In a meeting that started an hour late and with a mere quorum present, Liberty County commissioners Tuesday voted to impose a countywide fee to fund a fire protection system.
Chairman Donald Lovette was in place to start the meeting as scheduled at 6 p.m. as were Commissioners Marion Stevens and Gary Gilliard. But with four commissioners absent there was no quorum, the minimum number to conduct business.
Commissioner Justin Frasier, who was working a shift that ended at 6:30, made up the necessary quorum when he arrived shortly after 7. Commissioners Connie Thrift, Pat Bowen and Eddie Walden were absent.
The commissioners present all voted to formally approve the plans for countywide fire service to be funded by a fire protection fee. The commissioners had agreed to the plan at their planning session last month.
County Administrator Joey Brown reviewed the provisions of the plan including a start date in January 2019. The commissioners hope to include the fire protection fee on tax bills, as the solid waste fee is now. Fees to appear on next year’s tax bills need to be included on this year’s tax assessment notices.
“All property will be protected and all property will bear a fee,” Brown said, “It’s important to note this.” Officials have a draft schedule of fees that shows property valued at $50,000 would bear a fee of $46 per year and property valued at $1 million would be assessed a fire protection fee of $920. Brown said the average fee would be $138-$150 annually.
Brown said, “We will continue to rely heavily on volunteers, but it’s time to put some boots on the ground,” meaning paid professional firefighters who will work shifts for 24 hour-a-day, seven day-a-week. Brown said the county was studying a per call payment and other benefits for volunteer firefighters.
The commissioners plan to start a round of town hall meetings on April 6 to provide information on the fire protection plan and answer citizens’ questions.
While waiting for a quorum, Lovette recognized members of Scout Troop 581 who led the pledge of allegiance. Each Scout spoke to the commissioners on scouting and civics topics.
Karen Bell of the county’s Relay for Life fundraiser also spoke to the commissioners and explained the wear-a-hat event. Relay for Life Liberty County is asking everyone in the county to wear a hat in support of those affected by cancer and in recognition of Liberty County receiving two national awards, the All American Relay Award and the Per Capita Award from the American Cancer Society.
The commission agreed with a proposal by engineer Trent Long to use Georgia Department of Transportation multimodal grant funds for sidewalks. The $400,000 in grant will be matched by $125,000 in local money. Long said that sidewalks on both sides of Highway 84 would close the loop of sidewalks from Highway 84 to Airport Road and along Highway 196 into Hinesville.
Another GDOT fund, Local Maintenance and Improvement Grant, will pay for safety measures on the county’s roads and highways. Rumble strips, speed bumps and new breakaway signs are included.
The commissioners granted a 30-day extension on the Fox Lane project in Fleming. Long said the contractor had been slowed by rain and difficulty in locating telephone lines.
David Floyd told the commissioners about plans for the summer feeding program. Twenty-four sites throughout the county will host the eight-week program.
Tom Carmichael of the Carr, Riggs and Ingram CPA firm presented the audit of the county’s comprehensive annual financial report. The firm gave the county an unqualified “clean” opinion on Liberty County’s financial reporting for the fiscal year ending last June.
The commission selected two companies to help in its water system expansion with anticipated Community Development Block Grant funds. P.C. Simonton and Associates was chosen for engineering work and ALGA will administer the project.