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Absence again delays ruling on appeal

The McDuffie County Commission has approved spending $100,000 from a special account set aside for water and sewer services to provide water to Central Road Extension.

At the commission's June 21 meeting, Chairman Charlie Newton explained that residents had asked for water service after the county put water lines in on Wire Road, River Circle and Whiteoak Road. He said the county has $300,000 in grant funds from U.S. Department of Agriculture Redevelopment for the project.

Commissioner Paul McCorkle pointed out that the special fund is supposedly frozen, but Newton countered that there was no other funding for the project.

"That special account is SPLOST IV funds that were taken out of the SPLOST IV account to be spent on water and sewer," he said.

He said that the water hookups are voluntary and that the county has binding agreements with seven potential customers.

The commission approved the expenditure unanimously.

Also on the agenda was a request to reimburse the city from the same account for outstanding invoices on water-sewer work that has already been performed. A motion to approve that request died for lack of a second.

The special account has been a point of contention on the commission. Commissioner Fred Favors, who was absent from the June 21 meeting, contends that the board never approved creation of the account.

In other action, the board:

l Approved a contract for vending services in the new McDuffie County Government Center. Norton said the Georgia Department of Labor Business Enterprise Program was the only bidder. The program provides employment for the visually impaired, and Norton said it operates vending machines at a number of interstate welcome centers and military installations. He said that under the contract the county would receive $100 a month in revenue from the machines.

l Voted to designate the grounds of the government center as a no-smoking area. Sheriff Logan Marshall explained that smoking is prohibited in the building by state law but that if smoking is allowed outside cigarette butts will collect around the entrances.

"My idea is to have some type of a designated smoking area outside the building for employees, probably on the back side of the building, and obviously away from the doors," Norton said.

The sheriff said, however, that any designated area would have to accommodate the public in addition to employees.

"If you work for Shaw (Industries), you can't smoke on their premises, period," he said.

The commission voted to designate the entire grounds as a nonsmoking area but to revisit the question of a designated smoking area later.

The city council must also act on the request.

l Voted 3-1 to reclassify the information technology director's position from pay grade 22 to pay grade 24. Commissioner Sammie Wilson cast the only dissenting vote without comment.

The increase raises IT Director Raymond White's salary from about $46,000 to roughly $56,000 a year, Norton said.

"It is believed this action is justified not only because of the high level of technical knowledge and experience required, but also the fact that this position truly supports both the County government and the City of Thomson," Norton said in recommending the increase.

He also noted that the responsibilities are increasing with the move to the new building.


Community News Editor

McDuffie County public works employee Susan Smith says she just wants an answer to her appeal of a three-day suspension.

For the second consecutive month the county commission removed the appeal from the agenda at its June 21 meeting.

Commissioner Paul McCorkle asked that the board not consider the matter because of the absence of Commissioner Fred Favors. Last month, the commission delayed ruling on the appeal because of the absence of Commissioner Sammie Wilson, who was at the June 21 meeting.

"On matters like this I would like to see the full board involved," McCorkle said.

County Manager Don Norton suspended Smith in late April for changing another employee's pay record. She has said she did so at the direction of her supervisor, Public Works Director Eric Reisinger, who has since been fired. Norton has said that Reisinger's order was a mitigating factor but that it did not excuse Smith's action.

Commission Chairman Charlie Newton urged commissioners to take action at their next meeting, even if the full board is not present.

"This has been before us for too long," he said. "I think we need to get back to where we can let the county manager handle things and get us out of the middle of it."

Smith said in an interview with The McDuffie Mirror that she appreciated Newton's comments.

"He and the commissioners both know this has just gone on too long," she said.

"In my 16 years working here I've never known them to do anything like this."

She said she was told by Norton the afternoon before the meeting that the issue would be resolved that night. McCorkle's request to remove her appeal from the agenda caught her by surprise.

"Now I've got to wait probably another month," she said.

She said she continues to work through chemotherapy. She was recently diagnosed with cancer.

"I'm doing my best for McDuffie County. I just wish McDuffie County would do its best for me."

Web posted on Thursday, June 30, 2011

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