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Long County Commission tables vote on health insurance
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There were no punches thrown at the Long County Board of Commissioners Tuesday night meeting, but the tension over insurance coverage that caused fisticuffs in June was still present.

Commissioner Mike Riddle, who last month was involved in a physical altercation with Commissioner Robert Parker, asked who authorized the payment of Parker’s insurance premiums and none of the commissioners and officials present said they had. 

Riddle, a former commission chairman, said he had not and current Chairman David Richardson said he had not.

Parker said the payment decision, “has been long established . . . it was approved years ago.” He added, “Ya’ll act like I found the money in a drawer and just took it.”

County Attorney James Smith told commissioners they are clearly entitled to participate in the county insurance plan. 

Richardson said commissioners could not give themselves a raise during their own terms, but Smith said the law makes an exception for health insurance. Richardson said he felt the $8,000 cost of health insurance was the equivalent of an $8,000 pay raise.

Smith told commissioners, “You can vote it (insurance coverage) tonight if you want to.”

There was no motion to approve the coverage, although the attorney reiterated that the commissioners had the authority to do so: “The statute is clear.”

Commissioner Clifton DeLoach moved to table the question until the next meeting, “so we can be sure to get all the facts.” The postponement passed unanimously.

The commissioners took several actions needed to launch Long County’s water system. P.C. Simonton Associates of Hinesville was selected to provide engineering services like assisting with documents, reports and evaluations needed for permitting the water system. 

The firm’s fees will be $16,200 and officials have said repeatedly that the water system will be funded by its users, and county taxpayers will not be paying for it. Parker voted against the contract.

In another water system action, commissioners received a draft ordinance for utility and water resources. Approval is expected at the August commission meeting.

The commissioners agreed to send out a request for proposals for an institution to provide banking services for the water system and named a committee to make recommendations on such selections for the water system.

The commissioners affirmed two recommendations from the planning and zoning board for two solar farms planned by Beltline Energy, one on Pearl Davis Road and one straddling the Long-Liberty County line on Arnold Drive. Richardson abstained from voting on the solar farm actions; the other four commissioners voted to approve.

Much of the discussion centered on plans for decommissioning the facilities when they are no longer in use. Ryan Sanders, representing Beltline, said the company’s contracts with landowners and utilities required that Beltline completely restore the sites, removing and recycling all materials. No bond is proposed to guarantee the eventual decommissioning.

Sanders said the solar farms produce only a low hum, a sound not normally audible beyond the plant’s site.

Joe Parker, Jr. can be contacted at   

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