Sparks Fly As Lowndes Supervisors Meet

The Lowndes County Board of Supervisors met on Monday, Nov. 5 and voted unanimously to allocate $100,000 to the construction of a second concession stand for the Columbus Soccer Complex, but District 4 Supervisor Jeff Smith took issue with the board’s failure to allocate smaller amounts to projects in his district.

Columbus-Lowndes Recreation Authority Executive Director Roger Short told the board an additional concession stand would bring more restrooms to the complex and “alleviate (a) parking situation.”

“Everything was planned out properly,” he explained, responding to “negative comments” he heard about the facility. “We simply got to a point where there was no money and we have to move to doing things in phases.”

“There’s going to be some other costs,” District 5 Supervisor Leroy Brooks said of the complex, asking Short to determine for the board other costs expected to arise. “This is not going to be the end of it.”

“I’m very proud of what we’re doing, as a county, and kudos to the parks and (recreation board) for what you’re doing,” Smith told Short.

“Distasteful”

When Road Manager Ronnie Burns presented a request from the Lowndes County School District for the county to fix holes in a driveway where a school bus is parked, Smith complained that the supervisors discussed the matter “behind (his) back.”

Board President and District 1 Supervisor Harry Sanders noted the school district should pay for the materials; otherwise a dangerous precedent would be set.

“I’ll be the first one to want to do it,” Sanders – whose wife is a substitute school bus driver – said of residents asking the county to perform work on private property to fix damage from school buses.

“The whole process is distasteful,” said Smith, who sought an attorney general’s opinion on the legality of the county fixing the damage, noting elected officials were “intervening” in districts other than their own.

“I should deserve the same respect as any other supervisor in this room,” he said. “That’s not happening.”

“You work for me,” he said to Burns. “You don’t work for the school board.”

“I’m not going to go out there to do something without you telling me what to do,” Burns assured Smith.

The supervisors voted 3-2 for county crews to do the work and the LCSD to pay for the materials, estimated to cost around $50.

“It makes them have accountability in there,” District 2 Supervisor Bill Brigham said of the LCSD.

Smith and Brooks voted against the motion.

Smith also objected to the board’s reluctance to spend money in District 4 after he requested that county crews haul dirt in a Plum Grove project, instead of hiring contractors to do the work.

Weyerhaeuser had earlier donated 25 acres of land for construction of a baseball park, but the property is in an area which will require about 15,000 yards of dirt to level the ground.

“It’s going to cost the Road Department to haul it,” Sanders said, while County Attorney Tim Hudson estimated hauling the dirt would equate to about 600 loads.

“We’re forced to choose Peter over Paul,” Smith said. “This isn’t a standalone project. All I’m asking the county to do is step up and help.”

“Ronnie Burns and the Road Department have a budget,” Sanders said. “It’s going to take a lot more than $10,000 (for them to haul the dirt).”

“It’s always the money (that is an issue) when it’s a project someone else supports,” Smith said, reminding the supervisors they just voted to contribute another $100,000 to the soccer complex.”

“The needs Jeff and I have in our district are totally different than the needs you all have in your districts,” Brooks said. “West of the river, the quality of life is a little different. We’re spending $6 million on the soccer complex. What is good for other districts, ought to be good for Districts 4 and 5. If we’re going to make everything about the money, we’re going to suffer.”

Brooks also asked Brigham and District 3 Supervisor John Holliman to “speak up” during board meetings.

“I think that will cut down on the one-on-one appearance,” he added, referring to the perception arguments between Brooks and Sanders dominate board meetings.

“I really think maybe we’ve got the cart before the horse,” Short told Smith, adding $41,000 has been “set aside” for the project, but the cost to haul the materials is as yet unknown. “Let’s get these bids in first.”

“I can’t get any communication out of this board,” Smith said, suggesting a “planning session” so “we don’t have to have these discussions in public.”

“This board doesn’t want to sit down and talk to each other,” he added. “We’re having discussions in front of the public we should not have.”

“The board needs to listen to Roger and the CLRA,” Sanders said. “We haven’t seen a (project) request from the CLRA. It’s all coming from a supervisor.”

Kristin Mamrack is a veteran journalist who covers politics, government, and education.

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2 Comments on “Sparks Fly As Lowndes Supervisors Meet”

  1. Scorpio Says:

    “I can’t get any communication out of this board,” Smith said, suggesting a “planning session” so “we don’t have to have these discussions in public.”
    “This board doesn’t want to sit down and talk to each other,” he added. “We’re having discussions in front of the public we should not have.”

    Is a county supervisor that ignorant, that he doesn’t know that hiding discussion of a public concern behind some bogus planning meeting smokescreen isn’t legal? The meeting will still have to be open to the public. This sounds more and more like Leroy and company trying to use illegal tactics to hide what they’re doing from taxpayers. I thought Jeff Smith was smarter than letting Leroy drag him into breaking the state’s open meeting law. Harry, John, Bill or Tim should have brought up the fact that the matter could only be discussed in an open meeting. How about it Harry?

    Reply

  2. Bubba Says:

    Oh we can’t have open meetings here, that would suppress the supervisors right to foolishness and sweet deals. No, we can’t have that, no sir.

    Besides, it ain’t no biz’ness what we do. Ya’ll just pay your taxes, shut up, and don’t forget to vote for me.

    Reply

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