MoCo Commission Hires New County Works Director
During a regular monthly work session on Thursday, October 5, Montgomery County Commissioners formally introduced new County Works Director Robert E. Lewis.
Lewis fills the vacant role of County Works Director after Milton Fountain’s resignation. Interim Road Superintendent Bobby O’Connor has been temporarily overseeing the department’s workload.
“Montgomery County is fortunate to have Mr. Robert Lewis to serve as our new County Works Director,” said Chairman Leland Adams. “Mr. Lewis has the experience and qualities needed for the county’s Road Department to move forward and handle the challenges of maintaining our local road system.”
Prior to working in Montgomery County, Lewis was a driver and equipment trainer with AAA Cooper of Baxley and the Jeff Davis County Road Superintendent. He and his wife Renee have two children and six grandchildren and live on a small farm south of Hazlehurst.
As County Works Director, Lewis will be responsible for leading and directing the county’s Road Department staff in maintaining about 210 miles of dirt roads and 130 miles of paved roads. “I am proud to be on board with Montgomery County,” he said. “I look forward to working with the commissioners and serving this community together. There is a lot of work to do but we will meet the challenge by working together as a team.”
Lewis’s first official day was Thursday, October 5, but he was not out in the field working handson until Monday, October 9. After spending the day working in various areas of the county, he presented the Commissioners with his first official report at their regular monthly session on October 9.
He explained that he had been overseeing work in the area near Bear Creek Road, where grass cutting had been completed and would be moving on to Tarrytown. He shared that the workers believe that in around two weeks, they will be caught up on all of the grass cutting that needs to be completed in the county.
According to Lewis, extensive work is also being completed in several areas of the county to clear out pipes in ditches, which will allow the water drainage to run more smoothly during rainy weather.
Other Reports Recreation Montgomery County Recreation Director Kendall Bennamon was unable to attend the Commission’s October 9 meeting but submitted a written report for commissioners. In the report, which Commissioner Ginger Morris read to the group, Bennamon explained that the fall league of recreation 6U, 10U, and 12U Soc cer, as well as kickball, will soon be 6nished, but 8U and 10U recreation foot ball will continue to play through the end of November.
Recreation football will advocate for breast cancer awareness at the Pink Out games held at Brogdon Field on October 23. The games will be played at 6 p.m. and 7 p.m., and all attendees are encouraged to wear pink.
Several counties will travel to Brogdon Field on Saturday, November 4, as the annual Showdown at Brogdon recreation football tournament is held.
8U and 10U football, as well as 12U co-ed soccer are registered to compete in the district tournaments for their respective sports and age divisions. These district tournaments will be held throughout the state on Saturday, November 11.
Registration for recreation track and basketball are currently underway in Montgomery County and will be conducted until Friday, November 3.
Toombs-Montgomery EMS Director Drew James told the commission at the October 9 meeting that September had been a busy month for emergency services in the county, as 108 of the agency’s calls were dispatched to Montgomery County. James went on to explain that usually, only 80 to 90 calls involved Montgomery County each month.
He also informed commissioners that the funds received from the recent Trauma Grant have been released. According to James, through this grant, each EMS agency was given around $745 per ambulance to spend on any equipment related to trauma. Toombs-Montgomery EMS received a total of almost $7,000, which will be used to purchase a 8x5x16 enclosed trailer that can be utilized as a mobile cooling unit for firefighters during long structure fires and a mobile first aid station during special events.
A total of 20 people were safely vaccinated by Toombs- Montgomery EMS during the recent Flu Vaccine Clinic held in Mount Vernon. James said there were no adverse reactions experienced through these inoculations.
James concluded his report by reminding the Commissioners and attendees that Lowe’s Safety Day will be held in Vidalia from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. on Saturday, October 28. Toombs- Montgomery EMS will be participating in this event, along with firefighters, police officers, and other professionals.
During their regular session, Commissioners agreed to apply for a grant which will help fund the writing of a new Georgia Emergency Management Agency/Homeland Security Hazard Mitigation plan. The current plan in place will expire in January 2026, and the Commission plans to work alongside Montgomery County Emergency Management Agency Director Donnie Daniels to submit a grant application to lower the consultant fees for a plan writer from $32,268 to $6,000 which would be split between the County and municipalities within the County. This would be possible as the grant would provide $24,201 in federal funding and $2,067 in state funding for the project.
The Commission appointed Kristen Garland and Randall Holcomb to the Heart of Georgia Altamaha Workforce Development Board to succeed Brian Hamilton and Nolan Thigpen, whose terms had expired and who did not desire to serve another term. Garland and Holcomb were the only applicants for the positions.
Montgomery County Development Authority Executive Director Joe Filippone and Montgomery County Development Authority Board Member Arren Moses were selected to serve on the Middle Coastal Uni6ed Development Authority. These seats had to be filled by current Montgomery County Development Authority members, and the group agreed that Filippone and Moses were the best choices.
Commissioners also approved the adoption of a resolution which urges Governor Brian Kemp and the General Assembly of Georgia to continue their efforts to reform and improve mental health services for the citizens of Georgia. This resolution is a part of the lobbying currently being done by the members of the Association of County Commissioners of Georgia to increase funding for additional mental health resources in the state, including crisis centers.
Public Comments Work Session During the work session on Thursday, October 5, open dialogue was held between citizens and the commissioners to discuss possible solutions to the property tax issue currently plaguing the County.
The parties discussed the Floating Homestead Exemption Act, and the benefit which the provision would bring to homeowners, protecting them from suffering the consequences of inflation. The commissioners expressed their concerns that this Act would harm farmers and potential business owners in the county, as they shared that the freeze in assessed values would cause a need to raise the millage rate. A raised millage rate would cause farmers’ and business owners’ taxes to increase extensively, as they would face increased values and increased millage rates.
Citizen Amie Vassey reminded the commissioners that farmers have been protected from substantial increases in taxes through legislation that prohibits their taxes from rising more than 3%, and emphasized the need for that same sort of protection for homeowners. Commissioner Chad Kenney agreed that the increase in property taxes is an issue that needs addressing, but said he was unsure what the exact solution would be.
When asked why they would not allow the Floating Homestead Exemption Act to be voted on by the constituents through a referendum, the commissioners shared that it would be very hard to rid the county of the legislation if it is not beneficial to the county, as most voters will choose to vote for any option to lower their taxes.
Both citizens and commissioners agreed to the creation of a citizeninput group on the issue, which will meet with two commissioners to discuss the tax issue. The group will consist of two business owners, two large land tract owners, three farmers, and three homeowners. The meeting dates for meetings of this group were not shared.
Citizen Amie Vassey spoke again at the regular monthly meeting on October 9, thanking the commissioners for their conversation with the citizens on the tax issue. She emphasized that the citizens were not speaking against the commissioners because of personal issues with them, but because of the statewide issue inflation is causing on property assessments and taxes.
She encouraged the commissioner to explore all possible solutions for the property tax issue, including the possible “capping” maximum percentage by which property assessments may go up within the county.
Vassey also informed the Commissioners that a local resident had experience with engineering consultant services with Plant Hatch, such as those the Commission had recently been seeking from an outside firm. She said that the resident is willing to complete the consulting work for little to no cost, and encouraged commissioners to reach out to him to discuss the project.
Former commissioner Greg Palmer questioned the Commission on their voting practices, asking why the group’s votes on items always seemed to be unanimous, and stated that 374 votes taken during the commission’s time in office were approved unanimously. He stated that only three times had a vote not been unanimous, and asked if the group ever doubted anything on the agendas or the action items.