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Smooth Transition Expected With New Vidalia City Clerk

The Vidalia City Council began the new year with a new City Clerk and Finance Director. Amy Murray began her duties on January 4, replacing Bill Bedingfield, who retired in December after serving the city for 13 years. Bedingfield was present during the meeting while Murray assumed her new post and presided over the financial report. Bedingfield will be available on a part-time basis to assist in the transition of duties to Murray. Murray commented, “Mr. Bill has done a great job for the City of Vidalia and will leave big shoes to fill; however, with his assistance in my training and combined with my accounting and auditing background, I expect a smooth transition.” Council members had previously received notice of appointments of the city’s legal team, and Mayor Doug Roper presented this roster for the Council’s approval. Appointments approved were Justin Franklin, City Attorney; Macky Bryant, City Judge; Daniel O’Connor, City Judge; Paul Calhoun, City Prosecutor; and Johnny Vines, Public Defender.

Council members also approved appointments and reappointments for the Library Board, the Convention and Visitors Bureau Board, the Recreation Board, and the Development Authority Board.

City Manager Nick Overstreet submitted a proposal from the Streets and Sanitation Committee to place stop signs in the area of Fifth Avenue and Epstein and Symonds Streets. These are needed to increase safety as families move into refurbished houses that will be built on that block.

Roper thanked the Committee for its proposal and said, “I encourage any of you to go by and see this project that is a revitalization of almost an entire city block. Six properties have been purchased and will be taken down to the studs and rebuilt to make affordable housing. It will transform that block and build enthusiasm within the community.”

The Council approved the placement of new stop signs in conjunction with this project.

Fire Chief Brian Sikes reported that the fire department is the lead operator for Safe Kids Toombs (SKT), a state-wide program that is funded by Georgia businesses and private donations. Captain Robert Tillman coordinates SKT for the VFD, which is in partnership with the police department in this program.

Police Officers Kelsey Guerra and Alejandra Abarca are certified car seat installers. In 2020, the two departments served over 350 children and 265 adults by providing and installing car seats. One way this is achieved is when a citizen is pulled over because of a car seat violation, the VFD is called to install a car seat before the offender is allowed to leave the scene. Car seat classes are also offered to instruct the public on proper use.

The VFD continues to actively pursue grants, which are written by Tillman and Guerra. Grants received for 2020 totaled $24,429.30.

Police Commissioner Brian Scott reported that when he took his position in August of 2019 the department was 11 positions short out of 35. There are now five positions left to fill. The 32,050 calls for service in 2020 was an increase of over 23% from 2019.

Scott said, “It’s pretty amazing that officers handled a 23% increase in calls with us being short staffed. I want to commend the officers for doing the job they do every day.”

Of the five homicides in 2020, Scott is confident that the four committed in the last two months of the year will be solved. They are being actively investigated.

Matt Smith, Director of the Recreation Department, recently attended a Georgia Recreation and Park Association (GRPA) continued from page

meeting in Effingham County. Beginning this year, all volunteer coaches must be certified each year of their service through the National Alliance for Youth Sports (NYAS).

Smith said, “The GRPA is now requiring every volunteer coach to get NAYS certified in order to coach. This course will help our volunteers learn how to correctly handle certain situations and in return make the participants’ experience a lot better.”

He explained that the top-quality NAYS Coach Training features two components: Coaching Youth Sports and a sport-specific training. The Coaching Youth Sports portion covers topics that all coaches need to know, such as working with parents; motivating kids; building confidence; instilling good sportsmanship; safety; and nutrition and hydration; among many other areas.

Smith said, “In the sport-specific training, coaches learn how to teach the basic skills and fundamentals of the particular sport they are coaching, as well as effective drills to use during their practices.”

He emphasized, “Without the volunteer coaches, there is no way we could have our leagues. There is no way that the VRD staff could coach every team, coach all the practices, and coach every game. We greatly depend on our volunteers and greatly appreciate their time for helping the programs we offer in our community.”

Plans are to provide this training in a group setting before the upcoming sports season. Baseball usually draws over 500 kids for a twoweek registration period. As a health precaution, registration will be done online or over the phone.

Billy Ragan, Airport Director, reported that preparations to host the 2021 Vidalia Onion Festival (VOF) at the airport include submitting a request for nonaeronautical use of a public airport to the Georgia Department of Transportation. This 27page document is ready for approval by the VOF Committee.

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