The Appling County Commissioners held a called meeting on September 15 at the courthouse annex building. The agenda had two items listed. The first was the approval of the 2020 millage rate for the Appling County Board of Education, which requires approval from the board of commissioners since it is a countywide tax. The commissioner unanimously approved the millage rate at 13.602, which should generate roughly $13.5 million in tax revenue for the school system.
The second item on the agenda led to a split vote. The item concerned installation of new lighting at the Ernest J. Parker Park baseball/softball field. Interim County Manager Hayden Rozier stated the Appling County Recreation Department had obtained a bid for the project after advertising the project in March. The only bid submitted was from Trinity Electric in the amount of $104,260.00 to replace six light poles with new LED lighting for the field.
Recreation Manager Wilton McCall told the commissioners that he knew the lighting had not been replaced since 1991. He said at one time the field was utilized as an alternative field for softball and baseball by the department, but since the lighting has not been repaired, this is no longer an option. McCall also reported that the department attempted to put new bulbs in the existing lighting in 2017, but the poles and bracing for the lighting had deteriorated to a point it was not feasible to even replace the bulbs.
Commissioner Sarah Boatright asked McCall if there were funds in the recreation budget to install the lighting. McCall said that he did not believe there was enough funding to do the entire project.
Chairman Mike Shumans asked if games would be played on the field if the lights are fixed. McCall stated that he was not sure but added that he felt like the field could be used for practice purposes and could even be rented.
Commissioner Theodore Wilkerson stated that since COVID-19 has impacted the recreation department, they should have money remaining in the budget. Rozier explained that he believed there would be about 70 percent of the needed amount remaining in the recreation budget since the department has been hampered by COVID-19 and had not used portions of its budget as a result of no activity.
Boatright made a motion to install the new lighting at the field. Wilkerson seconded the motion. Shumans then called for a vote. Boatright and Wilkerson voted in favor of the motion. Commissioners Charlie Leggett, Daryl Edwards and Ronnie Rentz opposed the motion. The motion failed passage.
Commissioner Wilkerson stated he did not understand why the commissioners would not vote to provide lighting at the field. “We have talked about this issue in the past. The kids need this lighting, community needs this lighting.”
Commissioner Edwards stated that he would like to see the item added during the budgeting process.
Carlos Rooks asked for permission to speak and Shumans allowed him to speak.
“I am highly disappointed in the vote that was just made,” said Rooks. “Tax money should be distributed fairly and evenly. We need it for the kids now more than ever. When kids don’t have anything to do, they can get into trouble. There is a need for the lighting and we have been going years and years without lighting on this field.”