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Montgomery County Courthouse Going Virtual

The Montgomery County Commission has approved a virtual teleconferencing system (VTC) for the Montgomery County Courthouse following a request by Chief Judge Sarah Wall and Judge Howard Kaufold, Jr., of the Georgia 8th Circuit Superior Court. Commissioners were asked to determine a timeline for S& L Integrated Systems of Thomasville to install a system of cameras, speakers, and monitors by January 1, 2021. The total cost of the installation is $68,934. Similar requests have been made of each county in the circuit in order to allow jury trials to begin again in the COVID-19 County Manager Brandon Braddy said the equipment installation includes one camera covering the entire courtroom and five camera/ monitor stations, one each for the jury, judge, plaintiff, defendant, and witness. Due to social distancing guidelines, the jury will now be required to sit in the gallery, a move that will make it impossible for the general public to witness court proceedings.

This system allows social distancing in the courtroom, but it also allows for all trials to be live-streamed to a platform that is managed by S& L Integrated Systems. The general public would have access to the stream, thereby eliminating the need for citizens to be physically present in the courtroom.

The Commission voted to approve the request at its September 14 session with Commissioner Greg Palmer dissenting. It was decided that the county would use its CARES Act reimbursement to cover the expense.

In a called meeting on September 17, the Commission approved a bid from Federal Signal for $29,341 to install an early warning siren system.

The County Manager said the Montgomery County Emergency Management Agency was awarded a Hazard Mitigation Grant from the Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA) to purchase the system that will sound an alarm at the threat of inclement weather. The grant requires a 15% match from the county. The system will be installed on the Brewton-Parker College campus and will cover the campuses of the college, the Montgomery County High/Middle School, and the Montgomery County Elementary School.

Also during the called meeting, the Commission received a report from McNair, McLemore, Middlebrooks & Co., LLC, which performed Montgomery County’s audit for fiscal year 2019. Auditors Pat Muse and Tony Ussery joined the Commissioners by conference call to present the audit. The auditors reviewed the audit opinion, financial statements, and report on internal controls with the Commissioners and concluded that the county ended 2019 in conformity with general accounting principles. The report revealed: The county’s total assets were reported at $14,603,566 with liabilities totaling $1,156,518 and the county’s total net position totaling $13,447,048.

In the general fund, the county’s net position increased by $249,761 over the last fiscal year.

In the report of internal controls, a lack of segregation of duties in county offices was mentioned due to a limited number of staff. Also, timely and accurately reconciliation of balance sheet accounts was stated. This audit finding was reported due to a misstatement that was discovered in the Tax Commissioners’ Offi ce that did not get corrected until five months after the fiscal year ended.

In the auditor’s letter to management, the auditors mentioned an audit finding that was discovered during a surprise cash audit of the county offices. The Probate Court’s cash bag could not be reconciled completely to the paid receipts for the period report due to the court not depositing all funds collected. Also, the Probate Court was using a cash receipt book for candidate registrations that was not pre-numbered. The auditors recommended the county issue pre-numbered cash receipt books to departments where necessary so all receipts and the corresponding payments can be reconciled.

In other business, the Commissioners were updated on numerous road projects to be carried out in the coming months. Among these is a $461,000 paving project for Largo Drive and Ashley Alley. The project, which will be paid for through a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), will take about six months to complete and will be carried out by Sikes Brothers, Inc. Sikes Brothers has also won a bid to complete a county road-patching contract. The total cost of the project is $65,514.25. The Commission is also considering a resolution that would abandon George Hilton Lane. Although the resolution was addressed at the September 14 monthly meeting, it was also the subject of debate at the September 17 called meeting. At its next regular session the Commission will consider a resolution to abandon the entire road. If the resolution is approved, the road would be considered a private road and would be no longer be maintained by the county. The October Commission meeting will be held at the Adult Literacy Center on October 12 at 5:30 p.m.

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