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Commissioners balk at helping Beasley Forest Products

At last week’s meeting of the Jeff Davis County Commission, the commission members balked at helping Beasley Forest Products with its efforts to access sufficient water to provide adequate fire protection for its Thompson Hardwoods mill on the Baxley Highway.
Joint Development Authority Executive Director Laura Bloom and Beasley’s Kurt Davis presented Beasley’s information to the commission.
Davis explained that the company is looking at expanding the Thompson plant to increase its output and create more jobs. He talked with the commissioners about the advanced technology now in use in the lumber mill industry in general and in the Basley-owned plants in particular. He explained how the technology and automation had improved over the years and how higher skilled employees are needed to operate the plants.
“It’s not your same old saw mill,” Davis said.
After Davis’ presentation, Commissioner Hank Hobbs asked if the Thompson plant had infrastructure through the City of Hazlehurst. Bloom explained that the Industrial Authority had approached the city about a half million dollar water line improvement project and Hazlehurst-Jeff Davis County Fire Chief Charles Wasdin explained the problems with getting sufficient water pressure to the Thompson Hardwoods plant to provide adequate fire protection.
“We don’t have the water out there that we need,” Wasdin said, adding that the pressure currently provides 380 gallons of water per minute but, with the planned water line improvements — which involve upgrading the existing 6-inch water line to the Thompson site to a 12-inch line — the rate can be improved to 1,000 gallons per minute.
Wasdin said the project would improve the county’s fire protection Insurance Services Office (ISO) rating which would lower fire insurance costs for Jeff Davis County citizens and businesses.
Bloom added that the City of Hazlehurst would be indebted to OneGeorgia for a half million dollars for the project and the Development Authority wants to know if the county Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) could be used to assist with the project.
But Hobbs replied that the county is not in the water business. “The city is in the water business,” he said. “I wish we could find something else to use the money for rather than a water line.”
Commissioner Brad Crews supported Hobbs’ position by saying that water bills would probably pay for the city’s costs and, thus, the city would not be out of anything to finance the project on its on.
Crews added that he thought the commission needed more information and, with that, no action was taken on the request for assistance.
In other action at Tuesday’s meeting, the commissioners ….
…. heard from David DeSousa who shared ideas pertaining to trash pickup and said the county needed a code enforcer.
…. approved a motion to advertise for a new Library Board member.
…. reappointed Karen Rentz to the Tax Assessor Board and Georgia Mae Mincey to the Department of Family and Children Services Board.
…. approved a land ordinance as presented by the Development Authority.
…. approved making the Solar Farm Ordinance effective immediately.
…. listened to an update from Chief Wasdin.
…. heard from County Administrator Heather Scott concerning the Nov. 3 Local Option Sales Tax (LOST) mediation meeting with City of Hazlehurst officials. She explained that the current distribution is 60-40 with the county getting 60% of the LOST proceeds and the city 40%. Crews added that the city wants the distribution changed to 70% for the city and 30% for the county. No agreement was reached at the Nov. 3 meeting and another meeting will be scheduled in the future. Scott also said that if an agreement is not reached by Dec. 30, 2022, both the city and county will lose the LOST and it will have to go back before the voters in a referendum.
…. heard from Hobbs who explained problems that have come up about people moving unlivable mobile homes into the county.
…. agreed to close the courthouse Nov. 23 at noon for Thanksgiving.

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