Commissioners Hear Updates

The Jeff Davis County Commission last week received a mountain of information at its May meeting as representatives of the recreation department, roads department, tourism, the fairgrounds and the Joint Development Authority updated the commissioners on the activities of those departments.
Recreation Director Bruce Johns told the commissioners the department’s spring baseball season was winding down with all star selections and state and district tournaments coming up. He said the department will host three state tournaments this summer bringing hundreds of players, coaches and fans to Hazlehurst.
That’s in addition to the department’s tennis, golf and swim programs. Johns said there have been two swim lesson sessions already filled and he would probably schedule a third if necessary. Soccer registration will begin in July.
Johns also updated the work at the Hwy. 341 facility, saying the construction of the City of Hazlehurst’s splash pad was moving along and the poles for lighting the planned soccer/football fields had been received and work would begin soon to crown the fields for water runoff.
When asked about plans for the property purchased next to the existing Pat Dixon Road facility, Johns said he planned to start clearing the area to build more fields, enabling the department to sponsor more tournaments and bring more money into the community. He said he was waiting on the commissioners to give him the go ahead to begin work.
Roads Department Superintendent Robert Lewis said his department has been engaged in laying pipe, building up roads and changing road signs in addition to its normal maintenance program. As the weather warms, his workers will also be engaged in grass cutting.
Lewis pointed out that he and County Administrator Keith Carter changed the scheduling for trash hauling and began a dispatch system. That along with proper routing and other changes have improved efficiency and would save approximately $8,000 to $10,000 a year in fuel costs alone.
On the down side, Lewis pointed out that he received notice that pipe prices would see a 10% increase with the possibility of 20% and fuel prices continue to rise.
On the up side, Lewis said last year the department experienced all kinds of vehicle problems and the commissioners made the decision to purchase state surplus vehicles, adding it was “one of the best things you all ever did.” He said the surplus vehicles were purchased for the amount of money it would take to put four tires on a vehicle and all were operating well.
Lewis praised the commissioners for the decision to man the dump sites, saying that before that county workers would spend one day a week just to clean up the sites. That is no longer necessary resulting in a savings for the county.
Lewis said they were also studying the practicality of putting scrap metal containers at each site for recycling purposes.
Tourism Director Jim Sewell wore two hats to Tuesday’s meeting, representing the Board of Tourism and the Jeff Davis County Fairgrounds as he was managing the facility while Fairgrounds Head B.H. Claxton was recovering from recent medical issues.
After sharing some state and local statistics on tourism and its impact on Georgia’s economy, Sewell said the building of two yurts (luxury camping facilities) at the Towns Bluff Park campground was a tremendous asset to the facility. He said the yurts were being used and the Tourism Board is looking at the possibility of adding more in the future. He said the department had about $40,000 invested in the two yurts, adding that all the money came from the hotel/motel tax with no property tax used.
The annual Peaches to the Beaches Yard Sale brought thousands of people to Jeff Davis County and Tourism raised approximately $9,000 in revenue from vendor rentals and T-shirt sales. That money was shared with the Golden Isles Highway Association which, in turn, uses the funds to promote the annual event. He said the local Tourism Board netted $2,600-$2,800.
Two canoe paddles were planned for the coming week — last Saturday’s Paddle the Forks and this Saturday’s Three Rivers Paddle. During the Paddle the Forks, the Nature Conservancy rented the entire campground.
Sewell praised the commissioners for the work being done at the park, saying it “looks as good as it has in a long, long time.”
Moving to the fairgrounds, Sewell said the activities building was being rented on a regular basis and, since he had taken on the management, it had been rented about every weekend. He said it had already been rented for every weekend in May and June.
When questioned about complaints about the air conditioning system, Sewell said he had received no complaints since he took over but, with the weather warming up, the air conditioning system would take on added importance. He said he would check and make sure the units were working properly.
He said prison detail work crews had recently done some repainting at the facility and put up wainscoting.
On the downside, he said the outside concession stands need to be removed and the some of the buildings in the 1890s Village were in bad shape. He said the fair association members weren’t sure what to do about the village, adding that the people who were the driving force behind the establishment of the village were now getting to the age that they have difficulty maintaining the facility and the younger people of the community did not seem interested in it.
Several Commissioners informed Sewell that they wanted to do what they could to support the fairgrounds and requested that they be informed about Fair Association activities so, by being aware, they could help.
Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Sonya Miller spoke to the commissioners about the Joint Development Authority of Jeff Davis County, Hazlehurst and Denton, in the absence of JDA Executive Director Angela Taylor who was out of town on development authority business.
She detailed a number of projects the authority is working on, including working with Verizon to lease land for expansion, holding career expos in conjunction with area technical colleges, an industry expansion that would create over 40 jobs, and a prospect looking to locate in the Southeast Georgia Joint Development Authority site.
In other action, the commissioners ….
…. heard from JDHS Head Football Coach Lance Helton (see story elsewhere).
…. heard from Jennie May Curry concerning the deteriorated condition of a private road built by her late husband. While the road does not belong to the county, it serves not only the Curry home but also other homes in the area. The commissioners explained that, as a private road, they cannot legally work to maintain it but assured Mrs. Curry that they would look to see what they could do about having the road deeded to the county, or given an easement to do work on it.
…. approved a resolution to seek financial assistance to build a farmers market on the Hwy. 341 recreation site.
…. reappointed Sharon Ursrey to the Department of Family and Children Services board.
…. renewed employee health insurance with Blue Cross, Blue Shield.
…. approved a license to sell beer and wine at 221 Quick Stop which was changing ownership.
…. approved a request from Beasley Forest Products for a tax abatement for a new project to be called Gum Swamp. The project would create at least 42 full-time jobs, with a $50,000,000 investment and $47,000,000 in tangible property. The Joint Development Authority had already signed off on the abatement.
…. heard another report from County Administrator Carter that sales tax collections continued to come in at less than anticipated, and were down $21,000 the previous month.

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