Following a prayer and the pledge, Jones County School Superintendent Jim LeBrun was the first to come before board members. His request was for approval of modifications to the plan for the entrance to the new elementary school being constructed on Turnerwoods Road.
LeBrun explained the change was due to a right-of-way issue and the alteration in the plan will allow for the entrance to be completed without having to purchase more property. The commissioners voted unanimously to allow the change.
Donald Wright asked the commissioners for a discount to rent the field at the South Recreation Center on Highway 49 for a fund-raiser. Wright said he needed two of the fields for a tournament to help raise money for an uncle who is terminally ill. The fund-raiser was scheduled for Jan. 24 and Commissioner Bert Liston suggested the rate be cut in half for the event, but the $50 deposit was required.
Commission members voted unanimously to approve the request.
County Administrator Mike Underwood told the commissioners about a letter he received from Jimmy Crutchfield about a property tax bill received on the Woodmen of the World building in Round Oak. The tax bill was received for the property for the first time last year. Crutchfield pointed out in the letter that the building is used by the county as a voting precinct and the Woodmen have never charged for the use of the building.
Crutchfield said, if the Woodmen have to pay property tax for the building, they will have to charge the county rent for using the building.
County Attorney Frank Childs said the building could be exempt from property tax but it would have to be by an act of the General Assembly.
“You can’t do it locally because they are not exempt from state tax,” he said. “I don’t know if they were ever exempt, but they were never billed.”
Underwood said the organization does not fall under the fraternal exemption because the company sells insurance.
Childs said the Woodmen could bill the county for rent on the building when it is used for elections but no agreement has been reached concerning the price. He said the Woodmen building is the only facility in the county used for a polling precinct that is not owned by the county.
The commissioners agreed to table the issue until more research may be done.
Commissioner Tommy Robinson brought up a problem with water on Highway 49.
“This has not just happened, but it’s an emergency situation for Kelly Road. We have 13 dwellings, a quarry, asphalt plant, and a church with a large attendance. They’ve been struggling for generations,” Robinson said.
The commissioner talked about one particular family with three children who have done all they can. He said some have such low water pressure the toilet cannot be flushed but once a day while others have water with extremely high sulfur content.
“We have people on fixed incomes that have to haul water. The quarry will be a big user, and the church has never had enough water,” Robinson said.
Commissioner Larry Childs said the board has discussed the problem before and he thinks the job should be contracted out so it can be done right away. Robinson said he has discussed the issue with Jones County Water Superintendent Freddie Wiggins.
Commissioner David Gault said he has brought up a similar water situation on Hitchcock Road in his district. He said those wells have contaminated water, and he has fought for three years to have water lines ran from Baldwin County.
“If we can spend the money for Highway 49, why not for Hitchcock Road?” he asked.
Chairman Preston Hawkins said the commissioners have been working with Baldwin County to resolve the Hitchcock Road problem.
“I understand that, but I’ve argued for another water source. Every time I bring it up, I get no attention,” Gault said.
Childs said the two situations are very different, and Underwood explained that negotiations are ongoing with Baldwin County. He said Milledgeville actually controls the water.
Gault said he would still like to pursue another water source because eventually an additional water source will be needed for water customers in Haddock.
“I’ve got to fight for my district. What’s good for one should be good for the other,” he stated.
Robinson said he has spoken to a Baldwin County commissioner and he was in favor of providing water to the Hitchcock Road residents.
Childs said he is ready to go on both projects.
Hawkins asked Underwood to set up a meeting with the Baldwin commissioners, and all board members asked to be included in the meeting.
“I would like to see both projects successful,” Liston said.
Planning and Zoning Officer Tim Pitrowski asked the commissioners about the rezoning of the Bradley/Wayside Auction property, which is the former Bradley/Wayside School. Pitrowski said the current zoning, Ag-1, does not allow all the uses needed for auction activities.
The commissioners voted to begin the process to change the zoning of the property to C-2, and they had a first reading of a resolution to amend Chapter 58 of the Code of Jones County. Underwood said the resolution is a cleanup of the driveway/culvert ordinance. The new text will replace the existing Chapter 58 Article II and Article IV of the Code.
Clerk of the Board Leila Brittain asked commissioners to move supply items to another storage area to allow for a new space to be used for a soil and conservation office. The plan will involve cutting a door to join offices, and board members agreed unanimously.
David Gault asked for the appointment of Maurice Kitchens to replace Alma Pounds on the tax assessors board, and Liston made the motion for the reappointment of Marion Hatton as chairman of the Board of Elections and Registration.
Hatton was appointed in 1998 and was actually due for reappointment in January of 2008. The county attorney said the appointment will be retroactive to that date.
Childs said a waterline discussed four or five months ago for River Bend Road is too long and needs to be cut back. Wiggins said he will work with Childs to get an estimate on the waterlines.
Gault thanked Recreation Director Bobby Wood and Public Works Director Laten Boniol for their help on a project at the convenience center in Haddock and he commended the fire department for its work fighting a fire on Fifth Road. He said an elderly couple lost everything, but no one was injured.
Liston asked the county attorney about progress in the Hampton Lakes subdivision. He said he continues to receive calls from residents.
Robinson said he echoes the gratitude for fire and rescue volunteers.
“Sometimes we take them for granted,” he said.
The commissioner also said he has been able to see first hand the work of the water department and public works department, and he is impressed.
Hawkins said he is grateful to serve the county for another four years, and he thanked the department heads for what they do. He also spoke to the commissioners about the chain of command.
“We as commissioners need to back off micromanaging. If we see a problem, we need to go to the department heads,” he said.
County Attorney Frank Childs agreed.
“That makes it more orderly and everyone knows the structure,” he said, and Larry Childs said using the chain of command helps avoid confusion and communication problems.
“We don’t need to be telling employees what to do,” Childs added.
Wood brought the final order of business to the commissioners, which was a $1,000 donation to the recreation department by Martin-Marietta. The donor asked that the money be used for the betterment of the county, and Wood suggested it be used at Liberty Park.