MARY ANN ANDERSON
During last week’s workshop and regular session of the Hazlehurst City Council, the mayor and council unanimously passed a flurry of motions resulting from busy albeit rare two-page agendas for each meeting.
Among the highlights of last Monday’s work session, Fire Chief Charles Wasdin presided over a pinning ceremony in which Fire Department Captains Dustin Hutto and Martin Lewis were both promoted to deputy chief.
“Leadership is the foundation of any department,” said Wasdin of Hutto and Lewis as he removed their captains’ badges and pinned on those of deputy chief. “And if you’re going to have a great department, you have to have great leadership.”
The ceremony ended with a standing ovation from the council and audience.
In other action during the 90-minute workshop, the council ….
…. listened to the appeal of city-owned Twisted Pine Golf Course employee Katy Rivas Hess, who said she wanted her job back after she was recently terminated because of what she termed a “major misunderstanding.” After Ward 1 Councilmen Dywane Johnson and others pointed out that personnel issues are normally handled in closed session, the council agreed to take up the matter during Thursday’s closed session. At that time, the council voted for Hess to be reinstated but also agreed to laterally transfer her to a new role with the Streets Department.
…. after hearing from Police Chief Ken Williams and Police Officer Macy Deen explain that Zeka, the K-9 unit’s Dutch shepherd police dog, will be retired because of spinal issues, passed a motion for the pup to be returned to her breeder as a pet and also for Williams to apply for a federal grant to purchase a Chevrolet Tahoe for the K-9 unit.
…. agreed for Mayor Bayne Stone to sign a service agreement with Interstate Nationlease Inc., to cover myriad city-owned and leased equipment and machinery.
…. had Stone contact Joey Hiers of J. Hiers Company to request that he finish striping on several streets that his company had recently paved. Stone called Hiers on speakerphone during the meeting, with Hiers saying that he would finish the project within a week.
…. after a lengthy discussion among the mayor, councilmembers, Wasdin and Orson P. “Opie” Hall of the Water Department regarding either repairing or replacing many of the city’s outdated fire hydrants, agreed to a motion made by Ward 2’s John Ramay to begin working on applications to obtain either a loan or a grant to get the project started.
…. discussed but took no formal action on what Ward 4 Councilman John Bloodworth called “very confusing” yield and stop signs in the vicinity of Walnut and Currie streets. After determining that the signs were put in place by Southern Railway and not the city or Georgia Department of Transportation, Stone agreed to work with the GDOT to, in his words, “come up with a plan” to make the area less confusing.
…. also heard from Bloodworth regarding the dangerous intersection and its lack of turn lanes at the intersection of Highway 341 and Altamaha Road. Stone stated that GDOT had canvassed the intersection and determined, in his words, “it does not meet the criteria for a traffic light.” But, he added, investors are looking at the corner to build a restaurant, a move that could spur the GDOT to put a signal there in the future.
…. after hearing Stone say property owners near Church and Cromartie streets are in “bad shape” because of flooding issues, and that a storm drainage project would cost the city around $8,000, placed the project on a short hold but also agreed that it, in the words of Ward 3’s Eric Griffin, “needs to be done.”
…. in the Mayor and Councilmen’s Comments section of the workshop and again during the Thursday regular meeting, heard lengthy discussions regarding the city’s $750,000 project to provide a 12,600-foot, 12-inch water line from the city-owned Gill Street well to Beasley Forest Products (BFP) on Highway 221 North. Stone pointed out that BFP, now undergoing a $65 million expansion, is the largest and most computerized sawmill in the U.S. With Stone also saying that BFP will require additional sprinkler systems because of the expansion, he looked back to the June meeting of the city council in which BFP had agreed to fund $350,000 of the project, with the remaining balance to be funded from grants from One Georgia and the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority. After Stone said that BFP had balked on their original agreement, Bloodworth made a motion to give BFP until Monday at 5 p.m. to give written notice of their intention to comply with their previous financial commitment. The motion was then amended by Ramay to include a called meeting at 6 p.m. on Monday to further discuss the issue.
…. also in Mayor and Councilmen’s comments, discussed but took no official action on providing yet another 12-inch water line to Arising Industries for its proposed trailer manufacturing plant near Coastal Pines Technical College on Highway 221 South.
During Thursday’s regular monthly meeting, the council ….
…. after hearing from Hazlehurst-Jeff Davis County Joint Development Director Andrea Taylor ask for support in assembling volunteers and community leaders who can, in her words “increase awareness and motivate people to respond to the 2020 census,” authorized Stone to sign a resolution creating the Census 2020 Complete County Committee.
…. with Stone calling the 2017-18 audit completed by the accounting firm of Henderson and Godbee LLC of Valdosta “the most detailed” and “very informative” of any he had read, approved its final draft.
…. authorized Stone to approve the resource officer contract with the Jeff Davis County School System to keep law enforcement in the schools.
…. after hearing City Attorney Ken W. Smith give the first reading of the preamble of the Fire and Safety Codes Ordinance, agreed to proceed with its adoption and its second reading at the September regular meeting.
…. in compliance with the request of the Environmental Protection Division (EPD) to address emergency backflow prevention for Hazlehurst businesses within 30 days by creating a temporary ordinance, and then to have a permanent ordinance in place within 90 days, and also after hearing Smith read the preamble to the temporary ordinance, passed a motion to approve the ordinance with the understanding that over the next 90 days, some points of it may need to be modified.
…. approved July’s water and sewer adjustments, departmental reports to the council, and check register for bills already paid.
…. approved a host of training, including Phillip Bennett of the Hazlehurst Police Department for DUI Detection and Field Sobriety Testing in Forsyth from Sept. 2-4; Richard Taylor of the Hazlehurst Police Department for Speed Detection Operator class in Forsyth on Sept. 9; Saundra Toler of the Hazlehurst Police Department for Georgia Crime Information Center training in Savannah from Aug. 26-27; Sumer Daniels of the Water Department for Class III Drinking Water Treatment training in Carrollton from Aug. 19-23 and Class III Wastewater Treatment training from Sept. 30-Oct. 4, also in Carrollton; Stone for Robert E. Knox Municipal Leadership training at Jekyll Island from Aug. 24-31; City Clerk Vernice Thompson and Deputy Clerk Lorrie Williams for clerk’s training in Athens from Sept. 8-10 and also for Williams for clerk’s training in Lawrenceville from Aug. 6-7; Ramay for a fall training event in Valdosta from Sept. 26-27; and Airport Manager Cody White, Griffin and Bloodworth for the Georgia Airport Association Conference and Expo at Jekyll Island from Sept. 25-27.
…. in the Mayor and Councilmen’s Comments, after a lengthy discussion approved a request by Griffin to purchase a wastewater bar screen for $44,000 for the Bully Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant. Also in this section, agreed to work with Chief Williams and Jeff Davis County Sheriff Preston Bohannon to use local inmate labor and others through the Department of Community Service for help in removing tree roots from underneath city sidewalks and then recementing them to make the sidewalks more handicapped-accessible.
The next regularly scheduled workshop of the Hazlehurst City Council is Sept. 16 with the regular meeting on Sept. 19. Both meetings are at 6 p.m. in the conference room at City Hall.