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Chambers County Commission to apply for Community Development Block Grant

LaFAYETTE — Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Chambers County Commission has been having virtual meetings for some time now. They may have had their final one this past Monday. With Gov. Kay Ivey’s statewide mask mandate scheduled to expire on April 9, the next commission meeting on Monday, April 12 is scheduled to be in person in the big courtroom in the courthouse. The room is large enough for ample social distancing but with the way things stand now, masks won’t have to be worn.

In their Monday meeting, the commissioners talked about an opportunity for the county to receive roughly $400,000 from the federal CARES Act. The funding will be sought through a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG). If it’s approved, the money will be spent on bringing broadband service to Fredonia and Five Points.  

Areas without broadband service cannot receive the internet. This placed school-age children at a huge disadvantage during last year’s COVID-19 pandemic when classroom instruction was being done virtually.

At 8:45 a.m. CDT on Monday, March 29, the commission will be hosting a public hearing to receive input. Afterward, they will have a special called meeting to approve an application that must be submitted by April 1.

The commission approved requests for on-premise alcohol sales. One is for the Southern Harbor Marina & Resort, which now has new management. West Point Aquatics LLC is the new owner. The second request was made by The Oaks, which will be having a concert on Friday, April 9.

County Attorney Skip McCoy said that the license for The Oaks is for the one planned event. A calendar for future events must be presented before future action by the commission is taken.

County Administrator Regina Chambers asked the commission to approve a request to purchase two new senior buses. Each bus costs around $60,000 with 80 percent of the cost being covered by grant money. It’s an 80-20 match with the county being responsible for $24,000 in the FY 2022 budget.

“This is something we need to do,” said Commission Chairman Sam Bradford. “Those buses transport elderly residents all over the county. Each bus has over 100,000 miles on it. Both of them need to be replaced.”

The commission unanimously approved the expense.

Also approved was a change order for approximately $4,000 to run a line from the county jail to the sanitary sewer system. Funds to cover the expense had previously been set aside to cover such an unexpected cost.

Cori Cook of the Chambers County Development Authority (CCDA) explained an abatement request being made by Norbord. There is a planned expansion at the Barton Mill plant that will include some pollution control equipment. The abatement is for a 10-year period and involves more than $45 million in property taxes and $33 million in sales & use taxes. Under state law, school taxes will not be abated.

The current plant presently has 122 employees.

Commissioner David Eastridge said the tax figures are for the 10-year period. 

Commissioner Debra Riley said the abatement does have a good side for the county. 

“It’s a commitment on their part to stay in Chambers County,” she said. “We need to keep those jobs here.”

The commission approved a one-year contract in the amount of $7,500 for Azimuth, a grant-writing company. Chairman Bradford said that representatives of the company had made two presentations to the commission. 

“We are fully aware of what they will be providing,” he said.

Commissioner James Williams encouraged everyone to turn out for this year’s LaFayette Day for Valley Haven School. It will be taking place on Courthouse Square in LaFayette on Saturday, April 10. He also urged Standing Rock area citizens to help out on a clean-up day that’s set for Saturday, April 17. Volunteers will be picking up litter along County Road 278, which runs from Highway 431 to the Georgia state line.

County Engineer Josh Harvill said the highway department will be accepting unwanted electronic items from April 5 through April 8. These items will be taken to the Farmer’s Market Pavilion in Valley on Friday, April 9.

“We thank the City of Valley for allowing us to piggyback with them,” Bradford said. “They don’t charge us when we take it there.”

Any electronic item with a cord will be accepted. These items will be recycled by an e-waste company.