On Tuesday, January 4, the Appling County commissioners met at the courthouse annex at 5:30. After the pledge and the invocation, they approved the minutes for the December 7 meeting. Ryland’s request was tabled at the last meeting to give the commissioners meeting time with the city and with the business. The contract says that the county will provide 5500 customers per month and right now, it is close to 500 carts short. Also, Ryland has more than three hundred carts that are six months behind in payments. Ryland has asked for a 10 percent surcharge. Ryland sends out quarterly statements to the county customers, but the county must pick up any carts not paid for.

Leggett said if they could find some way to pay the unpaid bills, they could cut the surcharge back. They have considered adding the late bills to the taxes at the end of the year. They will continue to look at that possibility in a work session. In the meantime, they approved unanimously the ten percent surcharge.

Knicole Lee then reported on the COVID-19 crisis. They have infused 104 patients in the first quarter. She said thirteen people need infusion that day, but the antibodies didn’t come. They are supposed to receive 54 doses on Wednesday, but the other expected ones haven’t come. Sixty percent of the people they’ve seen have been vaccinated. She recommended that people stay six feet apart for safety reasons. They are the only free infusion facility south of Macon now, but they don’t have the resources.

“Now is the time to pray,” said Lee. “Antibodies wax and wane. At the six-month marker, they drop drastically, and even people who’ve been vaccinated are very sick. Just being vaccinated won’t ward it off. You cannot take a test for a specific variant. The test is for COVID. There’s no magic involved.”

They have a one-year HRSA COVID grant and take patients on a first-come basis. They must report every time they infuse. They infused another pregnant woman on Tuesday. They also sent a driver to Fitzgerald for one dose of antibodies on Tuesday as well. They could only get one, but it was worth the drive to get it. The government wants them to switch to another treatment, but they haven’t yet. They waited on the Fed Ex man today until 5:30, but he never came.

The commissioners then discussed the pool situations. Shumans said that very soon now we would be opening our new $2.4 million pool, and he thinks that’s sufficient for a town the size of Baxley. Commissioner Wilkerson wants to keep the Ernest J. Parker pool open too. There is a bad leakage problem with that pool, and they have spent about $170,000 for repairs since 2001. None of the experts who’ve come in to work on it have been able to stop the leakage. About five years ago, they spent another $40,000 on it to no avail. They’ve looked at prices for splash pads as an alternative for the pool; it would cost about $600,000 to install and wouldn’t require a lifeguard. Wilkerson said there have been two pools since 1963 and he’d like to see it remain so. March 1 is the estimated opening date for the pool.

Shumans pointed out that the imminent problem is what to do with the current Ernest J. Parker pool.

Doug Harris asked what the consensus of the commission was when this issue arose before building the new pool, and several commissioners said they didn’t discuss it. Boatright said they never really voted on anything officially.

Leggett said it makes more sense to put our money into one good pool.

Recreation director Wilton McCall, who’s been in parks and recreation for thirty years now, said that the EJP pool is going to cave in one day, but the new aquatic center will not accommodate the little kids. The depths are 4’6” and 8’ - far too deep for toddlers. He says we need something that will serve everyone.

They talked about doing a smaller pool on the side for the smaller kids, but found it to be too expensive, according to Boatright.

Rozier pointed out that they start cleaning the pools in early April, but they are having trouble getting supplies and parts so far. They’ve brought in people from Savannah.

Harris said the pool is unsafe so they shouldn’t throw away money on it anymore. We can’t open that pool, and Edwards agreed, saying: people voted for a pool for all, not to throw away money on two old pools. All commissioners voted to close the two old pools except Wilkerson, who said he opposed it because he is waiting to see what they will put in its place.

McCall said the splash pad they’ve looked at has 42 total features for kids from 3 to 18. It would cost around $550,000.00 and could replace the EJP pool.

Doug Harris asked where the money would come from, and Rozier said from the general fund. It would accommodate about 100 kids at one time. Harris suggested that they discuss it further in a work session. Leggett said it takes all the money we can come up with to run the county. They can’t put the burden on the taxpayers. They could make it a SPLOST item, but Edwards says that money should go to repair roads in the county, which are bad. They will discuss the situation further, but the EJP pool and Max Deen pools will be closed.

Under new business, Rozier announced that the Census is now complete, and the commissioners must approve the draft of the new voting districts for Appling County to send to Senator Blake Tillery who will then present it to Congress for approval. The commissioners approved it unanimously. They then set qualifying fees which is three percent of their base salaries. (Editor’s note: It has been brought to The News-Banner’s attention that the resolution signed by the commissioners stated that a public hearing on this matter was advertised in The Baxley News-Banner and a public hearing was held. The News-Banner has no record of the advertisement and to our knowledge no public hearing was held.)

The county owns 48 acres of land in Graham, which it rents out every three years. Niles Williams is offering $5,065.00 dollars for the next three years. The board approved unanimously.

Mark Melton reported that his office is short staffed as are other sheriffs’ offices. They do have a full staff for 911.

Chris Horton reported that lots of people have been out during the holidays for COVID and illnesses, but they’ve still managed to accomplish quite a bit. The heavy winds Sunday night (Jan. 2) brought down 22 trees that had to be moved. They had a lot of rain too and are working on ditches.

After executive session, Rozier recommended hiring Brandon Michael Steed for the building and grounds department. All approved.

Wayne Cannady commended the sheriff and talked about the redistricting lines, which he finds troublesome.

Rozier says they have discussed with their attorney doing a website to be maintained by the county. The county has replaced 75 of the missing road signs in the county, but some have been stolen already. The sheriff has promised to help with that problem. They are working to get more road signs, but like other things, they are backlogged.