'Butterfly Kisses' granted new location

LEESBURG, Ga. -- Citing changes in leadership at a Lee County church, Traci Henry sought -- and received -- permission from the Lee County Commission to locate her planned "Butterfly Kisses" special needs play park on county-owned property during the commission's monthly work session Tuesday.

Henry, who received enough online votes to win a $50,000 grant from softdrink maker Pepsi to build the park with equipment designed for area special needs children, asked commissioners to grant her permission to build the park on Starksville Avenue near where the old high school football stadium is located. Recreation Director Eddie Dixon said contractors would have no problem fitting the park in the "3-3 1/2-acre" tract.

"I think (placing the Butterfly Kisses park on the Starksville property) is a great opportunity for the county and a great opportunity for the kids," Dixon said.

Henry had originally planned to build the park on land donated by Leesburg Church of God, but she said she now wants to donate the park and all of its equipment to the county.

"The (Starksville) location would be a convenient place to put the park, and there would be handicap-accessible restrooms nearby," Henry said.

Asked by Commissioner Dennis Roland about liability issues, Henry said as long as rubber mulch is properly located in "safety zones" in the park, there would be no liability issues.

At the close of the meeting, Henry asked the commission to expedite her request so that she can move forward with the project.

"Pepsi is after me to start spending the money," she said.

The decision to approve Henry's request at its monthly work session rather than its March 22 business meeting was one of three such votes OK'd by the commission.

Commissioners gave final approval -- after a public hearing -- to a request to rezone to C-2 land beginning at Ledo Road and Grand Island Drive continuing west for approximately 2,400 feet for the purpose of future commercial development and OK'd a request by Public Works Director Mike Sistrunk to provide $10,779.59 for equipment and software upgrades at the department's fueling station.

"This is not just a Public Works issue; this is for any department that gets fuel at our facility, including the city of Leesburg," Sistrunk said. "We have to change the fuel pumps and upgrade the software, both of which were first installed in 1998, and we need to do it as quickly as possible. If we had bad weather and it knocked out our system, we wouldn't be able to provide fuel for our vehicles."

Sistrunk also asked the commission to approve a low bid of $12,796 for a sand spreader. The bid, he said, came in $3,000 less than anticipated.

Roland asked the commission to consider asking the Department of Transportation to add a turn lane on U.S. Highway 19 at Lumpkin Road to cut travel time for residents in the area, farmers, emergency personnel and school traffic. Sheriff Reggie Rachals endorsed the idea, saying it would help with traffic issues at the location.

"I'd like to see us ask the state for a variance so that we can move the process forward," Roland said. "If there aren't funds now, we could at least get that part out of the way."

When Planning and Engineering Director Bob Alexander said state DOT officials had already turned down a previous request for a variance at the location, Roland said, "I talked with someone at the Tifton office, and they said they didn't see a big problem, that variances are granted all the time.

"I don't see why we don't look into it. All it would take is a little bit of time to write a letter and the cost of a stamp."