By Marla Ogletree

The Charlton County Board of Commissioners held a regularly scheduled meeting, Thursday, July 18. 

During the meeting, the board heard from Thad Wright from the Census Bureau on the formation of a Complete Count Committee. He expressed the importance of the census as funding for medical, education, Title 1, and more are based on these numbers. He stated there are concerns from citizens about the sharing of information, but says the census is completely confidential. No one will be asked for Social Security numbers, political preferences, donations, PINs, or any financial information. The census will also only be nine to ten questions, only using approximately ten minutes of your time. The form can be filled out online, but an 800-number or a post card would be available to those who are without internet connection. 

The bureau is working on a strategic plan to reach everyone. A national campaign will be launched in January of 2020, with the census set for April. The board has made a resolution stating the county will partner with the U.S. Census Bureau of Georgia and the City of Folkston (as Homeland has opted out) to support the goals for the 2020 census, to spread information, to encourage residents to take part in the overall awareness, increase participation, and achieve complete and accurate count of all persons.

Other Business

Commissioners reviewed the E&R spreadsheet from June 19; approved requests of use of the Folkston fire department for Tammy Lloyd, Lawson Lafferty, and Carla King; they also approved a variance request for Shanna Kidd, requesting to have a mobile home moved from her property to be replaced with a new one. 

The board accepted a bid for a new yard debris truck from Rush Truck Centers of Blackshear in the amount of $78,078.11. County Administrator Hampton Raulerson recommended adding a five-year, 150,000-mile extended warranty, making the price $80,878.11. There is a deficit of $70 from the SPLOST account, but the county will be able to use money from the regular budget to compensate the amount. The county will also trade out the old truck, which breaks down around once a month, as a part of the proposal.

A petition was filed by Sarah Sheffield for the abandonment of an alleyway in St. George. Sheffield owns two blocks of land, at .588 acres on each side of the alleyway, which she will combine to make over one acre. She then wishes to add a mobile home to the property. The cost of the alleyway is $700. Once approved a Notice of Intent to Abandon Alleyway must run in the Herald, and then a public hearing will be held. Sheffield’s mother asked the commission why the cost is $700, when others she has spoken to was only $350 or $400. County Administrator Hampton Raulerson stated the price is determined on the size of the alleyway. She also asked if they would  need to buy the alleyway since the mobile home will not sit on the alley way, the strip of alleyway only runs through the two properties. Raulerson said since they are wanting to move the home on the land, they would need to purchase the strip, as the board usually only grants these requests when there is an existing septic tank on the lot. She stated there was once a tank on the property, but hasn’t been used for a while. Raulerson stated he did not have that information. The motion was made to approve the petition, and was approved unanimously. Attorney John Adams said he would check into the titles of the property.

The board heard from the owners of C&B Mobile Homes, who were requesting an extension be made to the permitting process. The business is facing extra fines if the building is not finished and installed completely within 60 days. Betty Hodges stated they are charged the same fees as residential site builders, but are not given the same rights, and feels her customers are being punished. She asked the board to extend the permit period to four to six months. She told commissioners her daughter, Brittany, has contacted surrounding counties, who on average, allowed six months for the home to be completed before charging fees, while others offer extensions. She said the business has not been able to complete a job within the 60 days. Raulerson stated the county does grant extensions, as long as a request is submitted within a reasonable amount of time. Commissioner Drew Jones asked the family if the permit is required to close on the loan. They stated it does not. Raulerson said the permit process is made for moving the home onto the property. Mike Phillips asked the commissioners what it would hurt to extend the time from two months to at least four. Raulerson told the county would grant the extension as long as the applicant will work with the county. He recommended they wait to file for the permit until the building is completed, or contact Sarah Reynolds at the Permit Office to ask for an extension while waiting for the mobile home to be built. A call to make a motion was made, and the motion was denied.

The decision was reached by the commissioners to change their meeting schedule. The first Thursday of the month will be used as a work shop, and the third Thursday will be the regularly scheduled meeting. They also accepted the wellness report and discussed the updates on road projects within the county. 

Commissioners heard from Bill Allen, of Folkston, who asked about the Ralph Davis detour. Raulerson stated the earliest Ralph Davis Road would be closed would be September 1. The road can only be closed for 60 days before the contractor must pay for Liquidation Damage. Commissioner Luke Gowen stated he has spoken with congress about the on-site bypass, but for this project the government will not allow an onsite detour. If the county created an onsite bypass, the grant money would not be given to pay for the repairs. Commissioner Gowen stated he asked for an exception, and was told they would need to go through the Army Corps of Engineers, which would cause a time delay – forfeiting the project grant. Ronnie Pollock, with the Road Department, told the commission it would take three to four weeks to finish the bypass, as there is a lot of work involved in making it possible. Everyone involved is currently waiting on information for the Georgia Department of Transportation to officially begin this project. 

The board was addressed by John S. Quarterman, Suwannee Riverkeeper, who thanked the commission for the resolution they sent to Lowndes County for assistance with the fire in 2007 in Charlton County and for Charlton’s assistance in Lowndes County with the fire there in 2017. He also expressed his concern with Twin Pines Minerals’ intent to mine outside of the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. He asked the commission to request an extension on the public comment period for this issue. Chip Campbell, a member of the St. Marys Riverkeeper committee also expressed his concern for the mining. He stated the business has been generous with the information given, however there is more time needed to thoroughly review the assessment. They are awaiting hydrological data, but are reviewing the current information they have received. He stated there are other concerns he would like to discuss – specifically impacts on streams and tributaries leading into the St. Marys River. He also asked the commission to request an extension for the public comment period as there is information still needed, and not enough time for adequate review.

The county workshop will be held Thursday, August 1 at 6:30 p.m.