an entity like an ambulance service or a fire department or a police department comes before a board like yours and talks about monkeying with response times,” Proctor told the BOC. “I want to make it perfectly clear that the reason I am here immediately tonight is how much it costs to hit a deer.” Proctor went on to say that three of Gold Star’s ambulances have had accidents with deer in Sumter County and that three ambulances are still being repaired. He added that the insurance company that Gold Star works with suggested that the EMS service not run lights and sirens on every call. “We wanted before we got really deep into creating policies and coming up with how we are going to do this, we wanted to first get your approval to move forward with looking into the idea of us not responding to every single call in Sumter County with lights and sirens,” Proctor continued.
He went on to say that other than deer, the people that are hurt the most from ambulances driving down the roads with lights and sirens blaring are the general public because 76 percent of people involved in accidents hitting ambulances, police cars and fire trucks involve the general public. He added that Brad Harnum, who was also at the meting, had been doing extensive research on this and discovered that many of the calls involved lift assistance, helping lift people off the floor, or sprained ankles and other non-life-threatening situations. “Historically, across the board, an ambulance, a fire truck and a police car, when a 911 call goes out, we have this sense that we need to respond urgently and make sure that there is not something else to it,” Proctor said. “We wanted to bring this to your attention the information that has been out about the use of lights and sirens and some insurance studies that have been around since 2005 about this is you can come up with a better plan,” Proctor told the BOC.
Proctor added that Gold Star plans to come up with the criteria to determine how not to respond with lights and sirens and that the ambulances would go with the flow of traffic to attend to non-life-threatening situations. He then added that Gold Star intends to track the way those calls would be handled. “We think that an adequate length of time is about a month or two to track and see how it’s going to go and then get back with a full fledged idea of how we’re going to handle it,” Proctor told the BOC. He added that by being allowed to not have to use lights and sirens during non-life-threatening calls, Gold Star will be able to decrease the threat to the company’s equipment and the threat to potential accidents with pedestrians and other vehicles, as well as improving the overall efficiency of Gold Star’s service.
Board Chairman Mark Waddell expressed to Proctor that his main concern was what the law requires Gold Star to do. Proctor responded that he doesn’t want to “monkey around” with response times because he has an obligation to the county to provide prompt service. He stated that he wants Gold Star to respond urgently and in a timely manner to life threatening medical emergencies with lights and sirens, but in the case of situations that are not life threatening, he wants Gold Star to be allowed not to have to use those lights and sirens and plans to find a way to track and keep a record of those situations. “We want to see if you feel the same way that we feel about it,” Proctor told the BOC. “If we got into it and saw that it’s just not working out, we can abolish the whole plan.” Proctor added that his main concern is that one of Gold Star’s ambulances flies down the road with lights and sirens blaring in response to a non-life-threatening situation and causes an accident along the way.
Waddell asked Proctor if an ambulance does not drive with its lights and sirens on, will it go as fast. Proctor replied that it would not and that it would go at the normal flow of traffic. He added that with lights and sirens, the State of Georgia allows an ambulance driver to “break the law” as far as speeding and running through stop signs or red lights and he added that lights and sirens come most in handy when a person needs treatment in a certain amount of time. To sum it up, Proctor and Harnum were both there to ask the BOC to give Gold Star permission to not use lights and sirens while making non-emergency response calls.
Commissioner David Baldwin, a first responder himself, told Proctor that he understood where he was coming from in regards to ambulances driving with lights and sirens in that people react to it a certain way. “I think it would be interesting to see what you come up with,” Baldwin told Proctor. County Attorney Hayden Hooks suggested to Proctor that the Association of County Commissioners of Georgia (ACCG) should take a look at his proposal from a viability standpoint. County Administrator Rayetta Volley asked Proctor how his proposal to not use lights and sirens on ambulances when responding to non-emergency situations would affect the current contract with Sumter County regarding response times. Proctor replied that if Gold Star decides it’s a good idea, they would just amend that portion of the contract with the understanding that it could revert back to what it was if the new proposal didn’t work. Proctor also stated that Gold Star should have a plan to submit to the BOC within the next two months.
At its December Regular Meeting on Tuesday, December 20 at a public hearing, the BOC voted unanimously to deny the request of William H. Brown III to place a recreational vehicle park on his property, which is located at 220 U.S. Highway 280 West in Americus. At the work session this past Tuesday, Brown showed up to dispute the board’s ruling and had with him drawings of what he had planned to do with his property had his request been granted. “I just want to know if that’s why you turned me down for my RV park,” Brown told the BOC. He went on to show the board his drawings and plans of what he was going to do with the property. “What I want to know from y’all is if I have a drawing done, will I be allowed to do an RV park,” Brown asked the BOC. Waddell told Brown that since the BOC has already denied his request, he would have to go back through the process again as far as getting approval from the Sumter County Planning and Zoning Board (SCPZB) and then getting permission from the BOC.
Brown replied by asking that if he complies with all of the requirements, because of his zoning, which is C-2 (commercial property), would he then be granted permission to build an RV park on his property, particularly if it meets all of the requirements of the SCPZB. “I will definitely meet the state requirements,” Brown told the BOC. “My zoning out there has been questioned on several occasions. If you look up on your map, it doesn’t have C-2 on there.”
Brown went on to say that zoning has been the problem with his property the whole time and that nobody wanted to recognize it. “All I want is the proper zoning for it,” Brown said. Waddell replied that if Brown goes through the process again and if everything meets the requirements, then the BOC would reconsider his request.
Brown asked Waddell what type of zoning his property falls under, to which Waddell replied that he would have to check and see. Brown then replied that when he shows up at the BOC’s next meeting, perhaps Waddell could tell him what zoning his property currently falls under. Brown went on to say that he received a letter from Heather Tyler of the SCPZB, who was in attendance at the work session. He said that Tyler’s letter stated that the zoning of his property is C-2, but added that all he wants to know is what the BOC says his property is zoned as. Waddell replied that if Tyler says that it is zoned C-2, then it is C-2. Commissioner Clay Jones asked Brown what he thought his property was zoned. Brown replied that it was originally zoned as R-2 (residential property), but said he was told that the sheriff had changed his zoning. “I know that I was zoned because I had an alcohol license in 2005. Nobody has changed my zoning,” Brown said. He went on to say that on the maps of his property that the BOC currently has, the property is not zoned commercial, which is making it difficult for him to sell the property, which he has been trying to sell for the last 20 years. He added that he got into an argument with a land surveyor over what zoning the property fell under and he stated that when he brought the property, it was a commercial piece of property and he had it zoned commercial. “This is the first lady (referring to Heather Tyler) that has ever given me anything with proof on it,” Brown said. He added that if he complies with all of the rules and regulations that are required for his property to be zoned as C-2, then he should be able to build an apartment complex or a retail establishment or anything listed under C-2 zoning.
Waddell told Brown that he would find out for him what type of zoning his property falls under, but it is possible that the BOC will have to reconsider Brown’s request at either its regular meeting next Tuesday or at a future date.
After a lengthy discussion, the BOC voted unanimously to approve the ratification of the selection of Wayne’s Electric to fix the fire control panel of the sprinkler system of the Sumter County Courthouse in the amount of $34,000.00. However, before the BOC voted its approval, Commissioner Jim Reid stated that the other company that put in a bid to do the job gave the BOC more specifics about how the job would be done and the estimated cost. Reid also added that with the bid from Wayne’s Electric, the BOC will not know what all is involved and that the bid from the other company was $2,000.00 less. Reid went on to say that he requested that the bid separate parts and material from labor. “You do not know if the panel is comparable or compatible to the other,” Reid said. “The other guy was very specific in what he was quoting. Are we comparing an apple to an apple?”
Dowdell replied to the BOC that Reid’s statement that there is a $2,000.00 difference between Wayne’s Electric and the other company was incorrect. “If you read on that same bid package, you’ll see no electrical is going to be done, so we’re going to have to hire an electrician to come in, so it’s going to be more than $2,000.00 cheaper,” Dowdell told the BOC. Reid stated that in his experience, when bids are presented with vague information, the customer doesn’t know what he’s getting. He added that he is concerned about what is not being included in the bid. “What are they not telling me that I need to know,” Reid said. He went on to say that as a representative of the taxpayers, he wants to know exactly what he is voting on and he wants to know exactly what all is involved with the company that is performing the project.
After further discussion, the BOC decided to go ahead and approve the bid from Wayne’s Electric to do the sprinkler system project at the courthouse. Commissioner Jesse Smith made a motion for approval and Commissioner Clay Jones seconded the motion. The BOC voted and the motion of approval passed unanimously.
The BOC also voted unanimously to approve the contract between the Sumter County BOC and the Georgia Board of Regents of the University of Georgia on behalf of the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service for Chelsea Lopez. Commissioner Reid made a motion for approval and Commissioner Smith seconded the motion. A vote was taken and the motion to approve passed unanimously.
The BOC voted unanimously to approve the application for the Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) Grant Program. This grant program is under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. Rayetta Volley told the BOC that the county would like to get permission to apply for this grant. Waddell stated that the grant gives out a total of $12.1 billion that will be given out to each state and County Department of Public Works Director Jim Littlefield expressed his desire that the county get permission to apply for the grant so it can be used to improve Sumter County’s roads and infrastructure. Commissioner Baldwin made a motion to approve the grant and Commissioner Jones seconded the motion. The BOC voted and the motion to approve the RAISE Grant passed unanimously.