The Long County Chamber of Commerce recently hosted a town-hall meeting at Walker Elementary School in Ludowici.
The forum, which had about 20 people in attendance, featured the Long County Board of Commissioners as the guest speakers. Several issues were addressed during the meeting, but E-911 and animal control were two of the most-discussed subjects.
Ludowici resident Kadee Dasher asked if the county had a debt at the beginning of 2013 from the current E-911 system. Commissioner Gerald Blocker said that there was an approximate $480,000 debt that the county assumed, which included a previous debt and fees that had to be paid for the upcoming year. He said that it costs approximately $640,000 annually to operate the E-911 center in Darien, and that Long County is responsible for half the cost to receive services. He said the county currently receives around $141,000 annually from cellphone and landline fees, but that the $179,000 shortage has to come out of the budget.
To increase revenue for public safety, Blocker said would like to see an annual emergency-services tax placed on all individual homes. He said that by doing this, everyone — including residents who rent in mobile-home parks and apartment complexes — would have to contribute, instead of the entire tax burden just being placed on property owners.
Blocker said that the county would like to have its own E-911 center, but that it is in a contract with McIntosh County. He said that the county attorney is researching how long the county has to recognize the contract and if and when it could get out of it.
Chamber President Don Melton asked if the current system is working.
Sheriff Craig Nobles said the system is pretty efficient. The main problem is emergency responders locating homes. He said that if a center is located in Long County and staffed by local people, it probably would help deal with this problem. But the primary reason for responders having these difficulties is due to people not having proper addresses marked at their residences. He said that even though the county had been requiring this for several years, it isn’t being done.
Nobles said he and the commissioners are working on an ordinance to require it, so that if a person does not have their home properly addressed, they could be cited and fined.
Commissioner Kent Hall said that the county plans to expand its capabilities for housing animals at its animal shelter. He said that it currently can keep eight animals, but that soon it would be able to keep 16. He reported that during the past year, more than 100 animals have been picked up by animal control in the county. He said that the goal is to adopt out the animals if possible.
Commissioner Dwight Gordon said he had been told by the owner of the Making of Miracle Stories animal shelter that it is relocating to New Jersey. He said that the center has been an asset to the county, and it is regrettable that it is leaving and never relocated.
“I never wanted it to shut down. All I wanted was for it to relocate,” Gordon said.
Chairman Robert Long said that he was proud all of the work that the commission has completed since the members took office, and that the goals of the group are to make Long County a better place to live.
He said they hope to have more town-hall meetings in the future.