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BOC adopts reduced hours for convenience centers
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A resolution reducing the number of hours that the 11 convenience centers will be opened barely squeaked by when Chair Keith Ellis cast his vote to approve the change in hours at Tuesday night’s Newton County Board of Commissioners (BOC) meeting.

Commissioners Lanier Sims, District 2, and Commissioner Nancy Schulz, District 3, voted in favor of reducing the number of hours.

All the convenience centers will be closed on Sunday and Monday, opened Tuesday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and on Saturday from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. The reduction in hours of operation will save the county $129,000 until January, when the centers close. They will not go into effect until 30 days after public notice of the new hours is posted.

Despite the fact the BOC had come to a consensus on the closing of the centers at its July 12 work session, Commissioner J. C. Henderson, District 4, continued to object to the action, saying he thought a public hearing on closing the centers should be held. Many of the members of the audience shouted out their support of the idea.

Commissioner Levie Maddox, District 5, said he thought any savings reaped from reducing hours would vanish “with county personnel picking up trash” from the woods, side of the road or creek beds.

Before casting the tie-breaking vote, Ellis said, “This one has been beat up as much as it can be beat. As a Republican, I believe in free enterprise, but people fight change.”

Another tie breaker

Ellis needed to cast a second tie-breaking vote on whether or not to accept negotiated settlement of the Hay-Durden lawsuit, one of three suits brought against the county by Billy Durden and Sam M. Hay III. The case involved charges that the county had withheld some of the records Durden and Hay had requested pertaining to a wrongful termination suit filed by Durden.

Ken Robins, with Jarrard and Davis Law Firm, the county attorney, negotiated the settlement. The county would pay $10,000 to the plaintiffs via their attorneys, and the lawsuit would be dismissed without prejudice and with no admission of liability.

“It seems to me every suit we have come up, we settle on,” said Henderson. “I think in order to get some respect we have to decide to fight.”

He asked how much had been spent on the lawsuit to date. Megan Martin, a partner with Jarrard and Davis, said the case had cost $76,000 up to the time her law firm had taken the case over. “I can tell you, it’s cost a fraction of that since,” Martin noted.

Ellis, in breaking the tie in favor of settlement, said, “This is a victory for Newton County.”

Budget revisions submitted

Staff submitted the proposed revisions to the fiscal year 2017 county budget, bringing the budget down to $54,643,855. According to Michelle Kelly, county finance officer, the reductions leave a zero balance between income and expenses. She also said there was $462,097 in contingency funds.

The BOC approved the revisions. Copies of the budget will be available for review at the historic courthouse, and public hearings will be held on Monday, July 25 at 11 a.m. and 6:30 p.m., and on Monday, Aug. 1 at 6:30 p.m.

Ellis announced that Newton County had received the largest Local Maintenance and Improvement Grant (LMIG) from the Georgia Department of Transportation -- $400,000 -- for restriping county roads and repairing or installing some guard rails. The BOC approved a contract with Mid State Construction and Striping of Perry for $252,646.

In other actions, the BOC:
• Approved a resolution authorizing the chair of the Solid Waste Management Authority to propose recommended changes in removal of SWA members;
• Approved independent contract services for Southeastern Psychological Associates and View Point Health for the Resource Court;
• Approved a contract between the Newton County Senior Services and G. A. Food Services of Pinellas County, Inc., supplying food for home delivery;
• Approved a memorandum of understanding between Senior Services and View Point Health for transportation of seniors to and from the Turner Lake Senior Center;
• Declared a surplus of property from various departments ready to be sold on; and
• Approved a tax anticipation note to cover payroll and other payables during the lull between tax collection periods. County Manager Lloyd Kerr said the amount could be between $1 million and $3 million at interest rates no higher than 1.5 percent.