MARY ANN ANDERSON
Plenty of good news for Hazlehurst came out of last Monday’s workshop and Thursday night’s regular meeting of the City Council.
Monday night, Mayor Bayne Stone announced that he, the council members and others have put the wheels into motion for the Georgia Department of Driver Services to locate a Customer Service Center for licenses and renewals in Hazlehurst. Adding to that, the local office will include CDL licensing as well, a godsend to the approximately 400 truck drivers Stone says live and work in the immediate area.
The DDS will operate in a separate building that will be built next to the Georgia State Patrol office on U.S. Highway 341 South. The GSP office opens in the next few months, but Stone said he expects it will be 2022 before the DDS office will be ready for the public. The cost of building the Customer Service Center, Stone pointed out, will be primarily borne by the State.
The next good news came at the end of the regular session on Thursday when Stone announced that the City of Hazlehurst and Jeff Davis County will receive a portion of the emergency funds from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, which provides that state, local and tribal governments have been under “unprecedented strain” in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, causing revenues to plummet amid rising costs.
Stone said the city will receive $1,330,423 from the plan, while Jeff Davis County will get $2,931,461. The mayor cautioned that the windfall is a two-year disbursement, so the city won’t receive the money all at once. He also plans to work with Georgia Municipal Association and Heart of Georgia Altamaha Regional Commission, who will counsel the city to get its allotted funds.
Hazlehurst’s roadways will soon see improvements, too. With Stone alluding to the city’s “bad streets” and numerous issues with potholes, manholes and sidewalks, he said the city will be getting about $200,000 from Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) and the Georgia Department of Transportation’s Local Maintenance and Improvement Grant (LMIG) to begin making repairs once the spate of recent rainy weather clears.
But then Stone offered more encouraging news, tipping his hat to Oakley Perry, Jeff Davis County’s administrator, and thanking him for “allocated funds” from the county that will bring much-needed re-striping to about 10 miles of city streets.
In relation to the lengthy discussion about the condition of the street system and its upcoming bonanza of repair money, plus the need for a truck route through Hazlehurst to save wear and tear on city streets, the council agreed to pay an approximately $450 repair bill of a local citizen whose tire blew after his car hit a pothole on Burketts Ferry Road, noting that the cost of that particular repair is less than the city’s $1,000 deductible for such incidents.
In other action during the two meetings, the council ….
…. approved travel for Charles Wasdin, chief of Hazlehurst-Jeff Davis County Fire-Rescue, to attend the Spring Executive Session of the Georgia Association of Fire Chiefs in Savannah from March 20-24.
…. voted to renew the annual Department of Corrections contract with the work detail of Bacon County Probation Detention Center.
…. with no comments during the mandatory public hearing section of the regular meeting on the financing of the GSP station, passed a resolution for the formal execution of financial documents relating to the acquisition, construction and equipping of the new building. The council also adopted a resolution for Associates in Local Government to assist in submitting paperwork for a 2021 Community Development Block Grant of $750,000 to build a lift station and new sewer lines around Southside Circle and another resolution okaying the Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity portion of that CDBG application.
…. heard as the mayor read portions of a “nice letter” from GDOT commending the conditions of Hazlehurst Municipal Airport and its manager, Cody White.
…. after noting Senate Bill 145, which modifies the requirements for cities and counties to call for a ballot question on liquor package sales by resolution or ordinance, discussed the need to adopt a local resolution so that the measure can be presented to the Jeff Davis County Board of Elections and Registrars. Stone estimates the city and county are losing about $300,000 a year by not having liquor package sales, money that he said, “would do a lot of good for Hazlehurst.”
…. after hearing in both meetings from Mark Durden of the Public Works Department on the need for additional personal protection and safety equipment for city employees, authorized the purchase of safety bags, hardhats and first-aid kits.
…. approved February’s minutes of the workshop and regular meeting, departmental reports, water and sewer adjustments, and check register for bills already paid
…. after being introduced by Police Chief Ken Williams, welcomed new hire James Mock of Blackshear as administrative captain of the department.
…. after hearing Ward 1 Councilman Dywane Johnson explain the need for paving at Hazlehurst Memorial Cemetery on Lumber City Highway – a hearse nearly bogged down in the red clay at a funeral – agreed for Stone to get estimates to have all or a portion of the roads paved, possibly from forthcoming money from SPLOST and LMIG.
The next workshop of the City Council is April 12, with the regular meeting April 15. Both meetings are at 6 p.m. in the conference room at City Hall.