In other business, the commission:
• approved the superior court law clerk budget.
• approved a budget resolution to continue using the current budget until a new yearly budget is adopted.
• appointed Commissioner Willie Thompson to the Long County Board of Health.
• appointed Vicky Well to the Long County Tax Assessors Board.
• appointed Joey Edwards to the Long County Recreation Department advisory board.
At its first regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday, the new Long County Commission wasted no time in making several changes.
The board voted unanimously to begin the process of amending the county’s land-development code, which requires anyone who buys a tract of land to pay all the taxes on that parcel before they can acquire a permit to build on that property.
Commissioner Kent Hall said that in the past, some developers were issued building permits and began construction on homes despite not having clearance from the tax commissioner’s office.
Tax Commissioner Becky Fowler said that if the taxes were not paid, she never gave the OK for permits, which means they must have been approved by someone else.
In some cases, Hall said, developers were given special clearance to obtain a permit with the stipulation that taxes would be paid when the new purchaser closed on the home.
Chairman Robert Long said that no blame was being placed on anyone on the previous board of commissioners or the code office, but with this amendment, there no longer will be misunderstandings about when taxes will be paid. Long said the proposed amendment will need a second reading, and the public will have the opportunity to comment on it before it officially is enacted.
The board also plans to make changes regarding the county’s use of the Long State Prison crew. Long said he’d been contacted by the Department of Corrections about renewing the contract for the prison detail and, after conferring with authorities, he discovered that the county improperly used the prison crew in the past. Long said the contract states that crews only can work on county land and county projects. Previously, the prisoners cleaned some privately owned cemeteries in the county and also worked at the Long County Wildlife Festival site.
One community member who attended the commission meeting asked whether the change would apply to cemeteries where the county pays for indigent people to be buried and cemeteries that provide free plots to the public.
Also, since the wildlife festival is coordinated by a nonprofit organization that benefits the community, someone asked whether special permission could be granted to use prison-crew labor on the project.
County Attorney Jay Swindell said that if the property is owned by an individual, a corporation or any entity other than the county, the answer is no.
Long agreed to get clarification on the matter from the Department of Corrections, but said that judging from everything he had been told, the county would have to stop these practices.
After discussing the matter in detail, the board voted 4-0 to renew the contract. Commissioner Dwight Gordon abstained from the vote.
The commission also changed the county’s mortuary-transportation service provider. After opening sealed bids, the board voted 4-0 to use Parker’s Mortuary Transport, which is in Long County, and stop using Brown’s Mortuary Transport, which is in Wayne County.
Hall said the change came about because Parker’s bid was cheaper than Brown’s. The contract is for one year. Before the matter was discussed, Long excused himself because he said he has a relative associated with one of the companies.
The board also voted unanimously to change the hours of operation for offices in the county. Previously, county offices opened at 8:30 a.m. and closed at 4:30 p.m. Employees were given a half hour for lunch. Under the new guidelines, offices will be open from 8 a.m.-5 p.m., and employees will have an hour for lunch.
Long said the new hours will apply to all offices under the board of commissioners, except the road department and offices that operate under constitutional elected officers, such as the sheriff’s office, tax commissioner’s office, clerk of court’s office and the probate judge/magistrate’s office. The elected officers set those office hours.
The commission unanimously approved monitoring the usage of county vehicles by requiring a monthly operational log book be kept on each vehicle.