MINUTES OF THE BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS
MEETING HELD ON FEBRUARY 10, 2004
The meeting was called to order at 9:00 a.m. by Chairman J. R. Dowdy, Jr., with Commissioners James D. Harris, A. James Nance, Joyce C. Pheil and Ferrell Henry in attendance. Others present were County Administrator Gene Crapse, County Attorney Guy D. Pfeiffer, Finance Director Sherrie Leverett, and secretary Linda Finch. Rev. Don Howell, Pastor of Pinecrest Baptist Church, gave the invocation.
Motion was made by Mrs. Pheil to approve the minutes of the meetings of January 13th and January 29th, 2004, seconded by Mr. Nance, and motion carried unanimously.
PUBLIC HEARING - REZONE PROPERTY ON FISH HATCHERY ROAD
Connie Sangster, Planning Director, advised that they have a request from 13th Street Church of Christ to rezone some property from I (Industrial) to HC (Heavy Commercial) for the purpose of locating a church on Fish Hatchery Road, which is between two businesses and Nexboard is across the road. Chairman Dowdy stated that this is the Public Hearing, people may speak for or against the request, but Commissioners can’t make their decision until the March meeting. James Hughes, Pastor of the 13th Street Church of Christ, reported that they would like to relocate their place of worship on this parcel, they know it is in a commercial zone but they have tried to find feasible property in the proximity of where they are now, and after exhausting efforts financially and otherwise, they found this property at a reasonable price. Leon Echols stated he has worshiped at this church for some forty years and it has been there a lot longer than that, it is time for them to make a change, they have put forth a desperate effort to find a suitable location to upgrade their services, they have considered all the things in this area, they think it would be feasible for them to be at this location, and please consider letting them rezone this property. Carl Jones reported that a problem they have now is their church is a very small church and newcomers have to sit in classes that are too far advanced for their level as it is hard to understand the upper level teachings of the Bible, and one of the fundamental reasons for building a new building is that they can have a large building so they can separate the classes, plus they do not have ample parking and are violating city laws by parking on city streets now. John Hughes stated that the building has been there since 1944, the church is beginning to grow, they have a good many young kids, their effort is to strive to get the young people coming to their church, here they will have plenty of room for recreation and parking, and they are not trying to degrade anyone’s property. Those speaking in opposition of this request was Fred Thomas, Chairman of the United Industrial Development Corporation, said that they are a non-profit organization of local businessmen whose sole function is to acquire property and hold it for industrial development. He advised that all the property around this area, about 244 acres, is held for future industrial expansion, he is all for the building of any church, he will do whatever he can to help find a suitable location, but he is concerned that down the road we may have a bigger problem with a church at this location. He stated that if they have and an industry to develop in this area, and they have 24/7 noise with trains, forklifts, trucks, etc., he doesn’t know how compatible this is going to be. Ronnie Gardner, Gardner Electric, owns the business next door to this property, stated that if he were to expand his business in the future and build something that has to be run seven days a week, and was noisy and loud, it would not be compatible for the church to be there. He advised that he bought this property to be able to build something in the future, he has nothing against the church, but doesn’t think it will be compatible in this area. Donald Baker, Baker Plumbing, owns property next door to this site, advised that sometimes they work seven days a week loading backhoes and excavators, he bought property out there to develop, and he has nothing against the church but doesn’t think this is the right location for a church. Mr. Jones added that when it comes to the interest of God, nothing should come first, and sometimes on Sunday mornings their businesses may have to be in full operation, but not every Sunday. After there were no more comments, motion was made by Mr. Nance to close the Public Hearing and make the decision at the March meeting, seconded by Mr. Harris and motion carried unanimously.
PUBLIC HEARING - REZONE PROPERTY ON CONEY ROAD
Ms. Sangster reported that they have had several requests in the area north of Lakeshore Way, off of Coney Road and Hwy. 300, to rezone this property from RS2 to RS1. She stated that when they did the major rezoning in 2000, this area was picked by mistake, and it should have stayed RS1. She reported that the majority of the property has already been developed with smaller type homes and mobile homes, they have had requests to remove & upgrade some of the existing singlewide homes for doublewides, and if this is approved, doublewide mobile homes would be permitted by right and singlewides would require a Special Use Permit. She advised that before they hold the Public Hearing, the Commissioners need to initiate a request for a text/map amendment. Motion was made by Mrs. Pheil to amend the text/map, seconded by Mr. Nance and motion carried unanimously. Chairman Dowdy asked if anyone was there to speak in favor of the rezoning. Irene Brown stated that she and her husband and her daughter have property in this area, and they are in favor of the change. No one else was here to speak for or against the rezoning, and Chairman Dowdy stated that Commissioners would make their decision at the March meeting. Motion was made by Mr. Nance to close the Public Hearing, seconded by Mr. Harris and motion carried unanimously.
PARK PASS BOOTH THRU STATE PARK
Charles Luther, Manager of Georgia Veterans Memorial State Park, reported that he felt sure when they began this project at the park that Commissioners would get calls from concerned local citizens thinking that they are going to charge people to drive through the Park, and he came today to make Commissioners aware of what they are doing. He advised that the park pass law is not changing, the price is not changing, and citizens will still be able to pass through the park, if this is all they are doing, without a charge. He stated that they are going to take the booths they now have on the right side of the road out, and replace them with a booth that will be in the center of the road, and they will widen the road. He advised that this will move the booth to the left side of the vehicle so that people will not have to park and walk around the vehicle to get the pass, or just make it easier for the customer. He stated that the booth will be manned at their busiest times but most of the time there will be the self service box mounted on the side of the booth..
MONTHLY RADIO SUPPORT APPROVED FOR FORESTRY
Morris Cook, Director of Crisp-Dooly Forestry, reported that Commissioners have been paying for their monthly support of their Southern Linc radios for a couple of years, they appreciate it, and he asked for their continued support. He stated that the only disadvantage they have found is there are some dead spots in the area, as with any radios, but the advantages are they are convenient, faster communications, direct access with emergency agencies in the county, more reliable than the state communications, portable, saves money, time, travel and man hours, but the most important is the safety feature as it allows his people to stay in contact with everyone. Motion was made by Mrs. Pheil to continue the monthly radio support for Crisp-Dooly Forestry, seconded by Mr. Harris and motion carried unanimously.
SUPPORT FOR INDEPENDENCE DAY FIREWORKS DISPLAY APPROVED
Monica Simmons, Executive Director of the Cordele-Crisp Chamber of Commerce. reported that she is here today on behalf of the Fireworks Committee of the Chamber, and their past sponsor has not committed this year to fund the Independence Day fireworks, they have been doing fireworks at the State Park for eight to ten years, and they hate to see it die. She stated that they can collect some money for the event, but that they are still short of the $7,600.00 fee it costs for the fireworks display, they have people coming from all over the state to watch the fireworks, and they would like the county’s support of $2,500.00 to help fund this event. She stated that Commissioners can pay the money in the next fiscal year, but she has to make a commitment to the fireworks company in the next couple of weeks. Mrs. Simmons stated that if Verizon, the sponsor for the last several years, comes through, they would not need that much, and she would be sure to let Commissioners know. Motion was made by Mr. Henry to contribute up to $2,500.00 for the fireworks display and include it in the 2004/2005 fiscal year budget, seconded by Mr. Harris and motion carried unanimously.
RECESS UNTIL 1:00 P.M.
Motion was made by Mr. Henry to recess until 1:00 p.m. so Commissioners could go to a MEAG meeting, seconded by Mr. Nance and motion carried unanimously.
CEDAR CREEK STUDY PHASE II REPORT
Mike Talley, with Stephenson and Palmer, stated that when they did the original feasibility study with the FEMA/GEMA grant for the Cedar Creek Phase I, the level of study was such that they came up with some ideas, modeled them, and showed what would help the Cedar Lakes Subdivision. He advised that during the second phase of the study, they surveyed in detail all the runoff amounts, all the tributaries, and all the culverts to determine the effect of the rainfall on downstream property, and there was an average of a four-inch rise from the railroad tracks, behind the subdivision, to Culpepper Road, so they don’t believe that there will be any dangers to the structures downstream. He said the cost of correcting the problem, which would entail the addition of more culverts under the railroad tracks, would be somewhere in the neighborhood of $183,000.00, but he advised to be leery of the price. He stated that it would be his advise to consult with the railroad before doing any sort of additions, and they think additional culverts on Culpepper Road wouldn’t help very much. Mr. Talley stated that there are other alternatives to ease the problem, which include cleaning out the ditches in the flood-proned areas of land from Interstate 75 to Pateville Road, which would greatly reduce the problem. He advised another probable solution would be to contract the owner of the wooded property in the rear of Cedar lakes about possibly digging out a channel through the woods so the water could drain properly in the lower intensity floods. Mr. Pfeiffer brought up the possibility that any further work done to help solve the problem could possibly be paid for with grant funds, if they are available. Mr. Talley said FEMA requires a “No Rise” statement with the stamp of an engineer, and this study would qualify as such. He advised that clearing out some of the ditches would help, but it would not provide the benefit that the culverts would provide, but it would help in the lower intensity storms. He said that to go from here would depend on how the County’s Flood Ordinance is written, and that will be left to the Commissioners on how to proceed with this; FEMA usually will accept a “No Rise” certificate for improvements in a 100 year flood plan if the predicted rise is less than a foot, this is less than a foot, and they could sign off on a “No Rise” if that would satisfy the County’s Flood Ordinance. He stated that before Commissioners do any improvements to the culverts, they would have to get permission from FEMA. Commissioners agreed that they would like to help the residents in this area if it doesn’t cost a good bit of money, and will look into the possibility of trying to get some grant money as the county is limited with their funds. Mr. Talley stated that the original study was funded by GEMA/FEMA, unfortunately the study showed that the structures are not flooded in the 100 year event, their is nuisance flooding that gets under the cross bases that causes damage but is not enough for them to warrant further study, but by the Commissioners taking upon themselves the detailed study, they have leveraged themselves better with these funding agencies, and they will look more favorably upon funding a project of this nature. Commissioners instructed Administrator Crapse to pursue any funding available for this project.
CRISP-DOOLY TECHNOLOGY INFRASTRUCTURE PROJECT DISCUSSED
Phyllis Rooney, President of AgAmerica, a non-profit organization that serves Dooly & Crisp Counties, stated that they are most famous for their equipment library program of conservation tillage equipment that has been well accepted in this area. She advised that they have been approached by members of the community as sort of a collaborator to try to find out solutions to agricultural sustainability problems and seek funding for a variety of technology “infrastructures” for the Dooly/Crisp area. She stated that they are proposing to set up three components that will allow farmers and agribusinesses, a myriad of local agencies, and our citizens to better adapt these technologies for improved operations and services. She advised that they are going to seek a grant through EZ/EC plus other funding for the components which are: 1)Global Positioning System (GPS) Network of base/relay units to provide a blanket of signal correction and service for farmers, consultants, and agribusiness in the two-county area, and it may be used for precision ag applications, row guidance, auto-steer, grading, and information integration with other analytical processes for improved operation of resources. She stated that Crisp and Dooly are blessed with towers that are farmer, business, and county owned that they could utilize as sites for the networks; 2) Weather Monitoring Stations to be infused into the Georgia Weather system. Crisp County has one of these already, and it was suggested that to have more to help farmers make better decisions based on weather conditions, and it will also assist area applicators in scheduling spraying and spreading in fields for best results, reduced drift, and unnecessary reapplication of chemicals, and can provide documentation in the event that we do have another drought situation; 3) Geographic Information System (GIS), involves converting “paper data” into a database of useful information that may be consolidated and overlaid in map format for a variety of analytical and planning purposes. Crisp County has already initiated some of this through the EMA, Dooly County does not, but they would like to have this across the board, as this data will not only serve in agricultural sector, but is widely used by a variety of public service agencies including government offices, fire and rescue, 911, economic development, zoning, and private companies. She advised that they would like to put all three of these components into play, so they can get the farmers into the 21st century, be ahead of the curve, and have a voice in how it develops rather than have everyone else determine this course for us. She advised that they would like a letter of support from the Commissioners for their efforts in this proposal, would like permission to locate a GPS receiver on the county tower, if it becomes feasible to do this, and request a sponsorship of one of the weather stations, the grant will cover the maintenance of the station, and all they are asking of the county is to maintain an incoming phone line. She stated on the GIS portion of the grant, they are asking the county to put up a 10% cash match on the grant application they have in place, this would basically take funds the county is already investing in and putting into their grant application, so that they can multiply the dollars. Administrator Crapse stated that on the GIS portion, they could contract with the RDC, which has already done the base work for the county, for an overlay of their data on our existing database, and it would also provide us with an additional two copies of the software, so more people will have access to that data once it got done, and the cost would probably be between $4,000.00 and $6,000.00. He also advised that based on the schedule they discussed the other day, this would be a fiscal year 2006 budget item, it would be a one time fee, but the phone line would be an ongoing expense. He also stated that, if we are successful, this is a really great project for the new RC&D Council. Motion was made by Mrs. Pheil to authorize expenditure of up to $6,000.00 for fiscal year 2006, and to use grant money, if it qualifies, on the GIS project, seconded by Mr. Henry and motion carried unanimously. Administrator Crapse will write a letter of support of this project.
USE OF RECREATION DEPARTMENT BUILDING BY ARTS ALLIANCE & HISTORICAL SOCIETY
Administrator Crapse reported that he has been approached by the Arts Alliance to use the house the county owns by the Recreation Departments building, and he has also discussed with Mrs. Pheil the possibility of using a room for an office in this house for the Historical Society. He stated he has also discussed some of the arrangements with Mr. Pfeiffer as well, and we will find a way to insure that the bookkeeping is right in terms of the funding. He advised that the Arts Alliance has funding through SPLOST for a building, in his discussion with the Arts Alliance representatives, they have come to the conclusion that they are not going to be able to raise enough money to come up with the amount they need to build a building, they have looked at this building, and they think that it will be adequate for their needs. Motion was made by Mr. Henry to authorize a contract lease agreement between the Arts Alliance and the County, with Mr. Pfeiffer and Mr. Crapse to work out an agreement for the use of the building with the Arts Alliance and the Historical Society, and bring it back to Commissioners, seconded by Mr. Nance and motion carried with Mrs. Pheil abstaining because of her being a member on the Historical Society.
Mrs. Leverett reported the January report General Fund year-to-date revenues are $6.8 million, expenditures are $7.5 million, expenditures have exceeded revenues by about 6% through January, we have collected about 49% of taxes through yesterday, which amounts to $2.6 million collected. She advised that she has completed the mid-year reviews with all the departments, and is happy to report that everyone is pretty much on line, and they have distributed the budget request forms for FY 2005. She reported that SPLOST expenditures for the month were $42,153.00, the largest expenditure was for $31,500.00 to Robert & Company on the Airport Project, but it is a reimbursable grant project. and we will get about 90% of this back.
SURVEY FOR DOCKWEILDER FROM HWY 280 TO MCKENZIE ROAD
By common consent, Commissioners authorized Mr. Gamble to get the survey and Mr. Pfeiffer to get the right-of-way on Dockweilder Road from Hwy. 280 to McKenzie Road.
Administrator Crapse reported: 1) the rail spur is in and the first cars should be in this week, 2) the Youth & Family Resource Center building is dried-in and the brick is being laid; 3) the GSP building pad and plumbing are in and the walls are going up; 4) he received a response from Hersey Meters accepting our latest proposal, so we have closed that issue and are moving forward; 5) he has scheduled the first meeting of the Centennial Celebration Committee but will have to change the date, and they had a good response to the ad in the paper for Committee Members willing to serve but they will need to recruit other “specialists”, depending on the activities that the committee decides to sponsor; 6) they had a great trip to Atlanta for the ACCG Legislature Conference, they learned a lot from the training, meetings, and the general sessions; 7) during the month, he approved one new SPLOST expenditure for $25,000.00 for the upgrade of Cardiac Monitoring Equipment; 8) he met with Judge Pridgen last week, and he has recommended the formation of a steering committee to develop plans for future court facilities in Crisp County (Judicial Facility/Courthouse/Annex). He provided Commissioners with his initial recommendations for this committee, and with their concurrence, he will move forward on an organizational meeting; 9) the county is assisting the IDC in cutting some weeds and cleaning up a potential site for Project Steel in the Industrial Park; 10) the financial policy, third draft has been sent to the committee for review, and he hopes to have a meeting of the committee on February 20th to go over it for a final draft that can be presented to the Board, hopefully in March; 11) DOAS has approached us about partnering with them for disposal of Surplus Property, and he will be discussing this with the Financial Policy Committee; 12) we have responded to Frank Jenkins letter on Love Stuff, providing the additional information he requested, and hopefully this will assist in strengthening our position and getting our ordinances brought up to date as well; 13) the contractor on cells 8 & 9 at the landfill has been doing better but is still somewhat behind; 14) Commissioners go to the Capitol on February 18th at 8:00 a.m. for our District; 15) the ACCG Annual Meeting in Savannah is April 24-27; and 16) the deadline for Empowerment Zone Grants for 2004 is February 13th at 4:00 p.m.
GO INTO EXECUTIVE SESSION
Motion was made by Mr. Henry to go into Executive Session to discuss pending litigation, potential litigation, and real estate acquisition, seconded by Mrs. Pheil and motion carried unanimously.
COME OUT OF EXECUTIVE SESSION
Motion was made by Mr. Henry to come out of Executive Session, seconded by Mr. Nance and motion carried unanimously.
BILLS FROM HOLMES TIRE COMPANY
Motion was made by Mrs. Pheil to set off any debts or obligations for the county to Holmes Tire Company against the revolving loan fund debt, and have the monies transferred into the revolving loan fund and notify George Holmes that we are doing this, seconded by Mr. Nance and motion carried unanimously.
PROCEED WITH THE ANTENNA LICENSE APPLICATION & ORDER TOWER
Mr. Crapse advised that the antenna structure registration on the new tower was issued on January 19th and we received the registration on January 27th. He said the frequency relocation application was sent to the FCC along with the registration, and Walt Blake advised that it will take two to three months to get approval on the frequency application, followed by two to three months for the ship time on the tower, followed by three to four months to get the tower set up, loaded up and in operation, and this is eight to twelve months from now to get the tower going. He stated that if we order the tower now, we are looking at the potential for being in operation in five to six months, there are some risks in getting the frequencies approved by the FCC in the new location, but waiting another six months to get started is a lose-lose situation for the county. He advised that we lose on having to pay another year of tower rent, and lose on probably the tower purchase price going up if we wait six more months to order it. He said there is a risk in ordering the tower now so that we could have the order ship time on the tower and the tower erection going on while the FCC process is going on, but it will allow us to at least have a chance of not being in a lose-lose situation. Motion was made by Mr. Henry to proceed concurrently with the license application and order the tower now, seconded by Mrs. Pheil and motion carried unanimously.
UTILITY EASEMENT APPROVED ON 24TH AVENUE
Administrator Crapse reported that the City of Cordele is working to relocate utilities for the 24th Avenue overpass, there is an eight inch sewer line that runs under the Health Department and Bright Future’s building, and the City is asking for a thirty foot easement between the Health Department and the J. Reginald Barry, Jr. Senior Center, running from 24th Avenue to 23rd Avenue on what would have been 6th Street. He advised that he has talked with the Planning Department and Public Works, and it looks like there is no problem. Motion was made by Mr. Nance to authorize a utility easement for the City of Cordele as they requested, and authorize the Chairman to execute the easement, seconded by Mr. Henry and motion carried unanimously.
USE OF WACHOVIA FUNDS APPROVED
Mrs. Leverett stated that we have between $400,000.00 and $500,000.00 left on the line of credit at Wachovia Bank, the SPLOST cash in the bank is substantial to meet our needs, we are paying interest on the money whether we draw it down or not, and she requested that we use this money to make the payment on the balance of the loan. Motion was made by Mrs. Pheil to take the amount of money that is left on Wachovia line of credit and utilize it to pay down the loan, seconded by Mr. Henry and motion carried unanimously.
Motion was made by Mr. Nance to adjourn the meeting at 4:10 p.m., seconded by Mr. Henry and motion carried unanimously.