November 6, 2012 10:34:31 AM
In a position usually occupied by District 5 Supervisor Leroy Brooks, District 4 Supervisor Jeff Smith took District 1 Supervisor and board president Harry Sanders to task during Monday's board meeting. A discussion over school bus parking and recreational facilities quickly turned into a contentious sparring match.
Smith requested the county's road department and its manager, Ronnie Burns, provide some labor for some school bus turnarounds and pay for some repairs done to a driveway on Whispering Pines Road that is used for parking a school bus. All of the requests were from within Smith's district. Smith said he has previously received verbal support from Sanders on the request. But Smith claimed Burns went to Sanders about the project first and he accused Sanders of trying to kill the project.
"Was (the request) legal? Yes," Smith said. "Now it's up to the board should they wish to support it. I don't go into Districts 1, 2, 3 or 5. If I bring a project here, it is legal and in the best interest of my constituents. For one supervisor to try and stop a project in another district, I have a problem with that. I know Ronnie went to Harry before I was contacted. I deserve the same respect as anyone else. You (Burns) work for me. You don't work for the school district."
Sanders argued that payment for the driveway should come from the Lowndes County School District and not the county. He then submitted a counter motion requiring the county school board to pay for the driveway repairs.
"My wife is a part-time school bus driver for the county," Sanders said. "She parks a school bus in our driveway and it needs repairs. Maybe the county can come and fix my driveway? I think the school district needs to pay for this. If we pay for this, next thing you know we will have 50 school bus drivers wanting their driveways fixed -- I'll be the first one to ask for it. I need my driveway fixed."
Before voting on Sanders' motion, Smith said Sanders had agreed to support his request if the request was legal, to which Sanders responded, "Yeah, but I changed my mind. Having Ronnie Burns do the work and having the county school board pay for it is the best way to do it."
The verbal head-butting continued when Smith asked for some in-kind services from the county for the Plum Grove recreational facility. Smith's request was for the county to do the dirt hauling for the project.
I don't get it," Smith said. "It seems all of my issues are controversial because of the nature of them. Why shouldn't we do this project?"
Columbus-Lowndes Recreation Authority Executive Director Roger Short said the project was not at a point where dirt hauling mattered.
"I think we are putting the horse before the cart," Short said of the project that has $41,000 in county allocated funds and almost $10,000 in private funding. "We have about $50,000 set aside for this project including the private donations. Let's wait and see and get the bids and see what they say."
Sanders concurred with Short and urged the board to wait until the bids for the project have been received.
"The people who are in charge of this are the (CLRA) board and Roger Short," he said. They are an autonomous board appointed by the county and the city. We need to do what they say needs to be done. Until (the CLRA) comes to us and say they need 15 tons of dirt moved, we don't need to do anything until Roger Short says we need to get the ball rolling."
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