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Commission meeting sees power play

A new group of Decatur County commissioners met for the first time Tuesday with a full agenda.

A number of county officials, appointed and a few recently re-elected, were in attendance to observe commissioners’ first meeting of 2009 and the first ever for Russell Smith and Dr. Charles Stafford.

David “Butch” Mosely, re-elected to a second term in November 2008, also joined commissioners Palmer Rich, Earl Perry and Gary Phillips in returning to the board.

The makeup of the new board played a factor in one of commissioners’ first acts of 2009, in the re-appointment of Rich as the board’s chairman and the new appointment of Perry as the board’s vice-chairman. The appointments last for one calendar year.

Perry, who succeeds Mosely as vice-chairman, narrowly gained the role in a 3-2 vote. After being nominated by Smith, Perry voted for himself, with the third vote coming from Dr. Stafford. Mosely and Phillips voted in opposition of Perry’s nomination.

The board’s vice-chairman becomes the acting chairman in the chairman’s absence. For example, if Rich were ever to be absent at a Board of Commissioners meeting, Perry could preside over the meeting in his place. Although the board’s chairman—comparable to the role Mayor Mark Harrell serves in at Bainbridge City Council meetings—cannot normally cast votes, he has the power to cast a deciding vote in the event of a tie vote between the other commissioners.

Two notable examples of a board chairman splitting a tie vote have occurred in local government within recent years. In February 2005, county commissioners were split 3-3 over the hiring of a new county attorney to succeed Harold Lambert, who resigned after a long period of service in the role. The deadlock was only resolved after the issue was brought up at a later meeting with one commissioner absent, resulting in a 3-2 vote.

In November 2005, the late Bill K. Reynolds, then mayor of Bainbridge, broke a tie 3-3 vote at the Bainbridge City Council over where the city’s marina would be constructed.

In his role as chairman of the Decatur County Democratic Party during the 2008 election, Perry helped support the campaigns of Smith and Stafford, who both ran as Democrats. Kelvin Bouie of Attapulgus took over from Perry after the election.

Board appointments made

County commissioners approved, by separate unanimous votes, the nomination of Capt. Liz Croley of the Sheriff’s Office to serve on the Decatur County Department of Family and Children Services board of directors, and the nomination of Dr. Charles Stafford to serve on the Southwest Georgia Regional Development Center’s board of directors. Stafford already served on the RDC board as the at-large representative for Decatur County, which is now vacant. Rich said commissioners will also seek to fill another vacant seat on the DFCS board, as well as a seat on a board that oversees administration of the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) for the Southwest Georgia Public Health District.

Other business

In other business, commissioners:

• Approved, by unanimous vote, the reappointment of County Administrator Tom Patton, County Clerk Beverly King and County Attorney Brown Moseley to their appointed positions. The three county officials’ reappointments was one of the subjects of an approximately 50-minute closed session commissioners held to discuss several personnel matters, Rich said.

• Authorized, by unanimous vote, the provision of up to $147,000 to SIPS Team USA, an industry at the for upgrading of its building and manufacturing capacity at the Decatur County Industrial Park. The money will come from the county’s revolving loan fund, which is designed to aid newer businesses through growth periods.

• Approved, by unanimous vote, to lease approximately 140 acres of county farm land to Kevin Rentz, who submitted the high bid of $19,600 per year, or $140 per acre, per year. The contract lasts for five years and may be opted out of by the lessee after each year, according to Patton.

• Approved, by unanimous vote, a resolution allowing the Southwest Georgia RDC to apply for and administer Rural Transit Assistance Program funds on Decatur County’s behalf. The funds are used to help subsidize the shuttle van service made available to county residents who need transportation.

• Approved, by unanimous vote, to permanently place the mileage reimbursement rate equal to the one the Internal Revenue Service uses to calculate tax-deductible vehicle use. The current rate of 55 cents for business mileage took effect on Jan. 1.

• Adopted, by unanimous vote, a set of fees for body art and piercing businesses permitted by the Decatur County Health Department. The rates were developed by the Georgia Department of Health as part of new regulations, Environmental Health Specialist Ansley Johnson said.

• Approved, by unanimous vote, a preliminary and final plat submitted by Craig and Steve Bush, who requested the subdivision of approximately 23.8 acres off Old Faceville Road into four lots.