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County gets $28,000 workman’s comp credit

Special to SEGAZINE

Safety policies and loss control played a big part in a nearly $30,000 return from the county’s workman’s compensation fund county manager Carl Rowland said at Thursday’s regular meeting of the Brantley County commission.

Late last month the county was notified by the Association County Commissioners of Georgia (ACCG) that it would receive $28,135 from the group self-insurance workers’ comp fund in the form of a credit because of a low incidence of on-the-job accident payouts.

The money goes toward the county’s 2013 premium according to information released from the ACCG.

Following the passage of a bill in 1982 at the request of various county governments in Georgia, counties have allowed counties to pool resources by forming a non-profit insurance fund that provides for anticipated losses and expenses.

Brantley’s share was part of a $3.25 million dividend credited to Georgia counties this year, ACCG officials said.

The return means lower insurance costs which could mean lower costs to the taxpayer as well.

The county manager also said that the county saved $21,000 on workman’s compensation insurance for volunteer firefighters by changing companies.

The item was for informational purposes at the meeting and did not require a vote.

Meanwhile, a lower than expected bid on the future grant-funded mental health facility in Brantley County could mean the building gets an expansion even before it is built.

Though no official change has been made, commissioners discussed the possibility of adding onto the existing plans for the building to bring the cost of the project – currently $345,330 from R.H. Tyson Construction – closer to the grant funding of over $400,000.  This money can only be used for structural additions and improvements to the building itself and not to items such as landscaping, according to county clerk Dale Halligan.

The item passed unanimously.

A contract wording dispute also has Brantley County back at the drawing board regarding power line relocation at the airport.  According to county attorney C. Deen Strickland, members of the Okefenoke Rural Electric Membership Corp. (OREMC) and legal council attorney Dan Smith were not happy with a previous draft of wording that gave them a “guarantee pending funds become available” on the over $500,000 relocation project.

However, the county was hesitant to give an outright guarantee of the money since the grant funds that would pay a majority of it, have come in pierce by pierce as portions of the project are done.

The county has agreed to a new draft that would guarantee payment in increments up to $50,000 a piece to insure that the county isn’t stuck with the bill if the state redirects funds from the OneGeorgia program largely funding the airport renovation endeavors.

However, Airport Authority Chairman Bill Lee said that he hoped the issue would be resolved soon so that the project could begin again. Lee said he feared the money would be taken away if the county did not act quickly enough.

The county attorney said that he would draft the new agreement and pass it to the OREMC for possible approval.

County manager Rowland said that in the numerous airport projects in which he had been involved, none had required the type of wording requested by the OREMC.

Rowland also cautioned the county to look out for a bill in the legislature that could allow the state to own the county’s forfeitures instead of the county itself.  Rowland said that this would hurt the counties in Georgia while benefiting the state and called the bill ludicrous.

Meanwhile he said legislation that would force money to be spent where it was originally intended could be a positive change giving examples of money from OneGeorgia – a major funder of small rural projects – being cut to help fund transit upgrades in Atlanta.

Such legislation could help prevent this in the future, he said.

Further discussion of the county’s website was also brought up particularly regarding overall cost.

Rowland said that while he was speaking with residents about roads he recently met with a former computer programmer and web designer who moved to Brantley County from outside the area.

The man agreed to draft a website for free in an effort to publicize his work.  Rowland said that the site itself would be free but that the county would have to pay up to $6,000 in equipment and software if it hopes to house the website in-county as opposed to in a server farm in another location.

Chairman Charlie Summerlin said he took issue with the cost of equipment needed to provide the county the site and that felt it was an unnecessary expense.  Summerlin also said that the county should look at area counties to see who did their web design work to get the job done professionally.

Rowland said that the county could house the website with another company for a fee instead of the large sum, but also said that his future plan to consolidate county websites into a single web portal would be better served with a secure in-county server.  Rowland also said that the cost of going with a professional company, in his experience, could easily cost $20,000 compared to the free cost they are getting from the Brantley resident.

Rowland said if the final product isn’t up to the commission’s, they didn’t have to accept it.

Commissioners voted to allow the county manager to work with the man and report back to the commission at a later date.

Rowland said he had previous experience with website revamps such as the the one currently used in Thomasville, Ga.  Rowland may also consider advice from members of Leadership Brantley that suggested web changes in a class project in the last month.

Commissioners continued discussion of the possible consolidation of the Brantley and Charlton County Extension Service programs at the meeting with a new 4-H director in place as soon as the next two months and a new extension agent by the summer pending a joint decision between the counties.

The county manager said that the county’s current retired and part-time agent has been contacted and has requested input on the process.  Meanwhile his secretary has been offered a job in the new program.

Current plans call for the county to contribute the same amount it does now for a part time position plus about $2,500 for extra expenses.  The decision would mean a major change for the county’s extension office and an active 4-H program for the first time in several years.

Commissioner Brian Hendrix said that he hopes whoever takes over the 4-H job is “gung-ho” about  the program and that he hopes to see the return of 4-H hog shows in Brantley County.

In other business, the board:

• Tabled discussion of employee overtime but voted to have an outside company come re-evaluate the county’s pay-scale.

•  Approved the bid of $19,040 from Southern Property Maintenance of Waycross for 193 cubic yards of rubber mulch for the Waynesville Nature Trail and outdoor classroom.  The mulch will be used in place of a boardwalk due to both cost and safety concerns. Commissioners have been told that the rubber mulch won’t float away in a major storm as would be expected from the wooden variety.

•  Approved the bid of $11,570 from Brantley company Poolside Construction for the placement of boarders along the rubber walkway, the placement of mulch and the installation of drainage.

•  Appointed Sherry Griffin to the library board.

•  Modified a consent agenda item regarding the Emergency Management Agency vehicle.  The keys will be left at the Emergency Medical Services building and not the 911 center.

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