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Lee SPLOST agreement approved

LEESBURG, Ga. -- There are still a few T's to be crossed and a few I's to be dotted, but the Lee County Commission all but set the stage for a March 15 special-purpose local-option sales tax referendum Tuesday at its December business meeting.

The board voted 4-0 to authorize an intergovernmental agreement between the cities of Leesburg and Smithville and the county to collect the 1 percent tax for six years starting Oct. 1, 2013 and then OK'd a resolution calling for the March 15 ballot initiative that will allow voters countywide to decide whether to continue collection of the tax for specific capital outlay projects that will be listed on the referendum.

Commissioner Dennis Roland voted against approving the special election because of language in the proposed referendum that allows the county to authorize tax-anticipation bonds for up to $3.35 million.

"I'm not going to support any resolution that calls for us to borrow money upfront," the Smithville/Chokee commissioner said. "We got in trouble with that before."

County Attorney Jimmy Skipper said the wording of the resolution does not mean that loans will automatically be applied for with approval of the resolution but that the county will have an option of authorizing the bonds if money is needed immediately.

"That money would have to be paid back with the first collection of tax funds," Skipper said.

Also at the meeting, the commission agreed to the Personnel Committee's recommendation that the county renew its health insurance plan with Blue Cross Blue Shield. Chad Slaughter with J. Smith Lanier said the county plan is currently "operating slightly under budget."

"That's good news," Slaughter said. "I recommend you accept renewal of the current plan."

The commission held public hearings and followed, after no public comment, with unanimous approval of alcohol license applications at Winn Dixie, CVS Pharmacy, Beef O'Brady's and Wal-Mart establishments in the county. The board also voted to approve renewal of the 25 establishments in the county with either beer and wine off-premises (15), beer and wine on-premises (four), and beer, wine and liquor on-premises (six) licenses.

Commissioners voted to appoint Mike Sabot as the county's representative to the Southwest Georgia Housing Task Force, Angus Worthy as a member of the Elections Board and Robert Clay as a member of the county Health Board. They also OK'd Fire Chief James Howell's requests to exchange surplus firefighting equipment with the Sumter County Fire Department for needed equipment and services, and approved Howell's request that a 1982 pumper that "is no longer needed" be donated to the Oakland Fire and Rescue Unit in Buena Vista.

In other action taken at the busy meeting, the commission OK'd a $10,000 bid for a Code Enforcement vehicle; agreed to sell a small tract of land to New Hope Baptist Church for $10; and signed off on a $4,097.48 change order for the Smithville Fire/EMS

Station that interim County Administrator Al Crace said would allow the county to "close out that project."