Luke Singletary, left, is sworn in as new Lee County Commissiner by Judge Rucker Smith Tuesday in Leesburg.
LEESBURG, Ga. -- Luke Singletary, who survived challenges in both the primary and general elections, took his seat on the Lee County Commission Tuesday night.
Singletary replaces Betty Johnson, who did not seek re-election. Johnson normally would have served through the end of the year but decided a couple of months ago to end her term as soon as possible after the November election.
Singletary took the oath of office from Superior Court Judge Rucker Smith.
Another new commissioner, Greg Frich, will join the commission in January. Frich will replace District 5 Commissioner Bill Williams after defeating Williams in the July primary.
Singletary's first meeting was mostly uneventful, although he was appointed by Chairman Ed Duffy to serve on the County's Personnel Committee.
Meanwhile, commissioners learned that switching over to the county's new 800-MHZ radio communication system has been delayed by government red tape.
Larry Hill, the E-911 coordinator in Lee County, said the new tower for the system has been erected, radios have been delivered, testing has been conducted and training has been provided.
Hill said testing showed that Motorola's claim that the system would allow coverage in 95 percent of the county is accurate.
However, Hill said Federal Communications Commission regulations require that a county's radio system not project beyond its governmental boundary by more than five kilometers, so as not to interfere with another county's system.
When the antenna power was adjusted to meet that requirement, Hill said the coverage percentage dropped to around 85 percent. More importantly, Hill said it made communication with the north end of the county difficult.
Hill said the trouble area includes Smithville and a county EMS/fire facility on U.S. Highway 19 .
Hill said none of the adjoining counties, with the exception of Dougherty County, uses the 800-MHZ system, therefore the bleeding of the signal into those counties should not be an issue.
Lee and Dougherty will both use the same system in a partnership relationship.
Hill said he has obtained signed waivers from officials in Terrell, Worth and Sumter counties to present to the FCC. Hill is optimistic that federal authorities will allow Lee County to amp back up its antenna power after they receive the signed waivers.
A motion by Williams to give Christmas bonuses to county employees died for lack of a second.
Williams proposed a $300 bonus for full-time county workers and half that for part-time employees. He suggested using $140,000 that was not used to implement the new employee compensation study.
"Only 60 of our employees got an increase this year because of the compensation study," William said. "We've got 267 full-time employees and 69 part-timers so that's 276 workers who received no salary increase this year."
Williams said funding should be available because the County will receive an additional $400,000 this year under the new agreement to split Local Option Sales Tax revenue.
The tax digest will provide $230,000 more than projected, and expenses have decreased, Williams said.
After Williams' motion died, the commission did approve his next move to declare New Year's Eve a paid holiday. The vote is for this year only.
The commission also handled a series of IRS-mandated changes to its defined contribution plan, which provides a retirement fund for county workers.
Last month, commissioners acted to eliminate future County Commission members from its defined benefit plan.
The county bucked the trend in 2008 when it went to a defined benefit plan as its primary retirement vehicle. The plan is funded with county money rather than employee money.
The county also offers a defined contribution plan which allows workers to contribute to the fund tax-deferred. The amount of money taken from the fund is dependent upon the amount the worker contributes, plus the return earned on the investment.
The commission also appointed Winston Oxford and Jack Miller to the Joint Development Authority of Lee, Dougherty, Terrell and Baker counties. Oxford will serve a three-year term. Miller's appointment was for one year.