MARY ANN ANDERSON
Not only is COVID rampant again across Georgia and the U.S., talk of it also dominated a major portion of last Monday night’s August workshop of the Hazlehurst City Council.
Mayor Bayne Stone began that part of the meeting by pointing out that of the two dozen or so council members, reporters and spectators present, only two people—Ward 1 Councilman Dywane Johnson and Ward 2’s John Ramay—had on masks, although a sign posted on the door of City Hall conference room, where the meetings are held, specifically states that masks are required.
Ward 3 Councilwoman Diane Leggett attended the meeting by telephone, as she has been battling COVID for several weeks and revealed that she had been extremely ill.
“I probably won’t ever leave my house again without [a mask],” she said, almost a warning to others to wear theirs.
Ramay said that several employees of the City now have COVID, and that other employees have been directly exposed to them. He also said that while he’s not in favor of restricting people in public places, that nevertheless the City has to consider its employees and the health of those who visit municipal facilities.
“We’re scared of it,” Deputy Clerk Lorrie Williams added into the mix. “It’s a terrifying thing.”
Williams said that temperature checks are taken among the employees, but that she and others who work at the City’s annex that is headquarters for Public Works and the Water Department, among others, must often deal with the public, including water customers.
Stone told her to instruct anyone who is not an employee should be directed to City Hall, adding, “The public is not supposed to be down there.”
City Clerk Vernice Thompson defended the City’s public buildings, including City Hall, saying that barriers have been put in place, disinfectant sprays are being used, and masks have now been furnished to all employees.
Johnson stated that employees should take the usual precautions, but even so neither he nor other council members offered formal directives of how to tamp down COVID within City buildings and among employees. Stone, who pointed out that he had been vaccinated, suggested that the matter be deferred to Thursday’s regular meeting before ending, “I think you’re foolish if you don’t get your vaccine. This is a free country, but your rights end where the other fellow’s begins. If you’re going around with COVID and spreading it, you’re not being a good American … You’ve got no business spreading your germs in somebody else’s lungs.”
While the matter didn’t make it to the agenda on Thursday, Leggett did attend that meeting in person and with a mask firmly in place.
In other action during both meetings, the council ….
…. heard from Brad Waters, pastor of First Baptist Church of Hazlehurst, who asked that the church’s opposition be on public record of the City’s decision to place on the November general election ballot the question of whether to allow package sales of distilled spirits.
…. unanimously approved the license application for the prospective new owners of Dick’s Wings in Hazlehurst to sell and serve alcohol by the drink.
…. approved an engineering project that will enable the airport to be surveyed in preparation to become certified for instrument approach landings on the north end of the runway.
…. authorized the second modification of a Georgia Environmental Finance Authority (GEFA) loan for a Water Department well drilling project.
…. after hearing a presentation from the Water Department’s Chris McEachin on the “very strong need” for a vacuum truck, entered into a six-year agreement with Jet Vac Equipment to lease a new one for a total cost of $386,687, to be paid out of SPLOST funds. The truck will be delivered in December, with the contract providing lifetime training for city employees.
…. after hearing from Fire-Rescue Chief Charles Wasdin, agreed to purchase for his department new equipment, including breathing apparatuses and defibrillators, at a cost of $16,445, to be paid from funds from the American Rescue Plan Act.
…. with a vote of 4-1, with Stone voting nay, passed a motion to pay an invoice from Jeff Davis County of $15,000, which represents half of the $30,000 cost of building new restrooms and other facilities at Jeff Davis Recreation Center on U.S. Highway 341 South. The City owns only Hazlehurst Water World Splash Pad on the property.
…. agreed for Steve Faught and Bill Newham to attend basic animal control officer and chemical immobilization classes Sept. 13-16 in Cusseta. Faught also reported that the USDA had inspected the animal shelter the previous week and had issued two violations for drainage issues but that everything else, in his words, “looked good” on the report.
…. after hearing a presentation from Ward 4 Councilman and Hazlehurst Police Department liaison John Bloodworth, renewed a contract with LensLock for five years, at a monthly cost of $2,486, for body camera equipment for HPD. Bloodworth also gave the HPD July activity report, noting 604 calls for service, 93 traffic stops, 87 citations issued, 24 warnings given, 75 incidents and cases, 11 accidents investigated, 17 arrests and 8,400 miles driven by officers.
…. heard a brief update from Stone on the audit for the year ending June 30, 2020, with his reporting that the City is “running a very honest and upright process,” but that it is spending more than it’s taking in but also noting there were no audit findings for that fiscal year.
…. approved July’s water and sewer adjustments, check register for bills already paid, and departmental reports.
…. during Mayor and Council’s Comments in the workshop, authorized Stone to move forward with getting land cleared adjacent to the Georgia State Patrol post on U.S. Highway 341 South so construction can begin on a new building that will house the Division of Driver Services. He noted that site preparation work costs will be borne by the City but building costs will be borne by the State. After an inquiry in Citizens’ Comments, he also said that the GSP plans to move into the new building in the next few weeks.
…. heard an update from Stone in the workshop that the recently approved city streets paving project will begin when the weather clears from recent rains.
…. in Citizens’ Comments during Thursday’s meeting, heard a brief update from Thompson on a probable 5 percent increase in the cost of employee medical insurance when it renews in 2022. Also, in this section in the workshop, the council agreed to look into a request by Landon Chavis for a retail wine license for sales of wine by the bottle for the upcoming South Georgia Food and Wine Festival.