MARY ANN ANDERSON
The continuing drama of the City’s project to build a new waterline to Beasley Forest Products took yet another odd twist at last week’s regular monthly meeting of the Hazlehurst City Council.
Since February of this year, when the waterline was first publicly discussed in a joint meeting of the City Council and Jeff Davis County Commissioners, issues were raised almost monthly as to whom would pay for the line and how it would be financed, issues that raised quite a bit of miscommunications and misinterpretations among the two governments and Beasley. But after months of banter, the final tally was it would be financed with a $500,000 One Georgia grant, $200,000 from Beasley, and $61,000 from the County.
But what was discussed but not voted on in any previous meeting was the acceptance of the low bid – or any bid, for that matter – on the project, a fact that Ward 3 Councilman Eric Griffin pointed out to Mayor Bayne Stone last Thursday.
J. Hiers Company of Baxley, which also owns Georgia Asphalt Producers, gave the City the low bid for the project of $621,925, with others coming from Shockley Plumbing of Perkins with its bid of $646,417, Popco of Sylvester of $671,590 and Southeast Pipe Survey of Patterson with $836,492.
The newest wrinkle came when Griffin said that he had noticed 12-inch pipe at the City’s wastewater treatment plant, the same size pipe with which the new waterline is being built. After he pointed that out, he and Ward 2 Councilman John Ramay asked Stone almost simultaneously who had authorized the pipe.
Stone told them it was the “fellow who got the bid,” without actually naming Hiers, and that the City’s engineering firm of Turnipseed Engineers of Augusta had told “the fellow” that he could “order [the pipe] if he wanted to,” since he was the low bidder. Griffin then reminded Stone that the council had not accepted the bid, with Ramay adding that the council had discussed in a prior meeting that the City, in his words, “may not want the low bidder in this case.”
Stone appeared surprised, telling the council that he thought that the low bid had been approved, contingent upon the financing coming in from both the One Georgia grant and Jeff Davis County. And, he said, that “everyone assumed” as soon as the grant was approved that work could begin. The grant was approved earlier this month.
That’s when Ramay told Stone that the project either needed to be halted or approved by the Council. So Stone quickly countered, asking that a motion be made to approve it.
Ward 4 Councilman John Bloodworth asked Stone what he was approving, and that’s when the mayor answered, “The low bidder. Georgia Asphalt.”
Bloodworth then made the motion to approve the bid, with Ward 1 Councilman Dywane Johnson seconding.
But Ramay wasn’t having it, saying that he couldn’t approve the low bid “after the fact.”
Again, Stone said that he thought the council had already given the go-ahead to Hiers and Georgia Asphalt, contingent upon getting the grant and the County adding in its share of the cost, which Johnson also echoed, saying, “I thought everything was ready once the grant came in.”
But Griffin, like Ramay, was adamant, saying, “That’s the question I asked the night they took and said it, and you said no, nothing’s been approved. The mayor sat there and flat out told us nothing’s been approved until the council approves it.”
Stone once more pointed out that Bloodworth had just made the motion to approve Hiers as low bidder, but Ramay, as stalwart as Griffin, alluded to a previous meeting when he and Griffin both stated their reservations against hiring Hiers even though he was the low bidder, with Ramay adding, “The lowest one was not the best.”
That’s when a beleaguered Stone made his final call for the vote, with he, Johnson and Bloodworth saying yes to continue using Hiers and Georgia Asphalt with Griffin and Ramay casting nay votes. The motion carried.
In other action during both last Monday’s workshop and Thursday’s regular meeting, the Council ….
…. heard a brief recap of the 54-page audit for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2019, from Mark Rogers, a certified public accountant with Henderson and Godbee LLP in Valdosta.
…. after lengthy discussions in both the workshop and regular meeting, tabled zoning recommendations for lots located on Jefferson Street and owned by Olin Wooten, who wants to place mobile homes on the property, until further studies can be made by the council and Zoning Board Chairman Bobby Googe, who was not at the meeting.
…. approved the appointments of John Scruggs and Hugh Brantley to the Hazlehurst Airport Authority to replace David Turfler and Sharon Rothwell, both of whom recently resigned their seats on the board. Both Scruggs and Brantley are licensed pilots, and Brantley an aircraft owner, and are familiar with the airport.
…. approved a contract to resurface the runway and build an aircraft exit taxiway at Hazlehurst Municipal Airport, with $1.7 million coming from federal and state grants, including the Federal Aviation Authority and Georgia Department of Transportation, with a match of $90,000 from the City’s airport SPLOST fund.
…. after yet another lengthy discussion regarding the lack of proper lighting and signage at the roundabout at Pat Dixon Road and Charles Rogers Boulevard, agreed to meet with Georgia Power to see what options are available for better lighting. The council also agreed to purchase eight new signs at a cost of $660 for that roundabout as well as the one at Pat Dixon Road and Collins Street.
…. after hearing primarily from Bloodworth, who explained that he had complaints from several of his constituents regarding speeders near the intersections of Elton and Rogers streets and Charles Rogers Boulevard and Lakeside Drive, passed a motion to table the matter.
…. adopted resolutions to quit-claim to adjacent landowners the alley between Railroad and Hinson streets behind the old Western Auto store and another near the intersection of Jefferson and South Williams streets at Jacket Stop and Shop and the old CTC building.
…. after hearing a request from Fire Chief Charles Wasdin, agreed for a new power account to be opened to supply electricity to the training center at the Fire Department.
…. discussed but took no formal action on zoning issues on behalf of developers who plan to build apartments in downtown Hazlehurst.
…. gave the okay for Deborah Kornegay of the Hazlehurst Police Department to attend Georgia Municipal Court Clerk’s Training at St. Simons Island from Nov. 14-15, 2019; for Police Chief Ken Williams to attend Human Trafficking Training for Law Enforcement, First Responders, EMS, Prosecutor and Judges at Georgia Public Safety Training Center in Forsyth on Nov. 6, 2019, and also for Williams to attend Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police’s Winter Training Conference 2020 at Jekyll Island Feb. 10-12, 2020.
…. approved September’s minutes of the City Council workshop and regular meeting, water and sewer adjustments, departmental reports, and check register for bills already paid.
The next workshop of the Hazlehurst City Council is Nov. 18, with the regular meeting to follow on Thursday, Nov. 21. Both meetings are held at 6 p.m. in the conference room at City Hall.