By Jamie Gardner

On a split vote the Appling County Commissioners approved amending the FY2020 Budget at a meeting held on Tuesday, December 8. According to county records, the newly approved amended budget reflects revenue and spending of $21,303,543.00. The commissioners had previously approved the 2020 budget at $19,547,088.00. That’s an increase in revenue and spending of $1,756,455.00. The complete FY2020 Amended Budget is shown on page 8a.

Commissioner Daryl Edwards made a motion to approve the amended budget and Commissioner Charlie Leggett seconded the motion. Edwards, Leggett, Ronnie Rentz and Sarah Boatright voted in favor of the motion. Commissioner Theodore Wilkerson opposed the motion citing that he felt like almost $2 million was a lot of increase.

Interim County Manager explained that several items factored into the budget being amended. The county experienced growth in tax revenues, and he alluded to items like Dunn’s Lake, the Crossties/Ag Center Building, COVID related expenses, increase in election related staffing and materials, and an increase in Probation Department salaries as some of the added expenses.

Other business

Prior to the start of the business portion of the meeting, a plaque was presented to outgoing District 4 Commissioner Ronnie Rentz. Rentz has served a total of 16 years as a county commissioner and board members thanked him for his years of service to the county. Rentz expressed his gratitude to the commissioners.

Under public input, Miranda Taylor expressed concern to the commission over missing road signs throughout the county. Taylor asked board members how emergency personnel are supposed to respond to emergencies if there are no road signs. She also questioned why the county has to dig ditches on both sides of the road and stated that it makes it dangerous to pass other vehicles on dirt roads. Taylor concluded by asking why county first responders did not receive quarterly checks in November. County Chairman Mike Shumans told Taylor that the county has already started working on some of the issues she addressed.

The commissioners voted to approve custodial cleaning contracts with Deanna Howell and Grasshopper Pro Services for a term of one year. Howell’s cleaning service will be responsible for cleaning the Oak Street Complex-area buildings at a price of $28,210.00. Grasshopper Pro Services will clean the buildings located around the Appling County Courthouse and Annex buildings at a cost of $51,206.50.

Development Authority of Appling County Executive Director Keri Orvin presented a new bond resolution to the commission for approval on the Silicon Ranch solar facility. Orvin stated that there is no liability to the county. She added that the facility is complete and should begin generation in January 2021. The commission approved the resolution.

Board members approved the low bidder for Local Maintenance and Improvement Grant (LMIG) paving projects. Georgia Asphalt Producers submitted the low bid for $1,250,254.41. Everett Dykes Grassing submitted a bid of $1,363,589.07.

The commissioners approved the one and only bid for a new backhoe for the county shop from Yancey Brothers. The bid was $114,000.00 for a 420F Caterpillar, minus a trade allowance $25,000.00 for a 2008 Caterpillar backhoe, for a total cost of $89,000.00. The purchase includes a five-year/5,000 hour warranty.

Board members also approved purchase of a new Caterpillar 330 excavator from Yancey Brothers. This excavator will include a mulching head that will be used for cutting roadway debris, and high limbs, cleaning canals and assisting with road construction. Yancey was the only bidder and submitted a bid of $155,000.00.

There was considerable discussion once again over lighting for the Ernest J. Parker Park softball/baseball field lighting. Members of the Appling County Recreation Authority were present at the meeting and offered their support for the project including Jimmy Twiggs, Andy Tomberlin and Ann Singer. It was reported that the recreation department had gotten the contractor to lower his price by $7,000.00, bringing the total cost to $97,000.00. There was approximately $70,000.00 remaining in the recreation budget that could be used to pay for this project. It was requested that the commissioners consider spending the additional $27,000.00 to install new lighting on the field. The authority reported that the field would be used for adult softball and middle school practice and possibly for games. Commissioner Daryl Edwards stated that he would like for the item to be tabled until the commissioners could see a plan from the Recreation Authority on how the field would be utilized. Commissioner Leggett seconded the motion to table the matter. Commissioner Wilkerson then asked how long are the commissioners going to wait on this plan. Wilkerson added that he thought this was more about this particular park than it was about seeing a plan citing that the commissioners had just spent over $200,000.00 on other items with little to no discussion. Edwards stated that he would like to see a plan for converting some of the fields at the Appling Recreation Complex into youth fields and factor in how the Ernest J. Parker Park field could be utilized as a part of the recreation department’s overall plans. Recreation Manager Wilton McCall and Twiggs stated they would provide a plan to the commission by the December 17 called meeting. Commissioners Edwards, Leggett and Rentz voted to table action on the item. Commissioners Boatright and Wilkerson opposed tabling the item.

The commissioners voted unanimously to approve a bid from AAA Erectors in the amount of $68,900.00 for batting cage covers at the Appling County Recreation Complex.

Board members approved the 2021 Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) application. The CDBG would be used for an addition at the Head Start facility.

The board approved the 2021 Indigent Defense Service Agreement. The amount for the service is $110,275.24, up from approximately $108,000.00 the prior year.

The commissioners approved the purchase of new E911 software. This new software will replace the current E911 system that was purchased 15 years ago. The initial cost of the software from Southern Software is $134,618.00. There is an annual renewal fee of $17,000.00 annually for the software. The software can track county-owned vehicles if the county purchases GPS trackers to install on the vehicles.

A bid of $16,891.00 was approved to install 36 security cameras at the Appling Ag Center (old Crossties building). The bid was submitted by Twin Communications. Rozier reported that the facility will be used for jury selection and potentially for trials due to COVID-19 spacing requirements. The camera system will be paid for with CARES Act funds.

The commission approved renaming Manning Williams Road to David Williams Road.

Board members reappointed Commissioner Leggett to serve on the Development Authority of Appling County.

Mary Ann Rigdon was unanimously approved to serve on the Appling County Library Board.

The commissioners reappointed Andy Tomberlin, Carlos Rooks, Jimmy Twiggs, Leslie Griffis, Tori White and Ann Singer to the Appling County Recreation Authority.

Terry Turner was reappointed to serve as County Attorney for the commission.

The commissioners set the first Tuesday of the month at 5:30 p.m. as their official meeting date and time for 2021.

The 2021 Appling County Holiday Calendar was unanimously approved.

Commissioner Edwards was appointed to serve as the commission’s vice chairman for 2021.

Sheriff Mark Melton reported that the dog issue is something the county needs to continue looking at reporting that two individuals had been bitten over the past week. Melton said without a county ordinance, his hands are tied. He reported that road signs are an issue across the county and said his department is working on the issue. Sheriff Melton said that the signs are being stolen in many cases.

Wilton McCall reported that he had attended a state GRPA meeting and added that Appling County will be hosting five state tournaments next year including basketball, baseball and softball events.

Rozier reported that Ryland would provide dumpsters at county fire departments (except County Line Fire Department) from Christmas until New Year to allow for public dumping.

The commission will hold a called meeting on December 17 at 4:00 p.m. in the Commissioner’s Meeting Room on the second floor of the Courthouse Annex.