MARY ANN ANDERSON
The agenda item that took up most of Monday night’s meeting of the Hazlehurst City Council and that led to Friday’s called meeting was the expenses relating to the soon-to-open Georgia State Patrol station located on Highway 341 South and for which the City is paying for its construction in entirety.
Charles Harrell, the City’s building inspector, code enforcer and project manager for the GSP station, first took the floor to detail the money spent so far on the building, including pre-construction costs of $94,856, non-building costs including such work as landscaping and concrete work of $144,435, and actual building costs of $702,508, for a grand total of $941,799.
That prompted Ward 4 Councilman John Bloodworth to ask about an October, 2020, unpaid bill from Triple H to the City for $49,416 for a new generator that had been delivered to the GSP site in September.
Mayor Bayne Stone said that a purchase order was never issued for the generator, that Roger East of Triple H had it delivered to the construction site after he had discussions with the City about the need for one to power a communications tower. But according to State of Georgia and Department of Public Safety, which the GSP falls under, it would pay for the generator only if its purchase and installation were put out for bids, a process that didn’t happen but was not clearly stated why. Stone then told the council he would be going to Atlanta to discuss the matter with state officials.
Stone also said that he had never seen the invoice from Triple H, and that’s when Bloodworth handed him a copy. Bloodworth said that Tim Taylor of Triple H had called him to his office to discuss the invoice to see when it would be paid.
That’s when Stone pointed out that the generator wouldn’t even work for GSP’s specifications because the state required a 5,000-gallon propane tank and that particular generator would take only a thousand gallons.
“We’ve got a generator out there that we can’t use,” Stone said, adding that he talked with Darrell Strickland at Triple H, who advised him that the City and Triple H could somehow “work it out.”
Bloodworth reminded the council that his concern was that the state wouldn’t pay Triple H because the project hadn’t been bid out, with Stone saying that the City didn’t properly purchase the generator to begin with, adding, “Roger East assumed we needed it.”
Ramay, by telephone, asked if the generator could be used elsewhere within the City if not at the GSP site, but Stone said that he thought that the generator could be swapped for something less costly.
With tempers beginning to simmer between Stone and Bloodworth, Bloodworth then quickly made a motion for the City to pay Triple H if the state declined the invoice. Ramay seconded, and in the discussion phase when he asked how the generator had been delivered to GSP, Stone said he never ordered it and that the City had “absolutely no use” for it because it wouldn’t be big enough for the communications tower it was to support. When the vote came, Ward 1 Councilman Dywane Johnson, Ward 3 Councilwoman Diane Leggett, Ramay and Bloodworth voted for the motion with Stone the lone vote against it.
But that wasn’t the end of it, as a meeting was called for Friday to further discuss the matter. During that meeting, Carl Hutchinson of the Georgia State Patrol and Strickland attended in person, while Ramay and Taylor joined in by telephone. At that meeting, cooler heads prevailed than they did in Monday night’s workshop.
Stone gave a brief history of the GSP station, saying that it was 10 years in the making and that he was happy to see the project, even with all its headaches and problems, come to fruition.
“We tried to do everything locally,” Stone said of the decision to buy the generator from Triple H. “We tried to spend every dime that we could locally to improve and help our local economy.”
Both he and Harrell, who said 81 percent of the work and materials is local, tried to take the blame for the generator not purchased via the bid process – Hutchinson said the state requires any purchase over $25,000 to be bid out – but pointed out that the generator was not in the original plans for the GSP station but would be required once it was learned a communications tower was to be built on the site. Stone then admitted, “I didn’t follow state procedures like I should have.”
While Stone said that he was told the generator wouldn’t work for the tower, that essentially it wasn’t big enough to handle the project, Strickland assured him that it was. Strickland also assured him that Triple H was willing to wait another 30 days for the invoice to be paid to give the City enough time to work out payment with the state.
Hutchinson, who with Stone will be traveling to Atlanta to meet with state officials, ended the relatively short meeting by telling the council, “We’re very happy with everything, and we’re ready to move in … whatever you need us to do, we will work really hard to be a good partner in this.”