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Wheeler County Courthouse to Receive $70,000 Upgrade

The Wheeler County Commission had numerous high importance items to review during its September 8 meeting including a $70,000 technological upgrade to the Wheeler County Courthouse.

Following a request by Chief Judge Sarah Wall and Judge Howard Kaufold, Jr. of the Georgia 8th Circuit Superior Court, the county was set to decide a timeline for S& L Integrated Systems of Thomasville to install a system of cameras, speakers, and monitors in the Wheeler County Courthouse. The request indicated that the equipment should be installed by January 1, 2021. The system would allow for social distancing during trials, though it was specifi ed that the upgrade is needed regardless of how prevalent COVID-19 is. Under the new system, jurors would sit in the gallery and interact with attorneys and judges through monitors and speakers. Commissioner Danny Clark expressed his concern that the county was being “forced into a corner” to spend $70,000 of taxpayer money without a proper explanation. Commissioner Rochelle Culver advised that she did not see a way around complying with the request. County officials were sent a bid from S& L Integrated and there was no indication that opposing bids had been collected. “At the very least, someone should be here to tell us about the proposal,” Commissioner Clark suggested. After this concern was expressed, an effort was made to contact Judge Wall, and further explanation was provided.

According to Judge Wall, this request was not mandated, but if the county chose not to comply, it would only have two options: to not hold court in Wheeler County, or pay the fees associated with holding court in Telfair or Montgomery County, including the fee for busing Wheeler County jurors to the trial location. Furthermore, the judge added that the request specifically named S& L Integrated as the provider because court offi cials want all of the courthouses in the 8th District to be operated and maintained by the same company. S& L Integrated would be responsible for any malfunctions during a trial. Ultimately, the request was approved with Clark abstaining from the vote.

The Commissioners also addressed a newly-formed Board of Elections mandate from the Georgia Legislature. Under this new mandate, elections will no longer be supervised by county Probate Judges, but instead by a group of individuals appointed by the County Commissioners.

The Board of Elections in Wheeler County would be comprised of an election superintendent and a threemember board. Though this change does not come into effect until January 2021, the list must be presented to the Superior Court 30 days prior to the official start date. Furthermore, it is imperative that the process of choosing these individuals begin in order to facilitate a number of new training opportunities in the coming months, explained Wheeler County Registrar Sheila Cheek. Because of widespread changes in Georgia’s election system, these trainings are crucial.

Commissioner Culver advised that since the board is made up of three individuals, that an individual should be chosen from each voting district in Wheeler County. After some discussion about which individuals should fill which spots, it was decided that a list of individuals would be brought up and decided on at the October Commission meeting.

The commissioners also had to decide two contractual issues as yearly contracts are running out. They voted to continue the contract with the Middle Flint Council on Aging, a meal service contract that is carried out through the Wheeler County Senior Center. The terms of the contract and price points were the same as they were last year. The board is also accepting bids from companies to provide meals to the County Jail. All bids must be in by September 21 so that they can be voted on. The current contract providing meals to the jail runs out on October 1.

The board had to fill a seat on the 911 Authority left vacant by Susie Howard. It was decided that Culver, who was acting in an interim capacity on the 911 Authority already, continued from page

should continue as a permanent member. Likewise, the board members on the Wheeler County Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) Board are facing the end of their term in October. The current board members are Bobby Cox, Culver, and Janice O’Brien. After some discussion, commissioners voted to nominate all three members for another term.

Last, the board discussed updates to the sanitation initiative that they has been underway over the past several months. The new protocol would replace dumpsters with supervised garbage collection centers spread throughout the county, a system similar to the one used by Laurens County. The commissioners are currently identifying possible locations for the new landfills, including possible sites on Snowhill Church Road and Hope Church Road.

The next Commission meeting will be held on October 5 at the Alamo Community Center in the small conference room.

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