Lee board may use funds for radio system

LEESBURG -- Lee County commissioners have pinpointed a potential partial funding source for the $1.8 million 800-megahertz communications system they've guaranteed to emergency personnel in the county.

Bill Ross, vice president of the Atlanta-based Ross and Associates consulting firm, walked commissioners through a proposal at their work session Tuesday night that would allow the county to use $340,000 in impact fees to help fund the system first responders say they desperately need.

"There are funds from impact fees that have been sitting dormant in an account for a long time," County Administrator Tony Massey said. "We have a consultant who's helping us look for ways to fund the communications system, and this is just another potential source to help us pay for the system without pulling money from the general fund."

Ross called the move "housekeeping" and said the commission should draft an amendment to the county's current Capital Improvements Element for review by the Southwest Georgia Regional Commission, pursuant to the Georgia Planning Act of 1989. The Regional Commission would rule on the amendment within a month.

While discussing proposed transportation improvements in the county, Commission Chairman Ed Duffy announced that Lee had been awarded a Community Development Block Grant that will allow the county to pave Livingston Road. Commissioner Dennis Roland praised Planning and Engineering Director Bob Alexander for "having the county's road projects ready."

"That's how we were able to get this grant," Roland said of the HUD-sponsored $356,000 fund package.

Alexander then discussed the $50 million in road improvements that would impact Lee County if voters in the surrounding 14-couty region approve a 1 percent transportation special-purpose local-option sales tax in July. The region's Transportation Investment Act draft investment list includes improvements on Ledo Road, Westover Road, Forrester Parkway, Kinchafoonee Creek Road, Starksville Avenue, state routes 118 and 195 and sidewalk and bike lane improvements in downtown Leesburg.

"I'd like to commend Chairman Duffy, (Leesburg) Mayor Jim Quinn, Chairman (Jeff) Sinyard in Dougherty County and (Albany) Mayor Willie Adams for their work on this transportation list," Commissioner Rick Muggridge said. "I think we fared well on the list, and we should have. Dougherty and Lee counties are the economic engine of Southwest Georgia."

Alexander also presented two proposals from Georgia Power Co. through which the corner of U.S. Highway 82 and Hickory Grove Road would receive lighting. With an initial construction payment of $11,000, the county would pay a monthly $141.20 utilities fee for four 400-watt floodlights. With no up-front construction payment, the monthly bill would be $276.53.

"I think these lights will be very much needed once the library out that way opens," Alexander said. "Personally, I think finding money for the installation cost would be the prudent way to go."

Duffy said the county will seek help from its legislative delegation in trying and have the Department of Transportation reduce the speed limit at that intersection from 65 mph to 55 mph.

In an end-of-meeting public forum, Lisa Cox asked the board to look into complaints by several parents concerning school system textbooks whose definitions are printed in Spanish only.