Contractors attend Lee library pre-bid

LEESBURG, Ga. -- At the end of each Lee County Commission meeting, the commission allows a prescribed number of citizens an opportunity to address the commission about issues that concern them.

Commission Chairman Ed Duffy took advantage of that opportunity himself Tuesday night after drawing criticism "in recent newspaper articles" from "people in the community" who have accused "me and the County Commission of showing favoritism to one developer over others in the county."

Though Duffy did not elaborate, he most probably was referencing a recent Albany Herald article in which fellow Commissioner Dennis Roland accused Duffy and other members of the board of favoring the Oakland Partners development group over others in the county while planning a proposed library/conference center.

"This is the furthest thing from the truth," Duffy said. "I can assure the people of this community that we do everything in our power to treat all developers fairly. We stand ready to help any and all developers in our county.

"I will say that I do support the building of the library/conference center and when all is said and done, I believe it will be an asset to Lee County."

As fate would have it, the controversial project, which is to be financed using $2 million in Special-Purpose Local-Option Sales Tax IV funds, $2 million in state bonds and $1.2 million in SPLOST VI money, was discussed during Tuesday's commission work session.

County Administrator Tony Massey told commissioners 13 contractors had attended a pre-bid conference Tuesday.

"Per SRJ Architects, bids are scheduled to be opened April 21," Massey said. "I plan to bring a bid for consideration to the commission's April 26 meeting."

Duffy and Massey also discussed the need for a compensation classification study that has been recommended by the commission's Personnel Committee. The county is expected to utilize the Mercer Group, which helped with the selection of Massey as county administrator, to do the study. Duffy said $40,000 had been allocated for the study.

"The last study that was done here in 2002 based its compensation benchmarks on some of the country's fastest-growing counties," Massey said. "If you approve a new study, it will be based on similar counties within an hour of here. We'll stay away from the Jacksonvilles, the Atlantas, the Tampas ... places that would spike our salary structure."

Instead, Duffy said, benchmarks will be based on similar area communities.

"We'll compare our salary structure to Mitchell County, Thomasville, Moultrie, Sylvester," the chairman said. "That will give us a truer picture."

Duffy also noted that while other area communities had furloughed, laid off, dismissed or frozen the salaries of employees, Lee County had increased employee salaries by 12 percent since 2007.

"We've been able to increase our employees' salaries by $982,000 in the last three years," Duffy said.

The commission also accepted a state Environmental Protection Division Watershed Award that was presented to Code Enforcement Officer Jim Wright at a recent meeting in Atlanta.

"Through all his hard work, Jim Wright brought this award home to Lee County," Planning and Engineering Director Bob Alexander said.