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Commissioners Hear Updates

The Jeff Davis County Commission is taking proper precautions with the recent surge of the Delta variant of COVID-19, as all visitors to last week’s monthly meeting were required to wear masks, and a box of disposal masks was placed on a table outside the meeting room door.
During the meeting, the commissioners heard reports from various department heads who updated them on how their departments were doing.
Jeff Davis County Chief Deputy Keith Rea gave an update on progress with the new law enforcement center, saying meetings had been held with the architect and contractor and the project is on schedule. Rea said everything was going good, the initial plumbing work is completed and electrical work has begun.
Hazlehurst-Jeff Davis County Fire Chief/Emergency Management Agency (EMA) Director Charles Wasdin said the fire department’s ISO (Insurance Services Office) grading is complete and he is now waiting for the final version to come out. Those ratings will go out to the insurance industry and he expects insurance rates will drop accordingly.
Wasdin also discuss training classes/practice exercises both for the fire department and EMA, and said the county’s hazard mitigation plan is complete.
Wasdin thanked the commission for finding a building to house the EMA, which has been displaced by fire at its previous location, adding that the building the commissioners selected would make a nice center for years to come.
Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Director Roger Ogilvie passed out information to the commissioners detailing the calls his department has answered during June, July and August. The total number of calls answered increased from 268 in June, 246 in July and 296 in August, and there was a sharp increase in COVID contacts, from only three in July to 38 in August. Advanced and basic life support usage was also up considerably
Ogilvie also explained that the EMS has been called on to transport numerous patients to other hospitals because at times Jeff Davis Hospital has been full because of the COVID surge.
“Hospitals around here just have no beds,” Ogilvie explained. “We’ve had to go to Florida or the Carolinas.”
He added that last year, the EMS had 2,678 calls and with the way numbers are trending he’s looking at 2,900 to 3,000 calls this year. To date, he said, the EMS has had more calls than they had all last year.
Ogilvie gave the group an update on the delays he is experiencing in getting new ambulances to replace the ones lost in the fire at the EMS/EMA/911 headquarters, saying it now looked like it would be the end of the year before they will be delivered.
Ogilvie passed around requests for equipment, emphasizing the need for at least one transport ventilator, saying at one time he thought he wouldn’t need one but now that the COVID cases have been going back up, the need is stronger. The cost is over $16,000 and his staff is already trained so there will be no learning curve.
The commissioners voted to purchase at least one ventilator if not two, and were in hopes they could use CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security) Act funds for the purchase.
Near the end of the meeting, the commissioners talked at length with Matt King of Jeff Davis County Trash Pickup. Commissioner Vann Wooten brought up the matter, asking what the commissioners could do to allow King to pick up trash in the community and dump it in one of the county’s six dumping stations, rather than taking it to the transfer station where he is being charged $70.80 per ton to dump.
Chairman Brad Crews explained that the commissioners had to stop allowing King’s private business to dump at the public dump sites because, if they did, a big firm such as Ryland Environmental would also have to be allowed to dump there. Crews repeatedly expressed the commissioners support for King’s business, which they felt was a valuable service to the community.
“We want you to have this business,” Crews said. “We see a need for it.”
Crews wondered aloud if they could have a designated container for King to use and then the county haul if off for a fee based on weight.
The commissioners asked Ramay to look into the matter to give them legal advise on what they could do.
In other action, the commissioners ….
…. agreed to renew the lease on a van being used by the EMS and use it for the coroner’s office.
…. heard from County Attorney Andy Ramay concerning the purchase of the former Jehovah’s Witnesses building on Burkett’s Ferry Road for use as the new EMA office, and ownership clarification needed on the Burkett’s Ferry Landing area.
…. approved a resolution to purchased the Jehovah’s Witnesses building and authorized the chairman to execute the necessary documents.
…. gave approval for the building of a shelter at Towns Bluff as money was being raised to finance the project.
…. accepted the low bid from John Deere on a tractor with a boom mower for the road department with the department verifying the tractor meets all specifications.

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