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Budget set, fire tax approved
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Budget and tax proposal discussions have finally been laid to rest for the upcoming fiscal year, after the Bryan County Commissioners’ set a couple more numbers at their meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 4.

Last month, the county’s millage rate was set at 6.911 mills, increasing it less than 0.5 mills from the previous year. The $16,629,010 proposed working budget was unanimously approved for the 2008 fiscal year. County Administrator Phil Jones pointed out $1.398 million is a surplus from previous budgets, carried over from the fund balance to help offset the additional tax increase.

The county had also been looking at increasing the fire tax to help offset budget shortfalls. Jones said the additional $25, proposed for fire taxable properties, will generate about $711,000. That money is equivalent to the operational budget for the seven fire departments, Jones said. The fire tax increase was passed unanimously.

In other issues:

- During public comments, Shelia Galbreath wanted to know what the provisions for the county’s newly created Impact Fee Committee are. The board explained it has to be a minimum of 50 percent developers, but could be 100 percent. The committee will work on the study of impact fees over the next three months.

"It just kind of appears that the same people are appointed to committee after committee," Galbreath said. "I don’t think people necessarily know they can call to ask to serve, much less know who to call."

Commissioner Glen Williard told Galbreath the board has trouble finding people to serve on committees, and she should send in names of any residents she knows are interested.

- Jim Anderson, director of Bryan County EMS, said the county did receive a $1 million dollar grant, but the actual county cut is $564,487. Bryan County was a "regional host" for the grant, so the remaining funds were shared among Ft. Wentworth, Pembroke, Thunderbolt, Effingham County and Rincon.

The grant is subject to cash match, and the county has already matched $62,721, leaving an additional $90,945. Commissioner Rick Gardner said it was high time Bryan County gets some benefits from a grant like this, and the request for the additional money was approved, coming out of county contingency funds.

- Neil Smiley, county engineer, gave an update on road work. Henderson Park Road has started with upgrades to comply with site plans; Manny English Road has been done, and the county is waiting for the DOT contract; Michael Larson Road should be done within the next week or so; Wilma Edwards Road is going to be resurfaced from Hwy. 280 to Bill Futch Road, with bids going out next week; Bellfast Keller Loop has been recommended to be widened by 10 feet on each side; and Harris Trail’s realignment has changed and is going to be extended.

Also, a preliminary estimate for a Hwy. 280 excel/decel lane has been sent in for review; the Industrial Park roads’ preliminary estimate has been approved; Hwy. 204’s new fire station just needs the final topping; and Pembroke’s connector road will have a DOT-funded traffic study conducted.

- Skip Youmans, director of Animal Control, said Animal Control currently runs on three ordinances: Bryan County, Richmond Hill and Pembroke. He wants to combine these three into one unified ordinance, updating registration fees, the definition of "dangerous animals," and leash law requirements. The board agreed a new ordinance should be created.

- Jones brought up the complaints from the OCRK in reference to the cleaning of watershed ditches and canals. He said the county was doing care maintenance and upkeep of the watershed canals.

"And what we were trying to do in that process was to make future maintenance and upkeep much easier and less evasive to maintain for county work crews. And they filed objections to that," Jones explained.

The Environmental Protection Division’s assessment of the site sided with the county, and against OCRK’s complaints. Jones said the county has done the right thing, noting he felt some of the OCRK’s expectations for the site were unrealistic. Commissioner Ed Bacon said since the county continues to maintain the requirements, everything should "continue on."

But EPD went back to the site, at OCRK’s request, and changed their requirements. Dale Dudley, director of Planning and Zoning, briefed the board on the new EPD ruling.

"The EPD has since contacted me, just recently, and said they have some issues I need to address, and I’m in the process of doing that now," Dudley said. "One is the issue of disturbing more than five acres at a time, the other is the issue of mass grading, and the third is typical erosion control measures."

- Pratt Lockwood, county recreational director, said two bids came back on the fencing for the county’s new recreation fields. He recommended black vinyl fencing from Central Fence, which has done the complexes at Richmond Hill and Hendrix Park.

Lockwood also discussed the bids for the lighting of the fields. He recommended Musco, whose total bid package was $218,628. Musco’s new lighting system, Light Structure Green, will allow the county to see how long the lights have been in use, keep track of which lights have gone out, and creates no up-light, "it’s all centered and comes back on the field," Lockwood said. Musco has also told Lockwood this bid will remain the same for additional recreation projects, and won’t be increased.

The board authorized the contract, pending approval by the newly created recreation committee – consisting of Commissioners Toby Roberts, Willard, and Gardner – since the fields lie within their districts.


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