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County will help city with project

County Commission Chair Ricky Crosby was unable to attend last week’s County Commission workshop meeting and having only four members present resulted in a snag. But the commission revisited the matter late in the meeting and solved the problem.
The problem came on the first agenda item when Joint Development Authority Executive Director Andrea Taylor presented details of the City of Hazlehurst project to run a 12-inch water line to accommodate Beasley Forest Products’ planned multi-million dollar expansion. Taylor went over the cost summary of the project, saying that J. Hiers Company of Baxley was the low bidder with a bid of $621,925.72. With roughly $56,000 engineering costs, $46,600 contingency, $21,800 inspection costs and other fees and permits, the total cost of the project came to $758,810.86.
Taylor was able to secure a $500,000 state grant for the project and Beasley has committed $200,000, leaving a balance of $58,810.86. Since the expansion will be located outside the City of Hazlehurst, the city will receive no tax revenues from the facility while the county will. And since the 12-inch lines will serve to support fire suppression at the new site, Taylor was told the city would receive no revenue from the project unless there is a fire at the facility. That prompted city officials to ask the county to finance the balance of the costs of the project.
While Commissioner Vann Wooten quickly expressed his support for the county paying the $58,810.86 balance, Commissioners Hank Hobbs and Brad Crews had reservations about the fact that the bid had a $46,644.43 contingency included to cover cost overruns.
“You don’t put $46,000 contingency in a bid,” Hobbs said. “If they bid that (amount) they are supposed to do it for that amount. It sounds like what the city wants us to do is cover the contingency.”
Crews said, originally, the city asked the county for $61,000.
“I was in favor of the city paying half and the county paying half,” he said. “I would be in favor of the county paying half (of the $58,810.86).”
Hobbs said he would be in favor of paying the contingency if it comes up and is legitimate.
Hobbs also disagreed with the position that the project would not produce revenues because it would expand the city’s water system, enabling the city to pick up more customers along the route the 12-inch line runs. “We need to call it what it is,” he said.
Wooten made a motion that the county do whatever it takes to make the project work.
But Crews said the motion needed to have a dollar amount. Eventually, Crews made a motion that the county pay $38,000 and the city pay $20,000. But no one would second the motion.
Commissioner James Benjamin finally made a motion to pay the entire $58,810.86, Wooten seconded the motion and the motion passed 3-1 with Crews opposing ….. apparently.
At the end of the meeting, Hobbs brought the matter up again, saying that on every board, committee, organization, etc., that he had ever served on, the chair voted only in case of a tie. He said that, during the entire meeting, which he chaired as vice-chair of the commission, he had purposely not voted on any motion brought to a vote.
After privately discussing the matter with County Attorney Carla Roberts during the meeting, he had come to the conclusion that the voting on the motion to pay the balance of the project had been 2-1 instead of 3-1. Motions can only pass by the yes votes being a majority of the members present. The two votes was not a majority of the four commissioners present.
Hobbs added that, had he voted, he would have opposed the motion over his concerns about the large contingency in the bid, making it a 2-2 vote.
By that time, Taylor had left the meeting as had Darrell Beasley and Kurt Davis who were there to hear what went on while the matter was discussed. No one represented the city at the meeting.
After some discussion, Crews made a motion that the county pay “up to” the $58,810.86 “with proof they need the money …. with the city providing receipts that they spent that much money.”
Before the vote, Hobbs said, “…. to be clear. We’re not giving any money for contingency expenses.”
That motion passed 4-0, after which Wooten conceded that “when a man submits a bid, he doesn’t need to go over that bid.”
Chad Hofstadter of Hofstadter and Associates engineering firm in Macon was at the meeting to discuss future road work for the county. County Administrator Keith Carter turned to Hofstadter and asked him about the millions of dollars in bids Hofstadter had received over the five years the firm has worked for the county, “Out of every bid we’ve done, how much contingency funds were in them.”
Hofstadter indicated “zero” by holding up his hand with his fingers forming a zero.
Then, to correct the vote totals for the meeting, Hobbs led the commissioners through a re-vote on every motion, adding his vote to the vote tally.
In other action, the commissioners ….
…. heard from Tax Commissioner Susie Kersey who explained that a Florida man had purchased two mobile homes on Bell Telephone Road and asked that the taxes owed on them be forgiven and he would have the mobile homes refurbished for rental and put back on the tax digest. Kersey explained that she wasn’t suggesting the county forgive the taxes she was just bringing the matter before the commission as the new owner requested. Commissioner Wooten said he thought the right way to do that is to go before the Board of Tax Equalization. Hobbs then suggested Kersey tell the owner that she brought the matter before the commission and they will consider it.
…. approved a resolution to recoup money spent on testing costs.
…. adopted the county and school system millage rates.
…. heard from Hofstadter about future road projects [EDITOR’S NOTE: See next week’s Ledger for a more detailed account of Hofstadter’s presentation.]

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