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County to translate for Spanish speakers
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Some county notices posted in departments' offices and on the county's website will soon be accompanied by Spanish counterparts, after the Board of Commissioners approved a federally mandated Limited English Proficiency Plan.

Because the county receives federal funding, it is required to offer aid to Spanish speakers conducting county business. County Manager John Middleton said the need for the county to implement the program came out of a federal audit of the county's federal grants. The county receives about $2.6 million annually in federal funding.

According to the latest Census data, 3.6 percent of the county's population speaks Spanish or Spanish Creole; this was the only statistically significant foreign language. Other Indo-European languages are spoken by 1.5 percent of the county's population, but the data did not specify if there was any significant single language represented in that category.

In addition to posting some notices in Spanish, the county must offer access to interpreters through Language Line Services, an over-the-phone interpretation service that will cost the county $3.29 per minute. The service provides interpretation for dozens of languages.

Because contact with Spanish-only speakers is still infrequent, the county does not have to take other steps at this point. Key documents will be translated into Spanish as funding is available or when a specific need is identified.

Commissioner Tim Fleming was the lone vote in opposition, as he said the requirement gave him heartburn. He said Georgia adopted English as its official language in 1996, and he didn't feel the county should have to pay for translation services. Fleming said sometimes federal money isn't worth taking because of all of the strings attached.

Commissioner Mort Ewing was absent.

Middleton said the county will monitor the cost of the program.

County flooded with job apps, seeks to fight aquatic weed problem

In other news, the county was flooded with applications for some of its open positions.

Middleton said at Feb. 7's meeting that the county received more than 100 applications for a call center positions and 27 applications for a parts clerk positions. Information systems recently hired a Microsystems technician from the county's Geographic Information Systems department, so GIS is now interviewing to fills its spot.

The county is also reviewing bid proposals on a fish barrier for Lake Varner. Middleton said the county received the Department of Natural Resources' permission to install the fish barrier, which will help in the county's effort to fight its hydrilla - a nonnative invasive aquatic weed - problem.

The county is planning to add grass carp, which voraciously eat hydrilla, to the lake. Both hydrilla and grass carp are native to Asia. The barrier would prevent the nonnative carp from flowing downstream and eating other native plants.

The county is also reviewing bid proposals for a firm to create a Salem Road overlay. The county plans to eventually create a mixed-use, town-center center area in the Salem Road area, similar to the one the county created for the Almon and Crowell road areas