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County amends FY21 budget
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At the May 20, mid-month County Commissioners meeting, the Board of Commissioners approved a motion to amend the fiscal year 2021 as presented by Finance Officer Kim McGlothlin. The amendment helped to adjust certain departments’ expenses that had exceeded their respective budgets due to some circumstances beyond the department’s control, or from extra hiring. As an example, the Liberty County Voters Registration Office exceeded their budget due to state implemented voting requirements due to COVID-19 last year. The Liberty County Sheriff’ Office exceeded some of their expenses when they hired 17 new deputies.

The budget amendment also included $30,000 to allow for a merit increase to some of the County employees who have not received a raise in the past 12 months. That amount is just for the end of fiscal year 2021. More merit increases are expected to be presented in the FY 2022 budget.

The amendment amounted to $3.17 million to amend the revenues and expenses without dipping into any fund balances. McGlothlin reported that the County received $1.1 million in Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) funds in April.

“That is huge,” McGlothlin said. “That is more than we got during the holiday time. People are spending that stimulus money.” She also reported the County received more than 1 million in Transportation-SPLSOT.

McGlothlin reminded the Board there will be a public hearing for the fiscal year 2022 budget at the June 1 meeting.

Keep Liberty Beautiful Director Dr. Karen Bell announced that Willie Cato, from Midway was the first Liberty County male recipient of the Keep America Beautiful National Lady Bird Johnson Award.

According to the Keep America Beautiful website, the award is named after the former first lady for engaging our nation in recognizing that aesthetic beauty is directly related to a better quality of life and is given to outstanding volunteers for exceptional leadership with at least 10 years of experience in helping their local community.

Since 2003, Cato has been on the Advisory Board for Keep Liberty Beautiful in Georgia. Cato has created a strong foundation for the focus areas for KLB in litter prevention and recycling and waste reduction by implementing roadside cleanups and developing awareness of the importance of recycling in local schools and businesses. Dr. Bell said Cato has repeatedly volunteered for more than 200 hours each year.

In other business the Board authorized to move forward on a request of a water system extension request to extend the water system along Highway 196 West to serve a 165-acre development that will be building roughly 155 single family residential lots. All expenses and studies will be at the expense of the developer.

Engineer Trent Long said they received two bids for the proposed American With Disabilities Act park upgrades at Gil Park, but both were above their anticipated budget of $335,279.85. He said to reduce the cost of the project he recommends the Board delay the ADA improvements at Miller Park to be completed with the proposed Miller Park improvements which are currently under design. He also recommended to delay the ADA improvements at Jones Creek Park and delay the installation of the proposed drainage pipes at Gill Park until the ball field is constructed. He recommended the Board make the reductions and accept the bid from Swindell Construction in the amount of $389,091.50 with a change order to reduce the contract cost to $339,507.50.

Commissioner Eddie Walden said they’ve been working on these ADA projects for years and wants to see them completed. He said he knows he has funds in his district. The Board made a motion to move funds from district six as requested by Walden. The motion was passed unanimously to move forward with all the ADA park improvements, excluding Jones Creek and Miller Park. They did approve Swindell Construction for the job.

The County approved the renewal of Woodrow Sapp Water Management for the operation and maintenance of the County’s water system.

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