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County commission approves girls’ home

Denies retirement home

County commission approves girls’ home

County commission approves girls’ home

A group home for girls was approved Tuesday by Bulloch County commissioners, but a retirement home for senior citizens was not.

A number of people attended the commissioners' meeting at 5:30 p.m. at the Bulloch County Annex to voice concerns over each proposal.

Kimberly Williams was first to speak, seeking approval of turning a home on Ponderosa Road, in the Portal area, into a retirement home for six residents needing assisted living.

She told commissioners the home would meet all state requirements and no residents would be approved who suffered dementia or posed flight risks that could prove unsafe.

Williams said she wants to open the home because as a licensed master social worker, she feels Bulloch County is underserved in the personal care home area and would like to see potential clients "enjoy country living as we all enjoy it."

However, several neighbors, including Tyler Finch Jr., expressed concerns about safety and liability. Finch owns a large pond next to Williams' property and fears a wayward resident could encounter danger should he or she stumble into the pond, said Stephen Rushing, an attorney and spokesman for Williams' neighbors.

He said the "washboard" road, being more than 18 miles from East Georgia Regional Medical Center, would be a concern in case the senior residents needed emergency care. Because the neighborhood is also an agricultural community, heavy farm equipment and chemicals could also pose a hazard to residents, he said.

Attorney Michael Classens, representing Williams, countered by saying the road conditions and agricultural activity would remain as challenges to residents regardless of whether the conditional use request was approved.

Bulloch County Commissioner Anthony Simmons moved to approve the request, stating he agreed with the idea of senior citizens being able to enjoy rural settings in their later years. Commissioner Ray Mosley supported the motion, but commissioners Roy Thompson, Robert Rushing and Walter Gibson voted against the motion.

Then Thompson moved to deny the request. A similar vote - with Mosley and Simmons voting "nay" to the denial - ended in the vote of 3-2 to deny Williams' request.

The second conditional use request heard by commissioners was from Marcella Dickerson Jones, who hopes to open a girls' home at a residence on Shuman Road off U.S. Highway 301 North.

Jones said she has a degree in public health, is certified in CPR and safety instruction. She told commissioners that the girls, ages 13-17, would be supervised at all times, would not trespass onto neighbors' property and that the property will be fenced.

Tony Hodge, who will be the home's director, told commissioners the home's staff would work closely with local law enforcement and the Department of Juvenile Justice regarding the teens, whom he said would "respond better to a rural area."

But neighbors, including Gwendolyn Jackson, protested.
Having 10-14 teens and staff living in the home built for a single family would be "inhumane," she said.

Eric Bishop said he is concerned over jealousy issues that could arise between the girls and his children, who have luxuries the teens in the home will not have the same. Also, he said he has aggressive dogs he keeps fenced but is worried that the teens would stray onto his property and possibly be bitten.

Bobby Jones spoke up in defense, stating the property will have a privacy fence containing the teens, and said the home meets state regulations regarding space.

Commissioners unanimously approved the conditional use request.

Holli Deal Bragg may be reached at (912) 489-9414.



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