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Sheriff gets $20K annual pay raise
Steve Sikes
Liberty County Sheriff Steve Sikes.

Liberty County Sheriff Steve Sikes will get an annual pay raise of $20,125 after county commissioners voted Thursday to approve a monthly supplement of $1,677.

Sikes, in his second term, made a state-mandated annual salary of slightly more than $93,017 before the supplement, which took effect July 1 and  increases his annual salary to $113,142.

In a letter to the Liberty County Commission requesting the supplement, Sikes, whose salary as a constitutional officer is set by state law and depends at least partly on time in office and population, noted that law enforcement now deals with far more complex issues than it had in the past.  

“We are now faced with new problems including protection of government buildings, mounting terrorism concerns, and law enforcement protection measures,” Sikes’ letter said.

It said the state’s compensation rate doesn’t take into account factors such as the presence of a military base, “growth rates since the last Census count and other unique community aspects.”

As part of a salary study, Sikes provided commissioners with examples of counties in which the sheriff is provided supplements.

Tift County’s sheriff began receiving a S20,665 annual supplement July 1, but he was already getting a $12,000 yearly supplement for an annual salary of $98,654. Tift County has a current estimated population of 43,000.

Oconee County, which has a population of 35,500, pays its sheriff a $6,000 annual supplement. Richmond County, which is where Augusta is located and includes Fort Gordon, pays its sheriff an additional $16,500 annually to bring his salary to $126,500.Richmond County’s population is just over 200,000.

Sikes is among sheriffs urging the state legislature to enact a sales tax to bring deputy’s salaries in line with state troopers that earlier this year were raised 20 percent across the board by Gov. Nathan Deal.

In other business:
Commissioners took another step toward an enhanced 911 emergency communication system for the county. A $220,000 bid from LSP Technologies was accepted for the computer assisted dispatch hardware needed for the system.

County Administrator Joey Brown said, “This is the back end, the part that actually drives the 911 system.” Liberty County approved the 911 improvements as one of the projects funded with special purpose local option sales tax.

The commissioners accepted a bid from Palm Coast Construction to continue expansion of the county’s water system. Lines will be extended along Highway 196 and the Willie Dixon Road area. Palm Coast was recommended by Matthew Barrow of Paul Simonton and Associates Engineering.

Barrow explained that the bid was for $140,000 but only $81,000 remained from the U.S. Department of Agriculture funds granted for water system expansion. Barrow said that the contract could be reduced in scope and that the work would be done until all USDA funds were expended.

Bond counsel Jim Pannell told the commissioners that their bond issue last year for Liberty Regional Medical Center could now be renegotiated for a more favorable interest rate. Pannell explained that at the time the bonds were issued they were taxable because the county had already issued the maximum amount of tax-free bonds.

The commissioners agreed with Pannell and County Attorney Kelly Davis to place a new nontaxable bond issue with Ameris Bank with an interest rate of 2.06 percent. Pannell told the commissioners that the new bond arrangement would “reduce the exposure of the county in its agreement to support the hospital authority.”

The Liberty County Minority Chamber will work on minority business development and provide supplemental information to the county according to a contract for $1,000 approved Thursday. Commission Chairman Donald Lovette and Davis will work out details with the LCMC.

The commission started the process of abandoning a portion of Peavy Road near Allenhurst. Davis said the unpaved road serves no public purpose. Dryden Enterprises is building a subdivision near Peavy Road.
 Joe Parker Jr. and Jeff Whitten contributed to this report.

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