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Citizens continue protest of Fleming

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    Two demonstrators stood outside of the Putnam County Administration Building to protest the continued use of Fleming and Nelson, LLP as the county’s legal counsel on Tuesday, April 20, before the Board of Commissioners meeting. LAUREN MALEK/Staff
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    Chairman Billy Webster and county attorney, Barry Fleming, look on as public comments are made to the board. Seven speakers addressed their wishes for Fleming to resign from his position on Tuesday, April 20. LAUREN MALEK/Staff

At the Board of Commissioners meeting on Tuesday, April 20, county officials heard the complaints of seven speakers who were in opposition of the continued use of Fleming and Nelson LLP as the county’s legal counsel.

Concerns over county attorney Barry Fleming’s sponsorship of SB 202, a bill that critics say reduces voting rights, were aired before the board during the public comments at the Tuesday night meeting.

The speakers mentioned their concerns with the new bill. They said the bill creates more barriers for voters like reducing drop boxes in urban areas, shortening time limits to vote and giving the state election board the right to take over local elections.

“I want my representatives, regardless of party, to fight for my vote to be sacred and unchangeable, to reject unfounded mandates based on fear and falsehoods and to maintain methods of voting that have been proven to be secure and that help empower people to vote regularly,” said Erin Keating. “Contracting with a firm whose partner works to pass a law against all of this is not in our best interest.”

After the public comments were complete, the board listened to a presentation from NFP, a company that helps the county with its insurance policy plans for county employees. The discussion of their insurance details continued Friday morning at a scheduled work session. According to Chairman Billy Webster, the county decided to continue with the most cost-effective option, Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield, which increased its rates by ten percent. Webster told the Eatonton Messenger that the county decided to absorb the increase to keep rates the same for county employees.

Next, the 2022 Budget and 2021 Mill Rate schedule were approved by the commissioners without any discussion. The schedule listed the adoption of the 2022 budget to occur on August 27 and the adoption of the mil rate on September 3.

A solicitation for Oconee Springs Park was awarded to Renfro construction company based out of Macon, Georgia. The company will be working on the park’s infrastructure and an event center for $445,630.

“Oconee Springs Park is doing marvelous,” shared Bill Sharp. “The park itself is a hidden jewel in Putnam County and I recommend that we continue to do this.”

Commissioner Brown told attendees that the park receives a lot of out-of-county and state visitors and that Georgia Benjamin-Smith calls it “Putnam’s best kept secret.”

“It’s something to be proud of,” he stated.

Then the commissioners approved their purchase of around four acres on Sammons Parkway in Eatonton for a total cost of $146,561.90. The board is planning on moving the Scott Road recycling center to the new location.

The commissioners then appointed Scott Joris and Shane Hill to the two vacancies on the Lake Oconee Development Authority and reappointed John Wojtas to the Putnam Development Authority. Wojtas, Joris and Hill’s terms will end in five years on May 1, 2026.

The board entered an executive session to discuss personnel around 7:40 p.m. They returned to the public meeting room around 8:30 and made a motion to increase the county manager’s salary and took no action on the other personnel item that was discussed.