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County adding victims advocate
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County Commissioners approved spending $50,000 to hire a victim and witness advocate for Bryan County State Court as part of what will be only the fifth Family Violence Court program in the state, officials said.

Commissioners unanimously approved the measure at their March 9 meeting after a request from Bryan County State Court Judge Billy Tomlinson.

The request for the new position “is necessary carrying out the mandates put in place by the Victim’s Rights constitutional amendment, Marsy’s Law to inform, and include victims of crimes in the criminal justice process,” Tomlinson wrote. The new court is being created in response “to the increase in numbers of victims and families that have been affected by family related violence in recent years,” he continued, adding Bryan County’s Family Violence Court will be “the very first in Southeast Georgia, the first in any county south of Macon and the first in any non-Metro county.”

The victim witness advocate will “guide the victims and families to services through the program as well as strengthening the ability of the Solicitor’s office to prosecute and and punish offenders,” Tomlinson said.

Marsy’s Law is part of the Georgia Crime Victims Bill of Rights, approved by voters in November 2018 in a constitutional amendment. It became effective in 2019, according to the Prosecuting Attorneys Council of Georgia. The law is named for Marsy Nicholas, a California woman murdered in 1983.

 In other business: Commissioners approved a conditional use permit at its March 8 meeting to allow a solar farm intersection of Bacontown and Harvey roads.

 The property for the solar farm is comprised of two lots covering just over 74.18 acres with the solar farm portion set to cover just over 25 acres. The property is zoned I-2, general commercial. The company is Inman Solar, the owner of the property is Bob Floyd. 

“The applicant is also requesting a buffer reduction... the planning and zoning commission heard this at their February 15 meeting...with their their review at the February 15 meeting, they did recommend approval for the conditional use permit, as well as the reduced buffer requirement. “14 acres of the 25 acres would be for their solar farm equipment with the remaining 11 acres to remain undisturbed, planning manager Amanda clement told the commissioners.

The height of all the solar equipment will not exceed 7.5 feet, she said.

“I feel that buffers is something we heard a lot about having just gone through the UDO process. I’m not inclined for the reduction in buffer. It seems like a lot (100 to 50 feet),” Commissioner Brookshire said. for the State Court of Bryan County.

Commissioner Daniel agreed with Brookshire about the reduction in buffer requirement.

After some further discussion, the commission approved the conditional use permit but disapproved the request for the reduced buffer along the northern boundary of the property.

Other commission included: * Appointing Derek Cowart as Richmond Hill’s representative to the LVAP board; also appointing Sheriff Mark Crowe, Wendy Sims and John Rauback to the board. * Reappointing Joseph Pecenka II and Alex Floyd to the planning and zoning commission. * Reappointing Dr. Wallace Holland to the Bryan County Board of Health.

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