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County considering Vinson memorial

ALBANY -- County officials moved closer to granting permission for a local citizen to put a bench in Riverfront Park commemorating a Sylvester man's heroism for trying to rescue two boys who were being swept away by the Flint River in 2008.

Cindy Porter, the mother of Ricky Porter -- a man who tried to help D.J. Vinson pull Joshua Perry and his brother Matthew Perry from the Flint River -- wrote a letter to County Administrator Richard Crowdis asking for the county's permission to place a memorial bench in Riverfront Park.

Vinson and Joshua Perry, 11, both died when, during the rescue attempt by Vinson and others, Joshua fell back into the river and Vinson dived in after him.

On Monday, Crowdis provided the letter to members of the Dougherty County Commission and asked for direction on the matter.

From a legal perspective, County Attorney Spencer Lee pointed out that the county doesn't have a uniform, objective policy regarding use of public property by private individuals when it pertains to erecting memorials, but said that the commission could elect to allow or disallow it without a policy.

Commissioner Jack Stone said he understood the lack of a proper policy on the matter, but that requests like Porters are so infrequent that he believed the Commission could go without one and, instead, judge each request on a case-by-case basis.

"It's such an infrequent request that I don't think we really need a policy on it. We just need to look at the merits of the project and decide if it's something we all agree to," Stone said. "This young man gave his life for a stranger and that has merit enough for me."

Chairman Jeff Sinyard asked the Commission for a consensus to allow Crowdis to get the technical information on the project -- like its size, scope and preferred placement -- and return back to the board for consideration.

In her letter, Porter asks the Commission for permission to place a granite bench that is about four feet long and two feet high and seated in cement.

"Myself and others in the community feel this is something we need to have in place in D.J.'s memory," she wrote. "... (T)his memorial would be a fitting tribute to a hometown citizen."

The cost of the project, between $800 and $900, would have to be born by Porter and others interested in erecting the bench, county officials said.

In late June, Vinson was posthumously awarded the National Carnegie Medal for heroism for his actions.

It's the second memorial that the county has considered recently.

Earlier this year, the county approved a request from a group of former and current Dougherty County Sheriff's deputies to erect a monument honoring fallen officers on the plaza of the Dougherty County Courthouse.