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County approves budget
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The Dawson County Board of Commissioners has unanimously approved a $20.88 million budget for 2014.

The only amendment made to the original budget was to purchase an additional ambulance for Emergency Services.

Commission Chair Mike Berg had already budgeted for one ambulance, but District-1 Commissioner Gary Pichon made a motion to purchase an additional ambulance. District-4 Commissioner Julie Hughes-Nix seconded the motion.

Pichon originally recommended the additional estimated $150,000 come from the countys fund balance.

But Berg strongly discouraged taking the money from the countys reserve fund.

I would caution the board about spending fund-balance money when were right at the very minimum limit that good accounting practices tell us, Berg said.

If we go below that percentage, then we have to have a plan in place to say where the money is coming up to raise that percentage, and we dont have a plan in place for that right now.

District-2 Commissioner James Swafford amended Pichons motion to use money from the Solid Waste Enterprise Fund to purchase the additional ambulance.

The board approved the motion unanimously.

After the meeting, County manager Cindy Campbell said that based on research, the county should be able to move the money from the solid waste fund into the capital projects fund. As far as we know, we can transfer out of the solid waste fund to transfer to capital projects, Campbell said. All research weve done indicates we can use that money.

Pichon also made a motion for four additional sheriff patrol cars for a total of eight patrol cars. That motion died for lack of a second. The budget currently includes four patrol cars.

Public safety is a big concern to Pichon due to high mileage on patrol cars and repairs needed on ambulances.

The public safety is more important to me than (fund) balance in the bank at this point, he said. I realize we have to balance both of those things. We should really consider what the impact of that on people will be. Could be much worse than money. ... Rainy-day funds are for rain, and its raining.

Pichon also said he thinks the issue of safety trumps the issue of money.

These are critical safety issues, he said after the meeting. I feel very uncomfortable. Maybe Im wrong, but these are real issues and we ought to consider them.

The budget was unanimously approved with the addition of the ambulance.

Hallelujah. Thank you, Berg said.

The 2014 budget includes $75,000 to be restored to the Development Authority. It also includes $15,000 to be restored to the health department and $23,000 for a salary study, along with $72,000 to be used to bring county employees below a base-level salary up to base. To view a full copy of the budget, you may visit www.dawsoncounty.org and click on Finance under the departments tab at the top of the web page.

Also at the meeting, the commissioners approved:

To put into surplus a 1979 Seagraves Ladder Truck. The truck has been out of service off and on for two years, EMS director Billy Thurmond said. The truck will either be sold for scrap or placed for bid on the website www.govdeals.com.

Purchasing equipment shelters from MidAmerica Towers for $53,000. The shelters will house equipment for the upcoming narrow-banding radio project.

A Local Maintenance Improvement grant for $286,119.27 from the Georgia Department of Transportation. The county must match 30 percent of the grant totaling to $85,835.78. The county may pay for the match through in-kind labor and equipment.

An Off-System Safety Improvement Project Contract from GDOT. The $350,000 grant will be used for striping, stop lines and raised pavement markers for roads in the county. The grant doesnt require a match from the county.