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County looks at regional transportation program
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If Tara Jennings has her way, Bryan County might soon have a regional transit system available to all residents.

That’s just one of the goals she has as the director of Bryan County Special Services.

Jennings briefed the county commissioners about what’s going on with Family Connection during the commission meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 5.

The Regional Development Center is currently working to create a transportation system program that would incorporate all the coastal counties, slated for implementation on July 1.

Jennings said the RDC will soon be contacting the county about either accepting or denying the plan.

"As the director of these services, I would highly recommend you move forward with the plan," she said, noting it will allow the county’s current transit program to expand, while saving the county money.

Each county which participates will have to contribute funds to the regional program, but County Administrator Phil Jones said the projected costs for Bryan County in the first couple years is significantly less than what they pay now.

"This will provide much needed services to all the people of Bryan County, not just a particular class like the senior citizens or mental health groups," Jones said. "This would integrate all those systems out there and bring it under one umbrella…the intent of this program is to provide better regional transportation for everybody."

Currently, the county’s plan encompasses six vans that run six routes. Jennings said the contracts are taken up 98 percent of the time with the seniors and mental health patients.

"This would provide us a van pool, so we’d have more vans to use and it would provide us with much more flexible routes," she said.

The county said they would take her recommendation under advisement.

She also asked the commission to start thinking about the county’s teen center.

"The teen after school program and Richmond Hill center are doing well, but we’re expanding faster than the building’s four walls are," she said. "As you think about planning and you think about what’s going on in terms of the non-traditional rec, please keep the senior citizens and those teens who are not ball and bat children in mind."

Jennings said Family Connection has received a grant from the United Way for $15,000 for after school programs at Pembroke’s new community center. She said the extra funds will allow them to duplicate the projects they’ve got going on in Richmond Hill up in Pembroke.

Additionally, Jennings asked the commission to consider serving as the fiscal agent for the Drug Free Community Coalition, one of the programs she oversees with Family Connection, as they prepare an application for a grant that could provide up to five years of funding for the program. She said a commitment from the commissioners would help the county make a statement about being a drug free community.

"This project will mean drug free workplaces and schools. This will go into more than just information and awareness, it’s going to be environmental changes and public policy changes that will be asked of us over the next couple of years," Jennings said.

Gardner, who serves as a member of both Family Connection and the coalition, said he endorses the project.

"There is an alcohol and drug program in the community and we support this project," Burnsed said.

The commissioners unanimously agreed to serve as the fiscal agent for the Bryan County Drug Free Community Coalition this year.

Finally, Jennings gave the commissioners a suggestion for the county’s Comp Plan. After reading the plan, she pointed out there is nothing in it regarding heath, human and social services.

"Water and roads are very important," she said. "But if we don’t worry about our residents’ health, human and social services, we’re going to be in trouble. While it may not be a requirement, I challenge you to take the Family Connection plan and the things that we’re working on in the next three to five years, and incorporate those into the community comp plan, so it’s all-inclusive for all people."


In other business:

- For those in the community who aren’t aware of the county bus, Jennings said it is primarily for the youth, but groups in the community are welcome to use the 20-passenger bus as long as there are no scheduling conflicts. It requires a CDL driver with a ridership policy and the group who borrows it will have to pay for gas. Jennings said requests must come in two weeks in advance. "It’s not used very much during school months but during the summer, you’ve got childcare facilities using it on a regular basis," Jennings said. "It’s first come, first serve so if anyone is interested in using it for a trip or event, please call me and we’ll get you on the schedule." She can be reached at 756-3602.

- County planning and zoning Director Dale Dudley said he has followed up with the Demeries Lake subdivision. He originally gave the developers until Jan. 21 to make headway with the neighborhood’s drainage problems. On Jan. 21, he said no progress had been made.

He told the developer the county would take over from there on out.

"We’d charge him the cost to us, plus 100 percent," he said, noting he scheduled the work to take place mid-February. "Yesterday, I went out there and (the developer’s) working. He’s doing some grading and we went over some things to make sure he understood what I wanted, so I believe he’s going to have that done before we crank up our machines."

- The board approved the hiring of a new county recreation director, after interviews with five prospects. While the county rec committee, made up of Gardner, Toby Roberts and Jones, said all the applicants were very good, Kay Greene, who was previously the director in Tyrone, Ga., was selected.

"I’m very excited and ready to do the best I can," Greene said. "Tell me what you want and we’ll make it happen."

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