The Charlton County Board of Commissioners gathered on Thursday, October 7 at 6:00 p.m. All members were present.

The board adopted the minutes from the August 16 meeting, and Chairman James Everett motioned to add “Pink Out Friday” to the agenda along with moving ARPA premium pay to the next item on the agenda. The board approved both items.

The board discussed ARPA premium pay at last month’s meeting on September 16 where it failed due to a split motion. Last month, Commissioners Luke Gowen and Drew Jones motioned that all public safety workers receive $1,500 of ARPA premium pay while Chairwoman Alphya Benefield motioned that all eligible employees receive $2,000.

At this month’s meeting, Benefield motioned that all eligible employees receive premium pay at the maximum hourly rate allowed, not to exceed $2,000. Additionally, all registered firefighters will receive premium pay at the rate of $13 per run, not to exceed $2,000. No public officials will receive premium pay. The motion passed.

Then, Everett was unanimously approved as the ACCG voting delegate.

The commissioners then adopted the 2021 rollback millage rate at 18.42, along with the Board of Education’s milage rate at 17.19.

Traders Hill Campground hosts Adam and Tammy Bell requested five percent of the fees collected from Traders Hill to compensate for upkeep and cleaning services. According to County Administrator Hampton Raulerson, the Bells agreed to three percent of the fees previously countered by the board.

The county received two bids for annual lawn maintenance from S and K Lawncare and More for $55,680 and Keene’s Landscape and Irrigation for $93,900. Raulerson recommended the board go with Keene’s Landscaping and Irrigation, which was approved.

The county also received three quotes for a roof replacement at the Vehicle Maintenance Shop; the replacement will also include roof insulation. One bid is from Gary Tippens Constructions at $21,923.36. The other two bids are from Platinum Roofing for $21,933.73 and Rooftec Systems for $42,250. The county put $15,000 in the shop’s budget for the project, and the remaining money will come from Building Maintenance. The board approved Platinum Roofing.

The commissioners approved further discussion regarding the pricing and financing of a new fire engine at the Georgia Bend Fire Station.

Raulerson presented an updated sick and vacation leave policy for 24-hour employees. The current PTO policy does not give 24-hour shift employees as much leave as regular employees, especially due to mandatory overtime. The proposed policy follows the previous PTO hours but remedies employees’ paychecks back to the normal amounts. The proposal was tabled for further discussion.

The floor was then open to public comments.

Pastor Antwon Nixon requested the board consider passing a pro-swamp resolution in response to Twin Pines Minerals. Nixon explained it would help protect the swamp’s natural resources if ever threatened. Other nearby counties like Ware and Camden have also passed similar resolutions in response to the Alabama mining company setting up in the Okefenokee Swamp.

Commissioner Jesse Crews stated he would never want to see anything bad happen to the swamp, especially as a Charlton County native. Crews encouraged Nixon and other resolution supporters to talk directly with representatives from the company, who had a booth at the Okefenokee Festival. Also, Crews clarified the proposed mine would not be directly located in the swamp but along its edge.

Jones mentioned a nearby mine, Southern Ionics, which provides jobs, insurance and 401Ks for its workers. It is located two-and-half miles from the Satilla River, and the county has never heard a complaint.

Next, Hermina Glass-Hill, a representative from the Georgia Interfaith Power and Light presented a letter mailed to Governor Brian Kemp. The ministry is dedicated to deepening people’s connection between ecology and faith. Summarizing, the letter states that more than 100 Georgia faith leaders oppose the proposed mine within the “sacred” Okefenokee Swamp and asks policymakers to put an end to the mine’s possible “desecration.”

Alice Keyes, vice president of coastal conservation with 100 Miles, also spoke about the Okefenokee Swamp; she spoke on discussions within other communities who have considered pro-swamp resolutions. She emphasized the resolutions are not anti-mining but rather pro-swamp.

With no further comments, Benefield wished attendees good health and luck in taking care of their families.

The commissioners went into executive session at 6:33 p.m. to discuss personnel and convened again at 6:40 p.m. with no motion passed. The meeting adjourned, and the next scheduled meeting is on Thursday, October 21 at 6:00 p.m.