By Commission Chairman Walker T. Norman
January 12, 2023
Commissioner Tankersley, Commissioner Cliatt, Commissioner Collins, Commissioner Henderson, Clerk McKellar, County Attorney Jackson, County Constitutional Officers, Department Heads, and my fellow Lincoln Countians, it is with great pleasure and privileged honor that I give you my 31st State of the County address.
Freezing Weather Response Recognized
I once again want to recognize our department heads and your dedicated employees for all you do to provide the services that our citizens are accustomed to and expect. This year I especially want to brag on our Public Works department utilities and road division for working faithfully and willingly during the holidays. They were out working Christmas Eve, Christmas day and the day after Christmas, all holidays when they should have been home with their families. But due to the extreme freeze and a declared emergency because of frozen and busted water lines, they were called in to work in temperatures below freezing.
I would like to also thank Mayor Mike McCombs and the employees at the city water plant for working 24 hours a day for several days to keep our water tanks and customers with water. We were losing over a million gallons of water a day to burst water lines. Director Seymour, I salute you and all your employees.
To the members of the Board of Commissioners and staff, together we will continue to deliver to our citizens a government that is conscious of the people’s money that we use to fund the operations of this government in the most economical way that we can.
The County’s Public Safety employees, that includes law enforcement and jail, under the leadership of Sheriff Reviere, the Office of Emergency Services, Emergency Management, 911 Communications and Fire Departments all work 24 hours a day, seven days a week to protect the lives and property of Lincoln County citizens and those who visit Georgia’s Freshwater Coast. Work has begun on the County’s first Office of Emergency Services substation on Highway 220 West near the intersection of Wells Road. This station will house a full-time ambulance which will respond to calls in a new zone that covers the south and southeastern part of the county. This should reduce the call time so an ambulance can be on the scene quicker. This building will be completely paid for from American Rescue Plan Funds at a cost of approximately $600,000. We hope to be in this building by May 1, 2023.
Last year I announced that I would propose a full-time firefighter dedicated to Engine One located on Global Drive which is the headquarters for the county’s emergency operations. The commissioners voted to fund this position beginning in the second half of our budget year which began January 1, 2023. It is my intention to ask this Board for another position in the 2023-2024 budget for another full-time firefighter position to begin in January 2024. We will work with our four volunteer fire departments to better serve our citizens. I can’t thank our volunteer fire personnel enough for their dedication to our citizens. The county budgeted approximately $150,000 to our volunteer fire departments in 2022.
Agriculture Extension Building
Work will begin on the second phase of the agriculture building located at Rowland York Road adjacent to the Curry Colvin Recreation Complex. The Commission awarded the low bid for an 88’ x 140’ building that will become a new show arena at a cost of $228,000. Construction should start within the next 60 days. Total cost of this project will be approximately $500,000 with funds coming from a state grant of $300,000; United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) grant of approximately $90,000 and county funds through Special Purpose Local Obtain Sales Tax (SPLOST) of approximately $100,000. I would like to thank Senator Lee Anderson and Representative Rob Leverette for getting state money; without that this would not have been obtainable for the county.
As the Commissioners continue to communicate with cell service providers, the county received two new towers from Verizon that are now in operation. One located on Double Branches Road at Martin’s Crossroads and one tower one mile southeast of Lincolnton on the Augusta Highway. Another tower has been erected on Highway 220 West near Woodlawn that should be activated in the near future. This should provide much better service for the south and southeastern part of the county. We are continuing to ask for service in the north end of the county which has almost no cell service.
Lincoln Center Renovations
Last year the Commissioners voted to appropriate $70,000 for renovations to the 36-year-old Lincoln Center with funding from SPLOST 6. I am happy to announce tonight that the Leisure Services and the Board of Elections have both been temporarily relocated to the gym at the Curry Colvin Complex while the renovations are being made.
At the request of the Clerk of Courts Mandy Doss, scanning equipment was purchased at a cost of $76,000 with funding from American Rescue Plan for historical indexing of real estate records for the years 1923-1986.
Public Works and New Building Permits
The Department of Public Works under the direction of Director Roby Seymour performed 1,728 building inspections and issued 840 building permits: 85 new residential permits, up over last year representing $28,915,603. The average home built in Lincoln County in 2022 was $340,183. In comparison, new residential homes in McDuffie in 2022 was 69; Wilkes County 12; and Warren County 15.
Our utilities division, consisting of water and wastewater, acquired the Fishing Creek Water System consisting of one well and 22 customers. The Roads and Bridges division began resurfacing Price-Reese Road, Bass Road, Broad Acres and Thankful Church Roads. We started on Broad River Scenic Drive but due to the weather it was not completed; neither was Greenwood Church Road, and Graball Road. These roads will be completed in early Spring. We also crack-sealed Hephzibah Church Road, Lewis Family Road and Maxim Road. These projects were funded with Local Maintenance Improvement Grants (LMIG) and Transportation Special Local Option Sales Tax (T-SPLOST) monies, totaling $404,080.
The Office of Emergency Services under Director Casey Broom responded to 1,492 calls for service, averaging four ambulance calls a day, as well as 31 fire/rescue calls in 2022, which is down from last year. The Emergency Medical Services Division has maintained a yearly average response time of 8.38 minutes for ambulance calls and fire response time average of 9.32 minutes.
Recreation, Library, Transit Services
The Recreation Department under Director Letrellis Glaze, in conjunction with the Lincoln County Family Connection, sponsored a summer camp held at the complex four days a week in June and July serving 60 young people. For the third year the recreation department along with Gyp Hearst and others sponsored the Road Legends Toy Drive to help Lincoln County children experience a wonderful Christmas. The recreation department, along with Mrs. Keri Ball from Lincoln County High School, enhanced the life skills of special needs students by teaching different cleaning techniques. Director Glaze worked with Pop Warner and Little League to provide fields and other help in serving approximately 350 young people in the spring and fall. The recreation department also provides basketball during the winter months of January through March; soccer August through October, and will offer, for the first time, flag football March through June. We are hoping to add a new pickle ball court at the complex this spring.
The Lincoln County Library under Director Kerri Parton has proudly served over 13,015 patrons in 2022. The meeting room in the Dova Partridge Annex was used approximately 43 times this year for events that served the public. The Summer Reading Program had almost 380 Lincoln County young people participating. Patrons saved over $24,816 by using the library versus purchasing books.
The Lincoln County Department of Leisure Services Nutrition Division under Director Nancy Blount has been rebuilding this year after the COVID Pandemic. We are now up and running full force with numbers increasing daily. The change of food vendors for the hot meals was a challenge for Director Blount and her staff and we are looking forward to bringing hot meals back in 2023.
The Lincoln County Department of Leisure Services Transit Division has expanded services to include Augusta. The Transit Division carries clients to Augusta every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. Transit services are provided around Lincoln County, Wilkes County, and McDuffie County. Lincoln County Leisure Services Transit Division is open to carry all citizens of Lincoln County for your medical or shopping needs, regardless of age or income.
UGA Extension Service
Under the direction of Extension Agent Robyn Stewart, the University of Georgia Lincoln County Extension Office, 2,779 individuals sought assistance from Lincoln County Extension. The office had 67 site visits that were made upon request with 42 issues or concerns; 147 samples were submitted to the University of Georgia Agriculture Laboratories primarily for soil, water, and micro-bacterial testing. 59 educational sessions were taught in the areas of agriculture and natural resources; 33 additional events and programs were coordinated with assistance from the Agriculture and Natural Resources agent; 1,778 participated in programs representing international, national, state, and local audiences; 100% of programs showed an increase in knowledge of participants and intended behavioral changes to improve management practices.
The 4-H program has 157 participants enrolled and held 42 Core Club meetings in school; 30 additional opportunities were offered for 4-H’ers to fundraise, provide service, and learn about agriculture including: Farm Safety Camp, 4-H Horse shows, Farm Day for Pre-K, District Project Achievement, Summer Camp, Recipes & Reading, Farmyard Fun Summer reading, and Conservation Day for Youth. The Agriculture Center was used with over 25 events, meetings, and programs. Extension Agent Robyn Stewart was approved for promotion to Public Service Associate by committees at the district, state, and university. She also wrote 48 articles for the local newspaper as well as maintaining two Facebook pages and the extension website.
Tech and Media Services
The Technology and Media Services Department under Director Johnny Walton has begun upgrading, replacing, and standardizing the County’s networking equipment to provide better service, reduce downtime, and improve the County’s overall use of technology. The computer and data security has been significantly enhanced in recent months, with those efforts continuing in 2023. Also in 2023, Lincoln County Television (LCTV), formerly our community cable channel, will be reborn as our social media presence. Many Red Devil football games from the past two decades are now available on the County’s YouTube channel, with more to be uploaded.
A strong effort is underway to centralize storage of county records into one well-organized location at the County’s Record Retention Office located on School Street. This includes relocating records that have been stored in the Courthouse attic for decades. New surveillance cameras are now being installed that will improve physical security at the Detention Center, the gym, the Courthouse, and the other buildings and spaces.
Under the direction and leadership of Ernie Doss and Dawn Aycock, the E-911 Communication Department became a department of Lincoln County Board of Commissioners in September 2022. I will ask and begin working with this Commission along with Directors Aycock and Walton for major updates to the equipment and facilities. For the 2022 year 2,881 – 911 calls were answered, and 27,276 administration calls were answered for a total of 30,167 calls received by our 911 dispatchers, averaging 83 calls a day. Later in this meeting I will recommend to the Board of Commissioners that Dawn Aycock become the Director of Lincoln County 911 Dispatch Center. Director Doss will continue to provide administrative assistance and Director Walton will provide technology assistance.
The Finance Department under Director Ernie Doss has made major improvements to the Finance Department during the calendar year 2022: We implemented a new accounting system – ERP Pro 10 by Tyler Technologies, Inc. Tyler is a leader in government accounting systems. We have also implemented a new Employee Self-Service web portal that allows all county employees to access their pay and other Human Resources information from any internet capable device. Director Doss’s office provides grant management services to Workforce Development and Family Connections. He is currently rolling out web access to ERP Pro 10 for all Department Directors. When completely implemented in the first quarter of 2023, this access will give these managers real-time access to their budget detail. Director Doss worked with the Public Works Department to roll out customer self-service portal for web-payments for utility bills and upgraded the county’s merchant accounts and equipment to be able to take a credit card payment for almost all county-provided services. We are now taking credit card payments in the Water Department, Planning and Permits, Code Enforcement and the Commissioner’s Office and will be rolling it out to more county departments this year.
He is in the process of updating vendor files for the County’s 800+ vendors and has completed mandatory reporting for: United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Grants, American Rescue Plan (ARP) Grants, One Georgia Grants, Department of Community Affairs (DCA) Hotel/Motel Tax, Georgia Department of Audits – Budgets and Immigration Reporting. Director Doss has provided me with the year end balances for 2022 of all County funds: General Fund $ 4,633,152; Hotel / Motel Fund $ 61,316; Drug Education Fund $ 37,288; E-911 Fund $97,417; Family Connection Fund $ 92,647; Jail Fee Fund $ 21,620; SPLOST 6 Fund $ 530,042; SPLOST 7 Fund $ 808,066; T-SPLOST Fund $ 662,402; Solid Waste Fund $ 650,819; Water Fund $ 554,381; Law Library Fund $ 8,753; Workforce Development Fund $ 56,200 American Rescue Plan Fund $ 1,420,657 Bank Funds as of 12/31/2022 $9,634,763; Investment Accounts: Raymond James 6-month CDs $ 500,000; Raymond James 12-month CDs $ 1,100,; James 18-month CDs $ 500,000; Farmers & Merchants 12-month CD $ 28,160; Account Balances in Investments $ 2,128,160 Account Balances as of 12/31/2022 $11,762,923.
The FY2022 General Fund Budget was $ 7,329,649. The FY2023 General fund Budget is $ 8,311,056, which includes a one-time Federal funding for capital projects of $ 821,000, leaving a 2.19% increase over FY2022. FY2023 Budget for all funds is $ 16,137,835 as we begin the new year of 2023, I’m proud to announce once again that the county’s finances are in excellent condition.
As always, I’m honored for the privilege to serve as your chairman, and I look forward to working with each commissioner as together we continue to make Lincoln County a better place. May God bless each of you, and may God bless Lincoln County.