MILLEDGEVILLE — The second county work session Feb. 28 continued the Baldwin County Commissioners’ goal of open dialogue and citizen input. Recreation topic statuses, work session format and early progress discussion lead the board into Tuesday's 6 p.m. regular meeting in courthouse Suite 319.
• Community garden in the clear
Then-candidate Tommy French, District 2, alerted the board last September about a Knight Foundation grant award given to Live Healthy Baldwin. Dr. Jim Lidstone, Georgia College’s Center for Health and Social Issues director, requested the board allow use of the Harrisburg Collins P. Lee recreation center for a community garden on behalf of the Milledgeville Community Garden Association.
County attorney David McRee originally said Jan. 31 the community garden called for a recreational policy and procedures change. McRee was afraid the fees and exclusivity of the property use could set a precedent allowing a myriad of citizen requests.
Upon further review, McRee reported Thursday the current policy and procedures cover use of the facility by non-sports associations.
“Following the last work session, I reviewed the request on behalf of the Milledgeville Community Garden Association. I’ve gone through our recreation policy and procedures a number of times,” McRee said. “This past weekend I came to the conclusion that our present policy and procedures are adequate enough to cover the requests being made by the association without making any changes.”
The group can finally apply for the garden featuring a walking track and 20 plots available to anyone in the county. The recreation director and county manager Ralph McMullen, who maintain subjective oversight, would then review the request.
Lidstone expressed relief after hearing the positive news.
“It’s going to be a great thing,” he said. “I think you’ll be pleased with how it turns out.”
• County’s summer pool options look slim
Recreation program manager Cyndee Edwards informed the commissioners that Georgia College allows limited use of its pool facility during May and July.
To make due while the county figures the next construction step for the currently inactive county-maintained pool facility, Central State Hospital Local Redevelopment Authority (CSHLRA) executive director Mike Couch proposed Jan. 31 that use of the Central State pool could serve immediate recreation needs.
Considering a new pool layout costs more than $2 million while minor pool and bathhouse renovations run in the $800,000 range, this seemed to be the smart option.
The State Properties Commission plans to decommission an indoor 25-meter, 3.5-foot lap pool at Central State. A broken heating pump and filter separate the Americans with Disabilities Act-certified pool from full operation. These repairs cost an estimated $18,000, according to Edwards.
Commissioners are waiting on news from Atlanta legislative powers concerning possible CSH pool acquisition before any further steps are taken.
• Small steps are better than none
Responding to a citizen’s question about the county’s financial borrowing, several commissioners spoke Thursday.
“Unless we do something soon about expenses and revenues, nothing will be different next January when we look at borrowing again,” Henry Craig, District 4, said.
Johnny Westmoreland, District 5, said the board continues working with all departments researching money saving methods. Analyzing more specific monthly budget reports could find those precious extra dollars to put away, according to Westmoreland.
Currently, the board adopts the budget long before setting the millage rate each summer. McMullen wants the commissioners involved in an extended budget preparation process.
“Going through this process would let this board know exactly what goes in and what goes out,” McMullen said.
French discussed the difficulties bringing the county back to even footing. He said the low tax digest due to the unemployment rate forces the board to do more with less.
Nationally, people are exploring revenue-producing options. Baldwin County’s two-month old commission is moving slowly but surely, according to French.
“We have to change the way we do business. We are making small steps,” French said. “I can’t worry about what happened four years ago. We aren’t here just working our voices.”
• Work session suggestion
Chair Sammy Hall, District 3, said he liked having work sessions but suggested a different format each month.
“I think we’d be better served to have our work sessions prior to out normal meeting,” Hall said. “It’s been tough to set agenda for things that need to be handled quickly.”
The board agreed to look at switching from once a month starting at 5:30 p.m. to twice a month at 5 p.m. one hour prior to the regular gathering.
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