Updated: Oct 28
By Deanna Ryan
On Monday, October 17th, at 6 p.m at 101 North Main Street, the Emanuel County Board of Commissioners met for their regularly scheduled meeting. Commissioners Dessie Davis, Hugh Foskey, James Canady and chairman Jim Sherrod were present along with county administrator Guy Singletary and county attorney Richard McNeely. Commissioner Keith Thompson was absent. The meeting was called to order by Chairman Sherrod.
The Emanuel County Unit of the Georgia Forestry Commission (GFC) has been busy. “Despite being short two rangers most of the year,” said Doug Claxton, GFC Chief Ranger, “We completed almost all of the plowing and burning that we had on our list.” Claxton was pleased to report the Emanuel County Unit finally has a full crew with Chatt Jones and Chris Garner being hired in December and May.
Claxton presented the 2022 Annual Report to the board. The local forestry management’s current activities include: protecting 306,529 forested acres, granting 287 permits for agriculture, 544 permits for silviculture (growing of trees), 396 permits for land clearing, assisting 34 landowners in the safe burning of 1,235 acres, assisting 60 landowners with plow firebreaks and 65 landowners with harrow firebreaks, selling over 125,680 seedlings, assisting in 194 forest management cases that included general advice, Southern Pine Beetle, invasive plant control; educating 20 communities and schools, and responding to a total of 397 calls with the Emanuel County Fire Department.
Special weather statements have been issued regularly for our area on high fire danger conditions due to low relative humidities. Yet as of July 2021 Georgia residents no longer need to notify the GFC to pile and burn yard debris. All larger burns, however, require permits. Chairman Sherrod asked if there were any rises in negligent burns due to changes.
“We want people to burn safely and responsibly,” answered Byron Haire, District Ranger for the State of Georgia. Haire reviewed the five rules: Have a pressurized water hose ready, have the fire secured - at least 25 feet from woodland areas and 50 feet from any structures with barriers around the pit, be in attendance, don’t leave it, and be aware of the weather. Burns should also only occur between sunup and sundown.
In new business, County Administrator Singletary discussed adopting the resolution to join all municipalities of Emanuel County in a planning process with the Heart of Georgia Altamaha Regional Commission to update its existing plan with a new joint plan called the Emanuel County Joint Comprehensive Plan, The Place to Grow. According to Singletary, this plan is needed for moving forward and meets the requirements established by the Georgia Department of Community Affairs unit the Georgia Planning Act of 1989. The resolution was adopted by the board and will be sent to the state for final approval.
The final item of new business was to approve the auctioning off of surplus equipment. “We don’t have a lot but there are a few things like a tractor and bush hogs,” said Singletary. “We want to get these things to auction and get them sold.” The motion passed unanimously.
Chairman Sherrod asked Singletary to share with the board matters of concern and progress with the senior center.
According to Singletary, when it comes to county emergency and recreational funding, the last item on the ballot is the most important. “I’ve said it for the last couple of meetings, if you support public safety, the Special Purpose Local Options Sales Tax (SPLOST) is full of public safety projects right now,” he noted. “Emergency vehicles, sheriff vehicles, ambulances, fire trucks… the biggest, most important item merges communications systems and probably the most money that has been budgeted in a SPLOST for recreation. The majority of those funds will be to rehabilitate existing systems get them in better shape and up to par because they are utilized a lot. That includes recreational capital improvements for both Swainsboro and Twin City Recreational Departments.” (See last item on the SAMPLE BALLOT in this issue.)
Singletary said he could sit for hours to discuss the rooftop and parking lots projects in the works. Instead he chose to focus on the Emanuel County Senior Center. It is 99.9% wrapped up and waiting on materials that have been ordered for three months to arrive so it can be finished. Sherrod noted the senior center is busy as can be, as evidenced by the filled parking lot Tuesdays through Thursdays. There’s more to the center than the building itself. “We talk about it being the Disney World for our seniors,” said Singletary, “when I get a call about a senior in need or distress who’s having trouble getting to town to buy groceries or having trouble taking care of themselves either from a concerned neighbor or themselves, the senior center handles those types of problems. They go in and assess and evaluate and get them partnered with a program that can help them out.” The goal of the organization is to keep seniors in their homes. “A lot of times there’s just a small barrier that keeps them from having to go into a nursing home,” he notices and by offering assistance with meals or transportation can serve the needs of the Emanuel’s seniors.