MARY ANN ANDERSON
The Hazlehurst City Council met last week for its first workshop and regular meeting of the new year, with the bulk of motions passed during Monday night’s workshop and only one approved during Thursday’s regular meeting.
While most agenda items were routine first-of-the-year business, it was Andrea Taylor, CEO of the Hazlehurst-Jeff Davis Joint Development Authority and Chamber of Commerce, who kicked off the workshop with an exciting presentation of branding and marketing for the community. The move came about after the City Council, Jeff Davis County Board of Commissioners and other officials met last year to discuss economic development at a retreat and workshop held on Jekyll Island.
“I’m a big believer in getting everybody to the table, getting everybody’s opinion, and bringing the city and county together,” Taylor said. “I like to have everybody’s input. I want Hazlehurst and Jeff Davis County to project a very unified front.”
Taylor said that she had discussed the marketing and branding campaign with 365 Degree Total Marketing of St. Simons Island, a company with whom she had worked in the past.
“They are very professional and do a fantastic job,” she pointed out as she gave a PowerPoint presentation on the company. “They’re timely. You really get what you pay for, as their quality is unparalleled.”
Taylor also said that in Georgia, the multi-award winning 365 is the only company that is associated with the Georgia Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives for community branding and marketing.
“We don’t have any kind of unified brand for the community,” Taylor then said. “We don’t have one thing that everybody can really attach that says Hazlehurst and Jeff Davis County.”
Citing several examples of 365’s successful branding, including that of Douglas and Coffee County where she previously worked, she added, “A brand would really say who we are, it would let people know where we’re going, and helps present a really professional front. It helps our community compete for business and positions us for the future.”
Taylor said that 365 is good at making each community “unique and authentic” through such things as logo development and artwork, marketing materials and websites.
“That would really position our community as a unique and wonderful place to do business where we all have that same tagline, that same campaign development for marketing,” she said, adding that branding will take a community forward so that people around the state will begin to identify with it. “You want something that’s going to stand the test of time for your community. You want people to recognize you for years to come.”
The cost of 365’s package is $31,000. Taylor said that with the participation of the City of Hazlehurst as well as that of Jeff Davis County Board of Commissioners, Jeff Davis County Schools, Jeff Davis Hospital and the Hazlehurst-Jeff Davis County Joint Development Authority, Chamber of Commerce and Board of Tourism, the cost for each entity would be about $5,000.
With all of the Council agreeing that Taylor’s plan is a good idea, Ward 2 Councilman John Ramay added, “It’s something we all need to do in the city and county, a cooperative atmosphere. I think there’s a whole lot more that can be accomplished in working as a team.”
That’s when Mayor Bayne Stone reminded the Council that the City is “under financial stress,” but that the future is starting to look brighter, as he said, “We’ve already made some moves that will benefit us.”
Ramay made the motion to approve the City’s participation in the program, contingent upon all seven entities taking part. After Ward 1’s Dywane Johnson seconded, the motion passed unanimously.
In other action during Monday night’s work session, the Council ….
…. after hearing recommendations from Stone, agreed to “structural appointments,” for the next year of Charles Wasdin as fire chief of the Hazlehurst-Jeff Davis County Fire-Rescue; Ken Williams as chief of the Hazlehurst Police Department; Chris McEachin as the department head for the Water and Sewer Department; Conrad Swain as department head for the Streets and Public Works Department; Tony Parisi as manager of City of Hazlehurst Golf Course; and Cody White as manager of Hazlehurst Municipal Airport. And in an amended motion requested by Ward 3 Councilwoman Diane Leggett, the council then re-appointed Vernice Thompson as city clerk, although, as Stone pointed out, a move that was unnecessary as Thompson is not a department head.
…. passed a motion made by Ward 4 Councilman John Bloodworth for Stone to recommend appointments of council members as liaisons with different City departments, and to announce his final decisions during the Thursday night regular session.
…. authorized the City to proceed with hiring part-time employees, to not exceed 32 hours per week, on an as-needed basis and who will not be eligible for full-time salaries or benefits. During the Thursday regular session, the discussion continued, with Thompson saying that all part-time employees, as with those who are full-time, be subject to drug testing and be required to take a physical. Stone added that current full-time employees whose jobs will be eliminated because of budget cuts will be notified by the end of the month. Even with budget cuts, both Johnson and Ramay pointed out the need to “work diligently” to get spending and hiring under control and to rebuild the city’s financial reserves.
…. heard an update from Stone on a new waterline being built to J.A. Yawn Road. The project, he said, hit a snag when it was discovered the line would come in contact with contaminated soil from an incident from years earlier. Stone said that he has been in touch with the Environmental Protection Division and that the City is about to get the project “modified, corrected and on the way.” Later in the Citizens Comments section of the meeting, former Ward 3 Councilman Eric Griffin asked Stone if the modifications to the waterline would change the budgeted cost of the project, the mayor said that he had “no idea,” but added, “We have definitely spent some more money, but I don’t think it’s going to appreciably change.”
…. gave the okay for Thompson and Deputy City Clerk Lorrie Williams to attend training with Georgia Clerks Education Institute from Feb. 2-4 on Jekyll Island; for Chief Williams to be the City’s representative for the 2020 JD Forward Leadership Academy; and for members of the Fire Department to travel to the Georgia State Capitol in Atlanta for Firefighter Recognition Day on February 4. Wasdin also gave the Council notice that, as the current president of the Georgia Association of Fire Chiefs, he will be traveling to Atlanta several times throughout the year for “quite a few hearings” and “quite a bit of legislation” that will require his attendance.
…. with little fanfare, approved December’s water and sewer adjustments, departmental reports and check register for bills previously paid.
…. during the Citizens Comments section of Monday’s workshop, Johnson reminded the council about Saturday’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade and programs.
…. also in this section, Stone, in answering questions by Rhonda Walsh about the building of the Georgia State Patrol post on Highway 341 South, said that the offices should be ready for business in May. He added that even with extensive work and “thing after thing” that has come up during construction, the City is still well under the $300,000 estimate that it would take to build it. “We have really worked on that thing,” Stone said, “and I’m just as proud as I can be as to where we are.”
During Thursday night’s regular session, the Council ….
…. listened as Stone read a letter from Kenny Green, chief engineer of Turnipseed Engineering, the City’s engineering firm, who in essence said the City needed to move forward with bidding out and financing of the long-ongoing project to build a new water well and refurbish the aged fire hydrant system. Green also asked the City to determine that no obstacles such as old landfills exist on the land where the new water well will be located. Stone told the Council he would meet with Buddy Spann, former longtime mayor of Hazlehurst, to discuss the issue.
…. to follow through with Bloodworth’s Monday night motion for Stone to designate each council member as a liaison for different City departments, listened as Stone reappointed Johnson to the Street Department, Ramay to the Water and Sewer Department, Leggett to the Fire Department and reappointed Bloodworth to the Police Department. Stone will be the liaison with Hazlehurst Municipal Airport and the city-owned golf course and animal shelter. Stone explained that Spann began the practice of appointing liaisons, with its primary purpose was that each department would have a supervisor in the event the mayor was out of the office. Wasdin added that the appointments were to be rotated every year so that each council member would get to know the operations of each department within a four-year term in office. Stone then told the council members, “You are to assist that department head and be his or her contact. You are not over any department. That is not your job and what you’re elected for.” But Ramay said that he wanted to “go on record” by “formally” objecting the appointments in that Johnson and Bloodworth were reappointed and not rotated off their same departments, adding, “We’re not alternating all of our council members to the different parts so that we can learn and help parts of each of our divisions in the city.” Stone then stated that Ramay’s objection was noted. In the Citizens Comments part of the meeting, Chief Williams told the Council, “I think I speak for all of the department heads who are here, I haven’t asked them but I think I speak for them, that it doesn’t matter who our liaison is, if anybody has a question, or if you want to come in, or if you want to know something, just ask.”
…. heard an update from Steve Faught of the Hazlehurst Animal Shelter, who said that, after identifying several “serious issues,” including problems with the foundation, broken concrete and a “horrendous” smell, that it should be back in working order within a week. The shelter, said Ramay, had been “basically shut down” by the Department of Agriculture for sanitation and maintenance problems, but he and Faught stated that it would be back in compliance within a short time. Faught also stated that he had implemented an improved record-keeping system for the shelter.
The next workshop is scheduled for Feb. 17, with the regular meeting set for Feb. 20. Both meetings are held at 6 p.m. in the conference room at City Hall.