Local Woman Cited, Charged at ‘Large Party’
Rolanda S. Ridley, age 25, was charged with disorderly conduct, reckless conduct and obstruction of law enforcement officers Saturday, and received a citation in connection with a “large party” being held at 409 East Walker Street, according to a Thomaston Police Department report.
TPD Sgt. Matthew Allen responded to the address in reference to a gathering which violated a recently passed city ordinance preventing large groups in confined spaces. Sgt. Whit Lawrence also was at the scene.
“While speaking with a group of people at the residence, explaining to them the importance of social distancing, a female later identified as Rolanda Ridley became irate and was interrupting me as I was speaking,” Sgt. Allen stated in the report. “Ridley then looked at me and said, ‘I have the corona,’ and lunged and coughed in my direction.”
Ridley refused to identify herself, according to the report, but was later recognized by Capt. Monica Snipes.
Arrest warrants were taken for reckless conduct and obstruction, and Ridley was issued a city citation for disorderly conduct and released from the scene.
County Offices Limit Public Access, Offer Bill Payment Options
Citing the President’s Coronavirus Guidelines for America, Upson County officials have announced that there currently is no public access to city and county government facilities, with the exception of the Clerk of Superior Court.
Offices will be available by appointment only until Monday, April 6, and may be accessed by telephone or email. A directory for Upson County can be found at www.upsoncountyga.org.
All county courts offices are operating in a limited capacity until further notice. Many of the service limitations are a result of state judicial directives, and are not based on a local decision. Please contact the appropriate court prior to visiting the courthouse to ensure that potential viral spread is contained.
Phone numbers for courts are: probate, 706-647-7015 (weapons permitting and renewals are suspended at this time); magistrate, 706-647-6891; clerk of superior court, 706-647-5847; and juvenile court, 706-647-0028.
During this time, utility payments will not be accepted face to face, and can be submitted by: drop box located at 605 West Gordon Street; phone payment by calling 706-647-3513; mail payment to P.O. Box 889, Thomaston; or online payment at www.upsoncountyga.org.
The utilities department can be reached at 706-647-3513 to set up an appointment for new service, to make changes to existing service, or to cancel service.
Commission Reflects on Repair Expenses for County Buildings
By Bridge Turner
Facilities Director Phil Ellerbee updated commissioners on almost $150,000 worth of repairs and maintenance needed at multiple county buildings during the board’s March work session.
A low bid of $51,500 for roof repairs to the chamber of commerce and courthouse annex buildings on the square came in under the forecasted combined budget of $80,000 for the two projects. Roof upgrades will carry a 10-year warranty, according to Ellerbee, and will be funded with collections from the special purpose local option sales tax.
Conversely, the low bid of $49,000 from Middle Georgia Carpets for new flooring at the health department exceeded a budget estimate of $30,000, but Ellerbee said the state has agreed to offset the $19,000 difference. Luxury vinyl tile, a popular material designed for high-traffic areas, will be installed at the department.
Ellerbee told commissioners that Sheriff Dan Kilgore had received estimates ranging from $35,000 to $59,000 to replace two non-functioning water heaters at the Upson County Jail, adding that replacement would involve disconnecting and reconnecting two other units. He said replacing all four involved hot water heaters of the 12-unit system should be an option for consideration.
The two non-functioning water heaters are affecting the availability of hot water to the kitchen area of the jail, according to reports.
“For that type of money, I thought it was part of our process that we put this stuff out to bid,” Commissioner James Ellington said. “This information can’t come to us as an emergency when it’s been going on for a while. Everything can’t come to us as an emergency.”
Ellington did not point to specific county personnel, but said the budgeting system should anticipate certain maintenance needs.
“We have to have a better program in our departments,” he said. “We can’t just let stuff die and then say, ‘We’ve got to have it, so we’ll take whatever bids we get.’ We can’t operate that way.”
The topic of jail maintenance continued with a discussion relating to problems originating when the facility was constructed. A disgruntled employee at the time allegedly cut into several sections of PVC plumbing, according to Commission Chairman Norman Allen, resulting in progressive damage which has surfaced – literally.
Ellerbee said he thinks 10 spots were cut, then the concrete slab was poured over the damaged pipes, and now the leaks are causing damage to the floor. He said a repair quote for $1,800 per hole was submitted to break the concrete, repair the pipe, and re-pour concrete, and added that floor covering to hide the repaired areas would bring the project to approximately $30,000.
“Ten thousand dollars to upgrade flooring [at the jail]?” Allen asked. “That’s a want, not a need, in my opinion. Wants fall under [maintenance and operation] and should be budgeted and presented to us.”
Allen cited the recently approved, upcoming $1.7 million courthouse roof project as a single example of multiple needs.
“We’re chasing so many needs right now, wants go to the back burner,” Allen said. “This nickel and dime stuff on SPLOST is going to bite us. There’s only so much there.”
Commissioners directed Ellerbee, who oversaw the repair of one hole, to address the remaining necessary repairs with county labor rather than outside bidding the project.
The board is considering options for resolution of hot water at the jail, including replacement of all 12 gas units which have reached their recommended lifespan.
IDA to Submit Plan to Develop Industrial Park
By Bridge Turner
In connection to recent talks surrounding a multi-million-dollar sewage system upgrade, the Industrial Development Authority pledged last week to submit an estimate for development of the entire industrial park to local government officials by the end of April.
Some members of the IDA previously indicated that any action taken by the board would be premature prior to the city and county agreeing to funding terms for wastewater service improvements. But representatives from all three bodies concluded that both processes should move forward independently, for now.
“Everybody’s looking at each other,” IDA and City Attorney Joel Bentley said at the meeting. “The way I see it, the city and county will provide the IDA with funds to pay the debt service. Then negotiation becomes between the IDA and the two governing entities. Number one, are you going to fund the IDA at the current level? And number two, are you going to renew the five-year agreement currently in place?”
The IDA, which currently has no avenue to generate revenue, is funded jointly by the city and county. Executive Director Kyle Fletcher and other IDA members have said the industrial park would be more marketable with “pad-ready” sites, and County Commission Chairman Norman Allen has expressed interest in developing the park in conjunction with the infrastructure project.
IDA member Steve Rush told officials it would be cost effective to develop the entire park rather than separate the project into phases.
“When you look at the site, one part is such a huge cut and the other part is such a huge fill, it’s really inefficient to go in there and try to phase the site,” Rush said. “The engineer addressed some of that in his drawings. We would be moving the dirt and stockpiling it until we got ready to use it. Ultimately you’d be handling it twice.”
“I do feel that the board… I know I want to pursue this project,” Fletcher said. “So there’s a yes. The level of which we want to do that is unknown until we get a little more info, but how can we not?”
Allen, who also sits on the IDA board, said the time is now to stop “kicking the can down the road.”
“I can tell you that by the April meeting, the IDA will have the cost for the park,” Rush stated. “I can assure you of that.”
Estimates to develop the park have been as high as $4.5 million but value of the property will increase when the process is completed, meaning that partial cost of the development could be passed along to incoming industries.
“Give me the plan with a good bottom line number, factoring in potential for some overage,” Allen told other IDA members. “Then we’ll get the attorneys and bond counselors involved to help us figure out how to best fund this project.”
Combined cost for the sewer upgrade and park development likely would exceed $13 million. The infrastructure project has been introduced to Thomaston City Council by City Manager Russell Thompson, but has yet to appear on an Upson County Commission agenda.
The next commission meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Government Complex.
County Approves $1.7 Million Bid for Courthouse Roof
By Bridge Turner
Members of the Upson County Commission voted unanimously last week to approve the lone bid of $1.7 million from SRS Inc. of Griffin to replace the roof and cupola on the downtown courthouse.
The project is a collaborative effort among SRS, Precision Planning, Inc. and The Steeple People, who will fabricate the cupola which houses the four-faced clock atop the courthouse. The cupola will be constructed off site to historic specifications, then will replace the existing tower after roof replacement is completed.
The group agreed to provide “immediate relief” from leaks which have been exaggerated by recent heavy rains and have disrupted court proceedings in the building. The project, which could take as long as a year to complete, will be funded with collections from special purpose local option sales taxes.
Commissioners also voted unanimously to approve rezoning of almost 39 acres on the west side of Highway 36 East from A-R to M-2 to accommodate expansion of the lumber yard at Interfor US, Inc. Interfor officials estimate 40 percent growth with the expansion, which will result in increased truck traffic at the site. The approval was conditioned on maintaining a 50-foot natural buffer along roadways.
In other business:
•The commission approved submission of an internship program grant application which will address tiny home and gateway ordinances. The county was awarded $2,607 in reimbursement through the program, which will include Georgia Tech and University of Georgia students as possible selections.
•Commissioners approved a $3,000 SPLOST expenditure for a security camera and printer project at the tax commissioner’s office, and approved properties for the July 2020 tax sale.
•The commission unanimously approved appointment of Carla Brown to fill an unexpired term on the McIntosh Trail Community Service Board.
County Chairman, Commissioner, Two BOE Seats Contested
Upson County Commission Chairman Norman Allen will face opposition from two challengers who have qualified to be placed on the ballot in the May 19 primary, according to local election officials.
Pastor Rex King and Dehundra Caldwell will compete with Allen to chair the board.
District 1 Commissioner Lorenzo Wilder also will be opposed by Christopher Biggs. No one qualified to run against District 2 Commissioner James Ellington.
Michael Stewart qualified to oppose Sheila Hall for the District 3 seat on the Thomaston-Upson Board of Education, and Edward Roberts qualified to vie against Leon Fowler for the District 5 seat. Board members Angeline McGill of District 1 and William Eubanks from District 7 will run unopposed.
Other candidates running without opposition are Sheriff Dan Kilgore, Tax Commissioner Andy Chastain, Probate Judge Danielle McRae, Chief Magistrate Judge Jan Streetman, Superior Court Clerk Teresa Harper, and Jerry Meadows for coroner.
Commissioners Vote to Support 2nd Amendment
By Bridge Turner
Upson County Commissioners voted unanimously last week to approve a resolution supporting the Second Amendment to the Constitution and prohibiting support or funding for provisions found to violate Second Amendment rights.
The vote was taken in front of a standing-room-only crowd at the Government Complex and, following the vote, residents in attendance applauded the commission’s action.
“This is the biggest crowd we’ve had in a long time,” said Commissioner Paul Jones. “I appreciate y’all coming, standing up for the county, and standing up for your rights.”
Joshua Watson of Smyrna Church Road in Molena was first to address commissioners during the “public comments” phase of the meeting, prior to the vote.
“We need to be a community that looks out for each other, supports our children and our schools,” Watson said. “Our community will come together stronger than people think when tasks or goals need to be accomplished. And the community will not comply with their rights being pulled from them.”
“Please understand we’re not here to judge your decision or influence what you believe in this matter,” Watson continued. “You’re in a position to make decisions on behalf of us, the majority. And law-abiding citizens are the majority. Please decide to make Upson a pro-constitutional county.”
Mike Lee of Denham Street in Thomaston expressed concern for future generations.
“I’m here trying to make sure we can preserve the constitution. Without our Second Amendment rights, it cannot happen,” Lee said. “If our Second Amendment rights are taken away, the federal government will chip away at the rest of the Constitution.”
“I’d hate to see it happen to my great-grandchildren. If it keeps going the way it’s going now, we’re headed rapidly toward a Socialist government,” Lee concluded. “Hitler said it: ‘Disarm the people, and you can control them.’ I don’t think we want that. I implore you gentlemen to vote yes for this resolution. Let’s preserve the Constitution.”
In addition to supporting the “right of people to keep and bear arms,” the resolution states, “Be it further resolved that no agent, employee or official of Upson County, or any corporation providing services to Upson County, shall provide material support or participate in any way with the implementation of federal acts, orders, rules, laws or regulations which have been found to violate the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution.”
“Be it further resolved that all federal acts, laws, orders, rules and regulations that have been found to violate the Second Amendment… and all state statutes, orders, rules and regulations that have been found to violate Article I, Section I, Paragraph VIII of the Constitution of the State of Georgia or the Second Amendment… shall be considered null and void and of no legal effect in Upson County.”
Commissioner James Ellington, who is seeking re-election this year, addressed the crowd following the vote.
“Several of you have reached out to me personally,” Ellington said. “I’d love to see this room like this every meeting we have. We’re here to do the people’s work, and it encourages us when people show up.”
“We’re not intimidated by crowds. It shows that what we’re doing interests you,” Ellington continued. “Your voices were heard, and we do represent you. I think this resolution shows that we consider what you think and we make decisions based on it.”
Chairman Norman Allen, also up for re-election, echoed his fellow commissioners’ thoughts and added, “Feel free to reach out to me. I hope we’re doing what y’all want us to do, at least most of the time.”
In other business, the commission voted unanimously to purchase a 2019 Ford F-650 fuel truck for $87,000 to replace a truck damaged in a recent shop fire. County Manager Jason Tinsley said he expects approximately $42,000 to be reimbursed to the county through insurance claims on the loss of the burned vehicle.
The next regular meeting of the county commission will be held at 6 p.m. Tuesday, March 10 at the Government Complex.
Pullin: I Will Not Seek Re-election
Republican Ken Pullin of Zebulon announced on social media Friday that he will not seek re-election to the Georgia House of Representatives for the 2021-22 term.
“I have been so honored and humbled to be able to serve District 131 and the State of Georgia for the past two years,” Pullin stated. “I will never forget all the friends I’ve made and the support you have given me and my family. I pray that we can continue our friendships over the upcoming years.”
Pullin, who took office in January 2019, has served on the Agriculture & Consumer Affairs Committee, Small Business Development Committee, and the Human Relations & Aging Committee.
“I also want to thank my wife, my children and my mom for all their help, support and love,” Pullin added. “Serving is a team effort and I’ve got a great team. I love you all so much! God Bless.”
Kenny Coggins Announces Candidacy for State House
Kenny Coggins of Thomaston has announced his candidacy for the District 131 seat in the Georgia House of Representatives.
Incumbent Ken Pullin recently said he would not seek re-election.
“I am proud to announce that I will be running for the Georgia House of Representatives for District 131,” Coggins said in a release. “It would be an honor to serve the people of Pike, Lamar and Upson counties.
“I also want to thank Rep. Ken Pullin for his service, and we respect his decision not to run in this next election cycle,” Coggins added. “As a lifelong resident of District 131, I am asking for your support, your prayers, and your vote. Please vote in the May 19 primary. Thank you!”
City Manager Unveils Plan for Sewer Project