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County gets first look at FY 2014 budget

Dougherty County officials, from left, Commissioners Lamar Hudgins, John Hayes and Clinton Johnson, County Administrator Richard Crowdis, Commission Chairman Jeff Sinyard, Commissioners Ewell Lyle, Gloria Gaines and Jack Stone, and County Clerk Jawahn Ware discuss the county’s Fiscal Year 2014 budget during a business session Monday morning.

Dougherty County officials, from left, Commissioners Lamar Hudgins, John Hayes and Clinton Johnson, County Administrator Richard Crowdis, Commission Chairman Jeff Sinyard, Commissioners Ewell Lyle, Gloria Gaines and Jack Stone, and County Clerk Jawahn Ware discuss the county’s Fiscal Year 2014 budget during a business session Monday morning.

ALBANY, Ga. -- District 6 Dougherty County Commissioner Jack Stone says his two decades-plus tenure on that body has left him with a long memory. And he's using it in a quest to encourage Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital to continue its fiscal support of the county.

"I remember a time when Phoebe Putney would have probably had to close their doors if they hadn't gotten help from the county," Stone said after County Administrator Richard Crowdis gave the full commission a summary of the county's Fiscal Year 2014 budget Monday morning. "Now we're having to struggle, and we're calling on them to help us out.

"There are good people at the hospital, and I hope they'll do what's right and give us that discount again."

Stone's request came in reference to a discussion of the ever-increasing cost of running the county's jail. For the past four years, Phoebe has provided discounted health care service for jail inmates, a discount that typically has saved the county around $600,000.

Commission Finance Committee Chairman Lamar Hudgins told the board such a discount this year would help all but nullify a $1,660,054 draw from the county's fund balance written into the balanced budget.

"The Phoebe discount, and the almost $900,000 that will be returned to the general fund to pay off a loan we made to the county's insurance plan, would almost zero that out," Hudgins said.

Even with the emphasis on tightening the county's budget, Hudgins said the FY 2014 spending plan offers a number of positives that shows a slowing of recent spending woes.

"It wasn't too long ago we were talking about implementing five unpaid holidays, which amounted to a 2 percent pay cut," he said. "Plus we were having to draw from our reserves to balance the budget. This year, we're projecting around $740,000 to the good, even with an almost $1 million cut in expenditures.

"We'd love to say we're presenting a budget to you that includes pay increases for our employees, but we're not. To use a medical term, our budget has moved from the ICU into a room."

Also at Monday's meeting, the county approved an agreement with Twin Rivers Land and Timber Inc. to harvest trees on land at the Dougherty County Landfill. The Rebecca firm presented the only approved bid for the harvesting service.

"That concerned me, that we had only one bidder," Stone said. "So I did some checking and found out that what they've offered us is a very fair price."

The county also approved Oxford Construction's $637,368 bid for street and road resurfacing and OK'd ABL Management Services' $903,008.17 bid to provide meals at the county jail. The Baton Rouge, La. company's bid is the equivalent of slightly less than 72 cents per meal.