The Liberty County Commission on Tuesday approved $888,176 in paving-project bids and authorized the finance department to enroll in a bill-pay system that could bring in revenue.
The board accepted two bids for projects to improve Spencer Gaulden and Oak Hampton roads, an issue it tabled during the last meeting.
County engineer Trent Long said the projects will include asphalt paving, curb and gutter installations on dirt and gravel roads that currently rely on roadside ditches for drainage.
“Both roads have been on the paving list for the commissioners in their respective districts for quite some time,” Long said, adding that several residents live on both roads.
Located off Highway 84 near the McIntosh overpass, Spencer Gaulden Road is about a quarter-mile long. Its improvements will cost $237,501.02.
Ricketson Construction Company, out of Douglas, was the lowest bidder on the project. Because the county was not familiar with the company’s work, Long and county sales tax manager Lamar Tillman went and inspected some work and met with the company’s owner, Ray Ricketson.
Oak Hampton Road, off Highway 196 about a mile southwest of the Fleming Food Mart, is just short of a mile long and the first 500 feet or so previously were paved by the Department of Transportation, Long said.
The improvements to that road will run $650,675.83 and will be completed by the Brunswick-based Littlefield Construction Company, which previously has completed work for the county.
“I think these two projects ought to turn out looking very nice,” Long said. Weather permitting, he anticipates completion by next summer.
The board also authorized an agreement to enroll in an automated online bill pay to its vendors through Commerce Bank, a Midwest-based bank that works with the Georgia Hospital Association and other government entities within the state.
The solution allows the county to make automated payments to participating vendors in lieu of paper-based checks and creates an opportunity to increase revenue, according to the bank’s vice president of accounts payable, Sam Bradford.
The program will apply only to outgoing payments to external vendors and will not affect payroll or how citizens pay the county, finance officer Kim McGlothlin said.
“(There is) no risk to us, no charge to us,” McGlothlin said. “We would continue to do the same data entry that we do for a paper check. … When we go to process our payments, that payment to that particular vendor would go through the Visa terminal.”
The county still will pay vendors the billed amount up front, but the interchange fee — the amount charged by Visa to the vendors for using the system, roughly 2 percent — will be split between Visa, Commerce Bank and the county.
“Because the vendor is already accepting a Visa payment and wants to accept the Visa payment because they get it quicker and more timely and don’t have to worry about getting the paper check and depositing it and waiting for it to clear, they take the discount of 2 percent,” McGlothlin said.
According to estimates of vendors who already are enrolled in the Visa program, the county has the potential to receive between $20,000 and $40,000 in revenue over a year, McGlothlin said. McGlothlin did not present estimates of savings from the reduction in postage and mailing supplies because she did not want to overestimate the financial benefit to the county, she added.
Before voting on the proposal, the commissioners asked whether the program would affect the county’s relationship with local banks, whether it would cost anything additional to enroll and whether they could opt out at any time.
“Legally, I see no detriment to the county,” county attorney Kelly Davis said. “Everything that’s been said tonight is, in my estimation, accurate, so it seems like a no-risk opportunity with some gain.”
The program will not affect the county’s current existing bank relationships, and it will not eliminate the need for finance personnel, McGlothlin said.