Bulloch County commissioners discussed road conditions, the status of the new county annex and a new EMS/fire substation in Brooklet Wednesday during a noon workshop meeting.
Bulloch County Manager Tom Couch suggested further discussion regarding prioritizing road work.
He shared a list of more than 60 roads in Bulloch County needing repair or paving. Many road improvement projects are stalled by problems with getting rights-of-way, and he asked commissioners to consider whether they are willing to “invoke eminent domain” in order to get some projects under way.
Eminent domain is a legal way for governments to claim rights-of-way to property in the name of public good and improving public roads.
Several commissioners and staff members said they get calls and comments from the public about road complaints. Bulloch County Engineer Kirk Tatum pointed out that many citizens do not realize the many steps that must be taken to pave a road, including obtaining rights-of-way.
The list of road needs is daunting at times, and, “There are more candidate roads (for improvements) than there is money,” Couch said.
“It is very important to determine which roads we want to put at the top of the list,” said Commission Chairman Garrett Nevil.
“I think right-of-way (status) will determine which roads we will pave first,” Commissioner Roy Thompson said.
Commissioner Ray Mosley mentioned several bad roads in the northwestern part of the county and suggested looking into options to improve the worst spots. He said he has pulled several vehicles out of boggy roads and questioned staff members about solutions to the road conditions.
Tatum and Bulloch County Roads Superintendent Dink Butler both said frequent rains create bad road conditions in spite of efforts to correct trouble spots.
“It’s a constant battle. You have to have a certain amount of dry time for (dirt used to fix the roads) to settle in. It’s the nature of the beast – we have a lot of water sitting and we’re fighting that,” Butler said.
“I don’t think there is a magic bullet” to solve the problem, he said.
Commissioners agreed to discuss the road issues further after reviewing information Couch compiled.
New EMS/fire substation
Volunteer firefighters and a deputy fire chief, along with Bulloch County Emergency Medical Service personnel, are already manning the new EMS/fire substation in Brooklet, although its grand opening is set for Tuesday after a Bulloch County Commission meeting is held at Brooklet Town Hall at 8:30 a.m., said Bulloch County Public Safety Director Ted Wynn.
The substation is the first for EMS, although the Bulloch County Fire Department has several substations across the county. The Brooklet EMS/fire substation is referred to as Station 7, but there are only two EMS locations at this time; West Grady Street in Statesboro and the new Brooklet location.
However, the next step likely will be placing an EMS substation in the Portal area, Wynn told commissioners.
The new substation has already proven its value by slashing response time to emergency calls. One of the first calls the station had resulted in an eight-minute response, which would have taken around 22 minutes had the responders come from the Statesboro station, he said.
The new location “cuts time drastically,” Wynn said. “It takes 10 to 20 minutes off response times.”
The project has been in the works since 1993, he added.
The move was made “without impacting the budget,” by moving a crew from the Statesboro station to the Brooklet substation, he said.
“We’ve come a long way with the rural fire department,” said Thompson, adding that he credits volunteer firefighters, who get paid $10 a call, for the department’s success.
Wynn also spoke about implementing a new “long hose lay” firefighting system that will help lower the Insurance Services Office, or ISO, rating for many citizens, depending on their proximity to fire substations and water sources.
He said the county fire department recently purchased two new fire trucks at $479,000 for both.
Bulloch County Fire Chief Christopher Ivey said the budget for the purchase was $620,000. He proposed the remainder be used to buy air packs for firefighters.
Once the purchase of the trucks and air packs is complete, he added, the county will end up saving about $91,000.
Annex construction is set
Commissioners voted to accept a “guaranteed maximum price” from Lavender & Associates for $2,469,000 to construct the proposed new county annex building on a lot next to the current building on North Main Street.
John Lavender, who represents the firm, said the sum includes a $117,000 contingency amount set aside for unexpected issues. The contingency amount won’t necessarily be used, he said.
Couch told commissioners money can be saved by using the county parks and recreation crew to handle landscaping and by using funds transferred from the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax roads and bridges budget to pave and grade the lot.
Many Bulloch County businesses won bids for work on the project, Thompson said. The project has been in the works for a while. It has been more than nine years since the proposal for a new facility was first discussed.
“Most of the money for this project has been earmarked for years,” Thompson said.
“It looks like we have a good plan and some back-up action to make it work financially,” Nevil said.
Commissioners voted to accept the guaranteed maximum price Lavender quoted.
Holli Deal Bragg may be reached at (912) 489-9414.