ALBANY, Ga. -- Downtown Albany's Central Library will close Nov. 26 to prepare for a $5 million special tax-funded makeover, interim Library Director Mary Antoine told the Dougherty County Commission at a work session Monday morning.
Antoine said the library will re-open at a nearby temporary location on Dec. 3, providing as many of the resources it currently provides as possible at 114 N. Jackson St., which is currently being prepared for the changeover.
"We want our patrons to know our hours (at the North Jackson Street location) will be the same as the current hours," Antoine said. "The projected timeline (for the renovation project) is seven to nine months."
The Central Library renovation project is being funded through Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax VI funds.
Also at Monday's work session, commissioners were updated on the automated information telephone system at the Dougherty County Jail by Jail Director Col. John Ostrander. Ostrander said the jail's 60-day free trial period with the telephone system had ended, but he gave it high marks for effectiveness and efficiency.
"The plan was to use the system for 60 days to see if the reduction in workload would justify (purchasing) the system," Ostrander said. "The county anticipated 600 to 700 phone calls a week, but we actually averaged 800 to 900. And while the average rate of people who choose not to opt out of calls to this system is 70-72 percent, our rate was 82-83 percent.
"The system is handling 16 hours of workload a day, and that's two positions. If we utilize the system (full-time), we plan to eliminate one position at the jail and move another employee to an area that will better serve the public. If we reduce our staff by one position, that's a $34,000-$35,000 savings. The quote we've been given for the (phone) system is $24,000 a year, and while I plan to try and negotiate a better price, that's savings of at least $10,000 a year."
Ostrander said the automated system also had reduced average call times from 3-3 1/2 minutes to 75 seconds.
"It's doing everything it's supposed to do and more," he said.
Commissioners also heard a request by Albany-based Southern Ag Carriers President/COO Hugh Nall to enter into a 50-50 shared cost agreement with the county to petition the city of Albany to extend its sewer system 2,012 feet out Sylvester Road to meet the growing needs of the company.
"We started our business in 1991 with 17 trucks and seven employees," Nall said. "Now we utilize 250 trucks in the county and 260 outside the county. During the height of the peanut season, we employ 500-plus people. We've outgrown our process (in Albany) and had to open two offices in North Carolina and a dispatch service in Sylvester.
"For us to continue to grow, we need to expand the capacity of our sewer system. We're just maxed out right now."
Count Administrator Richard Crowdis noted that Southern Ag Carriers was looking to build or add on to its administration building and maintenance shop and add as many as 50 employees in the next two to three years.
Commissioners were also given updates by Georgia Forestry Department Chief Forest Ranger Tom Lambert, County Extension Coordinator James Morgan and by Thronateeska Heritage Center Executive Director Tommy Gregors on revitalization efforts at the historic Tift Train Depot, which was built in 1857.
"Even with the drought, fire activity in Dougherty County was very minimal," Lambert said during his report. "There were only 15 fires in the county during the fiscal year, and seven of those were debris burnings. I believe our citizens stepped up and took precautions."
The commission entered into an extended discussion over a Public Safety Committee recommednation to "take no more action, to leave alone" any discussion of combining the Dougherty County Police Department with another law enforcement agency, and the committee's suggestion that interim Police Chief Jackie Battle be given six months to run the department before commissioners consider looking at any other candidate for the job.
The discussion continued extensively despite County Attorney Spencer Lee's contentions that, commissioners "can't bind another commission not to discuss any issue; commissioners can discuss any issue they like," and that "your committing to a six-month contract with (Battle) makes the first recommendation needless."