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Vidalia Firefighters Rise in Rank

Vidalia Firefighters Rise in Rank
Photos by Makaylee Randolph
Vidalia Firefighters Rise in Rank
Photos by Makaylee Randolph

RISING IN RANK – Two Vidalia Fire Department Firefighters were officially promoted at the beginning of the Vidalia City Council meeting on March 13. (left) Captain Robert Phelps, left, stands as his wife Amanda pins on his badge, and Lieutenant Justin Butry, right, stands as his wife Rhiannon pins on his badge.

Two City of Vidalia firefighters were officially promoted at the regular monthly meeting of the Vidalia City Council on Monday, March 13.

Robert Phelps and Justin Butry were recognized at the meeting, where their wives pinned on their new badges.

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Vidalia Fire Chief Brian Sikes told the Council that Phelps had recently been promoted to captain, while Butry had risen to the rank of Lieutenant. “Both of these gentleman have worked hard through training these past few years. They have put their time in, and we are very thankful for their dedication to the fire department and the City of Vidalia.”

City Marshal Appointment The City Council also approved the appointment of Chris Phillips as City Marshal, as recommended to the Council by City Manager Nick Overstreet. This position became available in recent months following the resignation of former City Marshal Shaun Oliver.

Phillips has 5 years of experience in the field, as he worked 4 years as a Deputy Building Official in Baldwin County and has spent the last year working with the City of McRae-Helena.

“I would ask for patience. I’ll tell you like I would tell anyone – Rome wasn’t built in a day. So, be patient with me and I will do my best. I’m excited to serve the City of Vidalia,” Phillips commented.

First Reading

The first reading of an addition to the City Ordinance Chapter 4, which discusses alcoholic beverages (Section 4-63), was proposed, as two downtown business have inquired about the ability to sell alcohol in establishments such as barber shops. The addition will be voted on at next month’s meeting.

Zoning Requests

Lee O’Conner’s request to rezone 401 Broadfoot Boulevard from R-3 to C-3 in order to utilize the area for storage buildings and retail was approved. This request was recommended for approval by the Planning & Zoning Board, which approved the change with a unanimous vote.

Fox Investors’ variance request for 1001 Church Street and 102/104/106/107 West 9th Street was also approved by the Council and came recommended by the Planning & Zoning Board, which unanimously approved the change. These areas are intended to be used for single-family residences.

Clay Thomas’s zoning request to rezone a parcel on Maple Drive Tract 2 from Office/Residential to C-2 was returned to the Planning and Zoning Board, which tabled the issue. Thomas proposes to use Tract 1 of the area for housing and Tract 2 of the land for storage. Pinecrest Trust Created

The City Council approved the creation of the Pinecrest Perpetual Cemetery Trust II to be created as a charitable trust, and to allow for donations and operations to come from this fund. Mayor Doug Roper thanked John Ladson and others, who he said have worked tirelessly to ensure that the Pinecrest Cemetery is cared for.

Action Items

Council members authorized the City Financial Director to use the proceeds gained in the sale of the old Econo Inn site and apply it to the balance of the loan, which is currently $1,273,420.99. In this action, $566,700 will be paid toward the loan.

The mayor and financial director were also authorized to pay the Sweet Onion Golf Authority a total of $4,007,703.67, which is the remainder of the Department of Natural Resources Recreational Funds.

A utility aid memorandum of understanding was approved to be administered between the City of Vidalia and Georgia Department of Transportation for the relocation of a water line. This project is connected to the planned U.S. Highway 1 bypass that is set to run through a portion of the city, and comes at no cost.

Airport Manager Billy Ragan will now enter a cooperative service agreement between the Vidalia Regional Airport and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) wildlife services for wildlife damage management. This will cost $4,000 total.

An intergovernmental rental agreement was approved between the City administration and the Vidalia Convention and Visitors Bureau for the usage of the Pal Theatre.

Some Vidalia streets near Sally D. Meadows are planned to see some improvements made, as the Council approved entering a supplemental agreement for an update to 5 locations of Vidalia streetscape at an estimated cost of $195,206 total. This agreement is a grant reimbursement with the Georgia Department of Transportation for a total of $250,000 of funding, $200,000 of which comes from the state and $50,000 of which is paid by the City.

A coin-operated amusement machine license was approved for Tienda Los Olivos, which is located on 106 Southland Drive.

The special events permit for next year’s Martin Luther King Parade was also approved. According to the permit, next year’s event will be hosted by Community Men in Action and will occur from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m.


Several purchases were approved for various departments in the City.

For the airport, the Council agreed to allow Johnson’s Custom Fab to repair the doors of Hangar 4 for $4,750, which will be funded through the Airport Fund. The Airport will also receive a Fuel Master Wireless software upgrade, which will cost $2,130 plus an additional allotment of $4,000 for shipping costs and any unforeseen incidentals. This upgrade will also be funded through the Airport Fund.

Replacement bunker gear will be purchased for $9,294 for the Vidalia Fire Department. Replacement air packs and self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) will also be bought for the Department for $32,395.04. These purchases will be funded through Special Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) and were previously budgeted for in the approved 2023 budget.

The Vidalia Recreation Department will purchase temporary fencing for Field 3 at the Ed Smith Compex for $8,160, and will buy the supplies and pay for labor for the replacement of the carpeting in the batting cages at the Complex for $19,495.50 total. These purchases will be funded through SPLOST and were previously budgeted for in the approved 2023 budget.

The roof will be replaced at the city’s ESG building for $11,335, while brake lathe will be purchased for the city fleet shop for $8,549 from AutoZone. The pump base will be replaced in Lift Station 15 for $11,903.80 total. A zero turn mower will also be bought for the city for $8,539, while a concrete mixer will be purchased for $4,150 from United Rentals. These purchases will be funded through SPLOST and were all previously budgeted for in the approved 2023 budget.

The Water/Sewer Fund will be used to buy barrels, channel directors, and a hydraulic post drive from Greg Lumley for $3,500, as well as to refurbish an old Vaccon truck into a heavy-duty flatbed for $13,075, and buy a new tapping set from USA Bluebook for $1,925.

Supplies necessary for wi-fi capability at Ronnie A. Dixon City Park will be purchased for $8,007.87, which will be funded through SPLOST. The equipment will be installed by Responsive Technology Partners.

Reports Fire Department Chief Brian Sikes told the Council that the Fire Department recently participated in Toombs County’s Teen Maze event, which educates youth on the dangers of reckless behavior, including the utilization of drugs and alcohol. According to Sikes, over 1,000 parents, students, and community members attended the event. The Department is also partnering with the local Department of Family and Children Services to help teach basic parenting classes in the community.

Sikes also shared his excitement about a recent Paul Anderson Youth Home graduate, who has been accepted to the Texas Fire Academy and plans to pursue a career as a firefighter. “We get to spend time and mentor those guys, so to see him choose this path is very exciting,” he said.

Police Department

Chief James Jermon informed the Council that the Department now has a canine unit, as Canine Renzo began doing searches and working in the field last month.

He also shared that two new cadets have joined the Department, and plan to attend the Police Academy during the next session in April. Currently, the Department has one cadet who will graduate from the Academy on March 24, and will soon after join officers on patrol for ridealong training. Jermon also explained that he has interviewed a certified officer who could be a potential hire.

Recruitment efforts are in place, according to Jermon, as the Department works with a marketing firm out of Statesboro to put together brochures and other things to advertise the Department. He also plans to have booths at local recruiting and job fairs, and will even speak about careers in public safety to college classes on both the Vidalia and Swainsboro campuses of Southeastern Technical College.

According to Jermon, the Georgia State Patrol SWAT Division will be in the area on April 6 as they perform training exercises. He said that the Division requested this area due to the turmoil between police and the public currently in Atlanta.

A local store and its clerk were recently cited in a sting to catch businesses unlawfully selling alcohol and tobacco in the area.

City Manager

City Manager Nick Overstreet told the Council and attendees that the City Administration has been able to have their first in-person department head meeting since May 2020 because of the amount of space which the move from City Hall to the Vidalia Municipal Annex has provided. He also shared that the city’s move is almost compete.

Bids for the city water line replacement project have been opened, and the project is expected to be completed by December 2023.

Customer service training is continuing for city employees.

Sweet Onion Golf Authority

Authority Chairman Andy Woodruff said that the course is gaining “buzz” within the community, as many individuals drive by daily to look at the site.

Timber cutting has begun for the course, and the placement of the clubhouse has been determined.

A groundbreaking for the facility will occur soon where the name of the new course will be revealed.

Downtown Vidalia Association Director Tonya Parker shared that the Downtown Vidalia Association received an $8,000 grant for the reactivation of Meadows Park. This project must be completed by the end of the year, and is expected to start after the Vidalia Onion Festival.

Sweeten Your Ride decals will be available at Porchfest throughout the day on Saturday, March 25.

Menu additions are being developed for the Association’s normal onion rings booth, which sits at the corner of Jackson Street and Highway 280 during the Vidalia Onion Festival. Parker also shared that live music is also planned to be added to this location during the festival.

NEW CITY MARSHAL – Chris Phillips was unanimously approved by the Council as the new Vidalia City Marshal, and spoke to the Council about his eagerness to begin the job.Photo by Makaylee Randolph

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