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Lee tables vehicle vote

LEESBURG -- Lee County firefighters and EMS personnel who use county vehicles to pick up meals during their 24-hour shifts got a one-month reprieve when the Lee County Commission voted to table a proposed policy change that would have halted the practice.

Commissioner Dennis Roland said such use of county vehicles was one of the reasons emergency personnel "wear out vehicles in two years that are supposed to last three or four years."

"I'm the most outspoken person wanting to amend this policy," Roland said during discussion of the matter at the commission's business meeting Tuesday. "I'm not trying to be hard, I'm trying to be efficient.

"Every time I've seen emergency personnel out in county vehicles and I ask them what they're doing, they always say they're picking up a hot meal. But I've personally seen them at ATMs, at convenience stores and I saw one person and his partner get out of an ambulance and go into a house."

EMS Director Bobby Watkins told commissioners he had no problem with amending policy to stop sit-down meals at local restaurants, but he asked that emergency staff be allowed to pick up food and bring it back to the station for consumption.

"Sometimes our people get off a 24-hour shift in Dougherty County and have an hour before they come on here," Watkins said. "Some of them don't have time to prepare or pick up a meal in that time.

"I think our people should have an opportunity to get out of these four walls during a 24-hour shift. And not everyone can cook ... I know I'd hate to have to eat my cooking. Plus, I think this is a morale thing."

After the discussion, Commissioner Rick Muggridge asked his colleagues on the board to table the matter.

"I appreciate what Mr. Roland is saying and I'm not saying that I disagree," Muggridge said. "But I'd like to ask that we table this issue until I've had an opportunity to find out more about it. I'd like to talk with our fire chief, and I'd like for Mr. Watkins to keep an informal log on how much non-emergency travel his personnel does between now and our next voting meeting (Feb. 23)."

The commission agreed to table the matter.

The board also voted to approve a $45,849.53 change order sought by

architect James Sheppard III to account for massive amounts of water that is delaying construction of the county's new fire/EMS station near Smithville.

Sheppard, a project manager with the Albany-based Yielding, Wakeford & McGee Arhitects firm, proposed excavating four feet below the building's slab level and placing surge stone and woven fabric to aid with drainage. Also, the slab would be raised a foot to lessen the chance of future water issues.

County Administrator Alan Ours told commissioners the project had exhausted its funding supply (primarily $538,000 in Special-Purpose Local-Option Sales Tax IV funds) for the station, but that abandoning the project and site at this time would be even more costly.

"If approved, funding for the change order will have to come from another source," Ours said. "But if we abandon this site, we'd have to redesign the building and go through the entire process again. Based on these factors, I recommend that we accept the change order request."

Commissioners voted to deny requests from Claude Brock that would have allowed him a variance for non-conforming agricultural use of land on Old Stage Road and from Cecil Humphries that would have allowed him a second driveway on his Glen Arven Drive lot. Since that driveway has already been built, the county must now determine what action Humphries must take.

The commission OK'd a rezoning application by William Alcorn for 3

acres of land on Middle South Road and approved Oxford Construction Co.'s low bid of $1,776,674.05 for work on the Robert B. Lee Drive/Lovers Lane Road/State Highway 32 truck route. The board also reappointed Troy Golden and Frank Richter and named Johnny Barthlien to one-year terms on the county's Utilities Authority.

Roland cast the lone vote against moving forward with exercising the county's option on 8 acres of land in the Oakland Plantation development to be used as the site for a new library. Testing of the soil at that site revealed a problem that will cost the county an additional $145,000 in dirt removal.

The commission voted to allow citizens with delinquent garbage bills to pay in installments.