Lanett receives four grants from USDA

Published 12:00 pm Friday, June 10, 2022

LANETT — Mayor Jamie Heard had some good news to report at Wednesday’s called meeting of the Lanett City Council. The meeting had been scheduled for Monday but was put off until Wednesday due to the lack of a quorum.

The good news is that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has approved four grant requests. Being sought are two new police vehicles, a street sweeper for the Public Works Department, three Ford F150 4×4 trucks for Cemetery & Grounds and a new John Deere tractor with a front end loader and 15-foot wing flex for maintenance at the airport.

The retail price for these items comes to more than $560,000, but with some significant help from the grants, the city can acquire this much-needed equipment at an expense of $227,168.

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“That’s a savings to the city of $334,014 for something we really need,” Mayor Heard said. “The street sweeper is already in operation. The tractor has been delivered to the airport, where it will be keeping the grass cut. The patrol cars are being retrofitted with police equipment, and the trucks are in process of being delivered.”

The new vehicles, said the mayor, will be replacing some aging service vehicles.

“Several months ago, I met with the department heads to discuss their most pressing needs,” Heard said. “They identified what was most needed and since then, we have aggressively pursued federal and state grants to help meet those needs. We will do what we need to do to help our departments.”

The mayor thanked Police Chief Johnny Wood for the work he did in writing the grant requests.

The council approved a resolution to use a little over $100,000 in American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds to purchase 14 self-contained breathing apparatus units and four sets of turnout gear for the Lanett Fire & EMS Department. Chief Johnny Allen explained why the new equipment was needed.

“We are at the point where we need to have new equipment,” he said. “Some of this equipment is over 20 years old and the newest is 12 years old. We have been piecemealing this equipment to keep it together. Some of the turnout gear has been torn over time. It’s not to the point where we would put our guys in danger, but we do need new ones. The new items are custom fit. What we have is not.”

The purchased items meet all the criteria of personal protective equipment, commonly known as PPE.

The breathing apparatus units cost just under $6,500 each. The turnout gear is priced at a little over $2,500 each. This new gear will provide maximum safety for firefighters who enter buildings where the air is not safe to breathe.

It is recommended that the breathing units be replaced after ten years of use.

“The newest unit we have is 12 years old,” Chief Allen said. “We have been having a certified company do inspections and repairs for us each year since 2016. During the last inspection, they told us that they could not repair them and that they had to be replaced.”

The new units will cost a little more than $90,000. The city has these ARP funds, which can be used for this since it covers the cost of life-saving equipment.

The turnout gear will cost just over $10,000.

“One of the biggest pushes for the American Rescue Plan funds has always been for PPE,” Allen said.

In other action, the council approved a resolution seeking a grant for the purchase of two high-rise transit vans, one for the Lanett Senior Center and one for the Lanett Recreation Department.

The current buses in use have some advanced age on them and need to be replaced.

The city has agreed to pay a portion of the cost for the two new buses.

Mayor Heard and members of the council expressed considerable dissatisfaction with the job being done by solid waste contractor AmWaste.

Mayor Heard said that he and City Clerk/Treasurer Deborah Gilbert had recently met with AmWaste officials Michael Cosman and Chris Toney to ask what could be done to rectify continuing problems city residents are complaining about.

“They told us they are working very hard to get this straightened out,” Heard said. “As we all know, finding people to work is a problem now. Lack of help and having to have some of their trucks repaired put them behind, but they have shown some improvement.”

The mayor said anyone who is having trouble with their garbage collection can report that to city hall.

Council Member Angelia Thomas said she has heard lots of complaints from the Kroger Block and mill village areas she represents. Some of the complaints center around the pick-ups being late and the roll-out cans being left in the street after being emptied.

“We need to have a contingency plan on our garbage service,” said Council Member Tifton Dobbs. “We have to see that it’s done right.”

City Inspector Teddy Morris said that he’s followed the AmWaste truck on some of its pick-up details to see how the job is being done.

“They have an arm on the truck that picks up the can, empties it into the truck and puts the can back down on the ground,” he said. “Sometimes it’s not level when they put it back down, and it can fall into the street. They used to have guys on the back of the truck who would empty the trash and make sure the can was put back the right way.”

Morris suggested drafting an ordinance requiring the contractor to replace empty cans in a manner that they won’t tip over into the street.

Council Member Dobbs said that residents need to be conscientious about putting out their cans for pick up and then rolling them to their backyards.

“They don’t need to be out on the street 24/7,” he said.

Dobbs also asked the mayor if anything could be done about cleaning out the section of Tanyard Creek that flows from North Lanier Avenue to Highway 29.

“It has gotten so grown up that you can’t see from one end to the other,” he said.

Heard said that he had been discussing this with the right people and that something would be done soon.

Johnny Allen updated the council on what has been going on at the airport.

“A lot has been taking place out there,” he said, “a lot more than many people realize. There’s an erosion problem on the south end of the runway. It’s being taken care of. The aviation fuel tank that’s out there is being cleaned out to be ready for new fuel to be stored. It should be ready to go when we start buying fuel.”

The sale of fuel and the renting of hangar space are ways the city can generate income off of the rebuilt airport.

Allen said it would be a good idea to paint the existing hangar. It’s a way of making a good first impression for people landing and taking off.

“The new tractor that has been purchased for use at the airport is a high-end piece of equipment,” he said. “Chief Wood saved us thousands of dollars in its purchase in writing a grant for it. We will be cutting grass out there soon. About 45 acres surrounding the airport will have to be bush hogged. We want what’s been built to make the best impression possible. This new airport is a tremendous asset not just to the city but to the entire local area.”