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County may join Charlton extension office

Special to SEGAZINE

County Commissioners may soon be looking at consolidating the county extension service with Charlton County per advice from the county extension service coordinator out of Waycross to Brantley’s county manager.

Manager Carl Rowland said that the county was currently paying for a retired county extension agent for two half-days a week and a secretary. But Rowland said the state agency would like to see the position consolidated with Charlton. However, the cost to the county would only change by about $2,500 he said, which were the estimated travel expenses.

In the deal, the county would get a full-time agent with offices in both counties. The move could also bring back the 4-H program which has been missing from Brantley for 14 years according to Rowland.

Rowland said that Charlton’s count administrator had already expressed interest in the deal. Chairman Charlie Summerlin also spoke in favor of the move though nobody mentioned how this would affect the current person filling that position, retired long-time agent Bob Boland who has become a familiar face to farmers in the county over the years.

The item was placed on the regular agenda.

Two members of the audience also brought forth discussion about trash dumping problems near the county landfill far from Smyrna Church with one claiming that a deputy is one of the biggest offenders.

Both Robert and John Lynn brought up issues with residents transporting garbage to the lot uncovered and others dumping trash off road if the dump was closed instead of hauling it home.

The two brought up the fact that the item has come up before and the county had eyed putting a security camera but that nothing had been done. Commissioners suggested that the they get tag numbers and any other information to give to the sheriff’s department. But they said they had already done that and given it to the previous sheriff’s office administration without seeing any action.

In fact, John Lynn said that he had followed one vehicle with an uncovered load when he noticed it was losing a lot of its trash. When Lynn approached a landfill employee, he was told that the person driving the vehicle was a Brantley County Deputy and wouldn’t get caught.

However, commissioners pointed out that both situations occurred under the previous sheriff’s office administration and felt that the issue would be dealt with under new sheriff, Jack Whisenant.

Commissioners were also reminded that they did enact a $300 reward for information such as a tag number leading to the prosecution of someone who dumps trash along Brantley’s roads.

Commissioner Mike Edgy also suggested that the county landfill not accept trash from residents with loads that were covered as the law requires and that the sheriff’s office be notified when they leave to make sure they don’t dump it elsewhere.

Meanwhile, the county’s message to the Brantley Emergency Management Agency was park it – at least when there’s no emergency.

Commissioners and the county attorney were in agreement that the vehicle shouldn’t be used for anything other than official EMA business but also agreed that the vehicle couldn’t be used by any other department either. The Ford Expedition was first obtained by the EMA through a complicated arrangement with the county wherein the organization put forth about $15,000 toward the purchase of a new truck and were given an older one belonging to the county that was worth the amount they’d contributed. The arrangement essentially meant that the older vehicle was purchased through EMA funds and, legally, those funds – and the items bought with them – couldn’t be used by other departments.

The commission agreed to having the keys and the vehicle left at the 911 center in Nahunta where the vehicle could be checked out by EMA administration.

911 Director Linda Murrell expressed some discomfort with having another department’s vehicle checked out from her office, but commissioners said that the location worked because the center was next to the EMA offices and was always open.

The item was placed on the consent agenda.

Volunteer firefighters will soon be required to get their Class F license but the county manager suggested the county give a three to six month window to allow them to get in compliance since many, he said, are not just yet. Rowland also suggested that the county pay the $15 fee on behalf of the firefighters to help expedite the process and get more firefighters onboard. However, Rowland also pointed out that a bill in the state legislature calling for the cost to be absorbed by the state specifically for fire fighters could make the payment suggestion a moot point.

Chairman Summerlin brought an item to the board’s attention during the night explaining that he felt that current human resource policies regarding holiday pay are punishing county employees and said that he wanted to see the policy changed. However, Commissioner Edgy spoke up and said the change to the policy was made during Summerlin’s last stint in office and that it was changed in an effort to save the county money.

Edgy said he didn’t agree with changing the policy, but said that he would be in favor of bringing in an organization to re-evaluate rates.

Commissioners agreed to place the item on the regular agenda for further clarification and discussion.

The county commission will also be looking at changing their current mileage reimbursement rate to the one used by the state. Commissioners had previously discussed changing the rate from the current 48.5 cent per mile to the state’s 56.5 in previous meetings but the item was never put into place. Commissioners agreed that they would base their decision on Internal Revenue Service suggestions.

Commissioner Edgy also spoke up on the Waynesville nature park and said that after rain delays, the project is finally picking up traction once again.

The bids for walkways, borders and drainage as well as for rubber mulch were presented at the meeting but not discussed after a mathematical error was found in the bid sheets. The item will be placed on the regular agenda for Thursday.

The commission has plans to go with a smaller gazebo than was first suggested and will also be using rubber mulch instead of a boardwalk to save money and make a safer location for school children who will likely use the location as an outdoor classroom since there won’t be a risk of falling or wasp nests.

The rubber mulch will be protected by borders and was chosen over standard mulch because it would be less likely to float away.

The project is funded through a 50-50 matching grant from the Department of Natural Resources. Brantley matched much of its portion with in-kind services.

The county manager brought up discussion of a new county website and said that he came upon a former computer programer and web designer while inspecting roads who would build a new website for the county free of charge. However, the cost of an in-house server and software could put costs to host a website in the $5,000 range. Rowland said he hopes to eventually have all county websites consolidated and the county’s various digital maps available at one location.

In other business, the commission:

• Drafted a letter guaranteeing the Okefenoke Rural Electric Membership Corporation payment for the relocation of power lines near the airport as funds become available. The item will be on the regular agenda at Thursday’s meeting.

• Amended the 1989 dangerous dog ordinance to reflect recent changes made by the commission to get in line with state law.

• Approved Tyson Construction as the low bidder on the Satilla Community Service Building project which will be built largely through grant funds. The company was quoted at $384,000 for the construction project but since the grant is for $500,000, the county manager suggested adding to existing plans with more space and landscaping to fill out the remaining funding.

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