It was good news for the Gilmore Center last week when the Board of Commissioners unanimously voted to reinstate $25,000 of the $50,000 that was cut from the center’s budget for this year. The board also stated they would continue to review the budget to see if there is any way possible they will be able to fund the Gilmore Center the remaining $25,000 to bring their budget back up to $100,000. Jim Aaron, Executive Director of the Gilmore Center made a plea to the commissioners during the public comment portion of the meeting before the vote was cast, asking them to please replace the money that had been taken from the organization.
“I know there are times when cuts need to be made, but there are also organizations that need your support,” said Aaron.
After hearing of the organization’s budget being cut in half, the commissioners received much criticism from members of the community.
“I have been contacted by quite a few individuals and there has been some discussion on this board about the funding of the Gilmore Center,” said Chairman Rusty Blackston. “They are a very worthy cause. They have lost two employees (due to the reducing of the budget) and there are clients who look forward everyday to these services. This is something that is very much needed in our community.”
The rest of the board agreed that the Gilmore Center is very important and they needed to do what they could to continue funding the organization at what they had previously. Commissioner Frank Spraggins stated he would like to see the board fund the Gilmore Center what they have in the past.
“I know it is going to be a tough road, but we need to try to find the money,” said Spraggins. “If we end up in a problem, then we need to have a spending freeze and a hiring freeze; even if we have to do it early in the year and then really keep a good eye on things.”
Commissioner Steve Hudson suggested the board may have to look into furlough days for county employees to save some of the money needed. County Manager Jim Wheeless noted revenues are tracking way behind what they should be this time of year, but this typically happens and they should pick up around mid-year or later. He continued stating the budget is tracking as budgeted and there is a possibility that the health and life insurance will not go up as much this year as projected. However, a furlough day would save the county around $20,000 a day and Wheeless noted he had been asked by several employees, that if a furlough has to happen, that it not be used on a holiday. They told him they would rather have it on another day because they feel like they are being cheated by having it on a day they would already be off.
SPLOST revenues are also looking to come in about $2 million less than projected, according to Wheeless. Since that appears to be the case, he suggested the board look at combining the projects of fixing the Salem Recreation Center and the Eddie Collier playground in Potato Creek Heights. The board is looking into the repairs needed at Salem for the ball field in order to have the water to drain properly so it will be useable and fixing the roof on the building. For the Eddie Collier playground, they are looking to see if the playground equipment is in need of upgrading and possibly expanding the building that is out there. Wheeless noted there was money set aside for parks in the 2011 SPLOST and the board will have to review the costs of the projects to see what can be done.
Commissioner Steve Hudson told the board he would like to see bids be put out now for the paving of Hendrick’s Church Road so the road can be first on the list when paving season begins. Hudson noted the road was one of seven that were designated for paving under the 2011 SPLOST. Of those seven roads, all but four roads have been done, of which Hendrick’s Church Road is included. Hudson stated he estimates it will take around $400,000 to pave, which includes some re-patching since it has been so long since the milling and patching has been done.
The other roads that need to be completed are: Rocky Bottom Road, which will be on the 2014 LMIG (Local Maintenance Improvement Grant); Triune Mill Road, which was widened under the LARP Project and the first three miles are listed on the 2014 LMIG, leaving 4.5 miles to be done, and Boyt Road has 2.5 miles left to be paved. Hudson stated that in the past the prices for the roads have differed with different companies depending on which part of the county they were located, but he estimates all could be finished for around $950,000. In the 2011 SPLOST there was $4.3 million designated for the road paving.
Finally, the commissioners are looking into re-financing the GEFA loans the county has for the water and sewer system improvements, due to there being lower interest rates.
Ashley Biles can be reached by calling 706-647-5414 or on Twitter @AshleyBiles1