The Dawson County Board of Commissioners Oct. 4 voting session had commissioners discussing the proposed 2019 budget as well as accepting a $74,000 grant to aid victims of crime, applying for funds to fix the pier at War Hill Park and approving a legal assistant position for the county attorney.
First 2019 budget hearing held
The board held the first of three public hearings on the 2019 budget last week.
The only comments made by commissioners came from District 4 Commissioner Julie Hughes Nix, who asked that the Human Resources department consider moving the potential new position of an administrative assistant for the fleet maintenance department down in pay grade.
“That seems like an awful lot of money for that position,” she said. “Maybe look at the salary study and see if that can be reclassified, because I think that total package ends up being almost $59,000 for a secretary position.”
Sheriff Jeff Johnson spoke during the public hearing, stating he wanted to reassure the board that the two new patrol positions that Chairman Billy Thurmond has proposed would be patrol positions if allocated.
Thurmond said during his budget presentation Sept. 27 that Johnson could technically use the funds for any positions he chose because he is a constitutional officer, despite the fact that Johnson had previously stated the patrol positions were his number one priority.
“These would be uniformed officers on the streets,” Johnson said. “That’s where our greatest need is right now so that’s where we fully intent do place these positions should they be approved.”
Johnson also thanked the board for the effort that had been put into the proposed budget, calling it a step in the right direction.
“Looking at the other line items we feel confident that we can remain in budget with it,” Johnson said.
Also speaking during the public hearing was Tim Satterfield, who will take the seat of District 3 Commissioner Jimmy Hamby in January.
Satterfield said he would like the county to seek out more grants in the future as well as consider lease-purchases for some of the technology and capital items that go out of date fairly regularly. Having retired from the Dawson County emergency services department in December after a lengthy career in public safety, his main point was that the commission needed to look harder at salary and benefits for the emergency services personnel.
“The counties and cities around us are paying a lot more and these young people are leaving,” Satterfield said. “They like it here but they're leaving for higher salaries.”
County Manager David Headley said he had met with Emergency Services Chief Danny Thompson and Chief Danny Speaks and that the department is working to put information together about how Dawson compares to other counties. The sheriff’s office is also compiling similar information.
Two more public hearings will be held before the commission can vote to approve the budget.
The second will be held at 4 p.m. Oct. 11 and the third at 6 p.m. Oct. 18. All hearings are open to the public and will be held in in the second floor assembly room at the Dawson County Government Center.
DA receives grant to aid victims of crime
For the second year in a row Dawson County was awarded a grant that will help victims of crime in the county get compensation through the court system or otherwise.
The Dawson County District Attorney’s Office was awarded a $74,088.84 no-match grant to cover the salary and benefits of Katie Strayhorn, a Crime Victims Compensation Advocate in the DA’s office.
Individuals in Georgia who have been impacted by violent crimes are entitled to special services to help them take steps toward restoration. Advocates like Strayhorn ensure people who have been affected by crime know what resources are available to them and help them understand what to expect at different stages of the criminal justice process. They also coordinate witnesses for trials and attend all court proceedings with victims.
Assistant District Attorney Conley Greer presented the grant to the board.
“It’s something that we’ve been hoping for for a long time.This is yet another way that we might be able to assist our citizens that medical bills don't’ get paid, things of that nature,” Greer said. “(Strayhorn) is one of the most important human beings that I know. This grant has changed the way that we operate. It’s changed the game.”
The funding for the grant comes from the Prosecuting Attorneys Council of Georgia and the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council.
The board voted unanimously to accept the grant.
Parks and Rec seeks to replace pier
Parks and Recreation Director Matt Payne presented a request to the board Sept. 27 for the department to apply for a Land and Water Conservation Fund Grant from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources to replace the pier at War Hill Park.
“The pier is in kind of foul shape, it's’ a wooden pier that is in the weather and in the water and it has served a good purpose but it is time for us to really look at it,” Payne said.
On a 2008 inventory list from when the park was leased to the county by the Army Corps of Engineers, the pier already was listed as in poor condition, Payne said. The parks and recreation department and facilities department have been keeping the pier up, but Payne said that no further repair can be done.
“The pier is still very safe, it is out there and the public uses it a lot,” Payne said. “But when the next wave of boards need to be replaced or the next wave of railing needs to be done, there is just very little structurally you can do to repair it anymore.”
Payne said a good cost estimate for dismantling and removing the old pier as well as designing and installing a new pier would be around $115,000 to $120,000.
The grant has a 50 percent county match and the minimum award amount is $25,000.
The board voted unanimously to apply for the grant.
Legal assistant position approved
The board voted unanimously to approve a new position to help County Attorney Lynn Frey with administrative tasks.
The request was for $6,965.20 for the remainder of the year, with the annual salary of $30,547.