Finances impact Lee agenda

LEESBURG -- Lee County Commissioner Dennis Roland offered some sobering words to citizens who had come before the Board to complain about the condition of the unpaved Old Leslie Road at Thursday night's Commission meeting.

As Sam Johnson and Paul Cayton, who had appeared before the Commission to register the same complaint last month, continued to solicit a favorable response even after Planning and Engineering Director Bob Alexander had said the road was not on the county's current paving list, Roland offered a caustic solution.

"Maybe at some point we'll go out and borrow $200 million and pave every road in the county," he said. "Then see how you like your tax bill."

Discussion of the road that has taken a beating during the unusually wet winter was part of a busy work session for the Board.

Commissioners were also updated on the Southwest Judicial Circuit's grant-funded misdemeanor probation program, got a report on the county's logo by a local marketing firm and heard a request by an official with the local Rails to Trails program that the county take over development of an 11-mile corridor that goes through part of the county.

Blake Hill, who will coordinate the Southwest Judicial Circuit's Court Services Office, reminded commissioners that "every salary, every pen, every paper clip" that is paid for by the county as part of the probation program is reimbursed to the penny.

Deidra Langstaff with Langstaff Marketing unveiled a county logo and the tagline "Lee County: Life Works Well Here" during her presentation, and Bo Johnson with the local Rails to Trails group asked that the municipalities along the 11-mile corridor "from Armena Road to downtown Albany" develop the corridor as well as pay $100,000 in debt the group has built.

"I'd like to know, during these financially strapped times, if you as a citizen of Lee County would rather have Rails to Trails or fire and EMS services for the entire county," Roland said to Bo Johnson, who made the pitch for Rails to Trails.

The Commission heard a report from Alexander on proposals for a floodplain mapping study that the planning director said would "better define areas in the county that are prone to flooding." The issue was brought before the County Commission when the Leesburg City Council asked for help in funding the project.

"Betty's opinion is that we definitely need this," Commissioner Betty Johnson said. "A lot of the property that is affected (in Leesburg and Smithville) are not in areas that flood."

Alexander said bids for the study ranged from a low of $74,000 (by Lanier Engineering) to a high of $139,000.

Emergency Medical Services Director Bobby Watkins told commissioners his staff had driven four emergency vehicles in their charge 205 non-emergency miles during a 15-day period from Jan. 27 to Feb. 10. His report was requested when the Commission proposed last month a new ordinance that would not allow fire and EMS personnel to use emergency vehicles to pick up food at local restaurants or convenience stores.

"We've changed our policy so that they don't sit down and eat any food they pick up," Watkins, who opposes the Board's proposed ordinance change, said. "They bring the food back to the station."

Commissioners also heard a request by Fire Chief James Howell for $21,246 in funding for uniforms and decided, upon the urging of County Administrator Alan Ours and County Attorney Jimmy Skipper, to send out a new request for proposals to do janitorial work for the county.

"I think Alan is right; if the Board is considering going to a three-day service period, you should reject all bids and start the process over," Skipper said.