The Charlton County Board of Commissioners held a joint public hearing with the cities of Folkston and Homeland. This was the second of two required public hearings for the Comprehensive Plan Update with the Southern Georgia Regional Commission and Georgia Department of Community Affairs. Copies of the plan are available for viewing at www.sgrc.us.

Following the public hearing, the Board of Commissioners entered into its regularly scheduled meeting.

During the meeting, Finance/HR Coordinator Becky Harden announced the county has received $116,431.72 in CARES Act funds. She also shared the county applied for and was approved for $271,674.02, totaling $388,105.74, which will be applied to the general funds to compensate the higher call volume the EMS department has be receiving.

Also during the meeting, local resident Antwon Nixon addressed the commission in regards to park closing times, specifically the basketball court at Chatman-Mobley Park. Nixon stated he has been speaking to citizens who live around the park. He shared he has explained his reasons for wanting a 9:00 p.m. closing time to the residents, and they stated they would be fine with the time push. He also shared when he checked the temperature at the court around 6:00 p.m., it red 93 degrees. Nixon also suggested the start of a petition to push back the closing time as well as for speed bumps and a fence around the court. County Administrator Hampton Raulerson stated there is a petition that can be signed for the speed bumps which requires 70 percent of residents on the street to sign. Commissioner Alphya Benefield stated she will look in to pricing for a fence around the court and if it will be feasible for the county. She also shared there has been a lot of work done at the park, including shoes being taken down from power lines, a continuous fight against drugs, cleaning and renovations of the park, but there has not been any cooperation. She stated she never gives up on people, but she has grown tired of picking up trash and believes the 8:00 p.m. closing of the park has been beneficial. She shared she not only works for her district, but for the entire county. She expressed she has not given up on anyone and never will, but there have been improvements made over time due to the closing of the park and through working with local law enforcement. Commissioner Benefield told Nixon she will look into the fencing and will have an answer for him at the next meeting.

The board received bids for the caring of county-owned lawns. The contract will allow the recreation department more time to focus on its own fields and facilities. The apparent low bidder was S&K Lawn Care, for approximately $30,000.00 for the year on an as-needed basis. The company will work with the recreation department on a schedule. Commissioner Drew Jones asked if S&K Lawn Care carries the proper liability insurance. Raulerson stated proof of insurance would need to be presented before a contract is signed. Commissioner Jones also asked if the contracted price would be more feasible than hiring more personnel. Raulerson replied it would be a better deal than additional employees. Commissioner Gowen made the motion to approve the bid with the contingent on proof of insurance be presented.

The board also recognized the receipt of the Georgia Forestry report as well as the July 2020 Employee Wellness Report.

Local citizen Diana Humphries addressed the commissioners in regards to park closing times. She stated she and her neighbors around the park have no issues with the current closing time, as there have been no issues since the closing was put in place. She shared it has been nice to have peace of mind after 24 years of living in the neighborhood and those she has spoken to have agreed. She stated she hopes the board will continue to close the park at 8:00 p.m.

Charles Brown, also of Charlton, shared he grew up in the neighborhood and can remember playing in the park with Nixon, who he says is only asking the minimum of pushing back the closing time from 8:00 to 9:00 p.m. He shared Nixon has started a youth ministry and uses basketball as a way to reach the youth when so many are doing nothing.

Bruce Young, another citizen who lives near Chatman-Mobley also addressed the board expressing his agreement with Humphries.

Karen Stafford stated no one has spoken to her about the issue of the park schedule. She shared spends time talking to the youth who play there and feels the time is fine where it is. Her concern for pushing back the time is it causing youth to stay longer than 9:00 p.m.

Following much back and forth, Commissioner Jesse Crews suggested to end to topic of the park hours.

James Beard went before to the board in reference to the drainage issues near his home. He said there are issues with the road caused by these issues, as well as damage done by dams created by beavers. Commissioner Gowen stated thought there is nothing that could be done with the beavers, the county has been working with an engineer on the issue who has come up with a temporary fix until a more permanent solution can be made.

Commissioner Benefield thanked Recreation Director Larry Allen for all of his hard work, as she is aware of the extra struggles during this odd time. She also thanked Road Department Supervisor Ronnie Pollock for all his work. She also reiterated her love for Charlton citizens and her hatred for of the drug issues. She stated she has worked hard with the help of city and county law enforcement and will continue to do so for the people of Charlton County.

The board will meet again Thursday, September 5 at 6:00 p.m. in the BOC conference room.