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Around The County — Tempers Flare Over Employment Discussion

BY JEFF CLARK

Jeff Clark - logo    A discussion on employee attrition led to some heated words from District 5 Supervisor Leroy Brooks during the June 3rd meeting of the Lowndes County Board of Supervisors.
During a marathon two hour-plus meeting, tempers began to flare during discussion on the last item on County Administrator Ralph Billingsley’s portion of the agenda.
Billingsley has suggested the county hire Teresa Farrish as  supervisor for the summer work program.
“Ralph, since we are talking about work, and (District 4 Supervisor Jeff Smith) and I have had this conversation, we have a number of positions that are vacant.     As much as, I don’t know what to say about money, some of these are pressing. The inventory clerk — every day equipment is piling up and we don’t want to get behind on that. There needs to be some sense of urgency the same way we do with (County Roads Manager Ronnie Burns). If a person leaves we replace them. County government is not just about the roads, there are more facets. These people need people in their offices and I think there needs to be some sense of urgency to get these positions filled. I guess we’re not going to fill Sylvester Harris’ position.
Billingsley said Harris’s position will be filed by different employees when needed.
“We’re OK for short periods of time,” Billingsley said.
Smith said he had issue with the lack of communication between Billingsley and some board members.
“We never know anything,” Smith said. “You come in here and give us answers and some people know what;s going on and some people don’t. I’m going to keep saying that until I’m blue in the face. I’m starting to get real frustrated with it.”
District 1 Supervisor and board president said Billingsley is the personnel director for the county.
“The personnel manager for the county is the county administrator. I think it’s his decision to decide when it’s time to get new employees and if we need them or not. We don’t need to be micromanaging the county administrator’s job.”
Sanders remarks angered Brooks who concurred with Smith on the lack of communication between Billingsley and some board members.
“Harry, he needs to be telling us though,” Brooks said. “We’re his boss. He needs to tell us what he’s going to do. If he doesn’t have enough respect to tell the department heads, he needs to tell us. All he needs to do if he’s not going to hire someone, he needs to let us know. Sometimes, Jeff and I, feel like we don’t know what in the hell is going on. If we’re not going to hire these positions we need to put it on the minutes so those people will know. There are five members. Everybody needs to know. I’m like Jeff — I’m getting frustrated when we are getting a version of what’s going on. If it’s going to be like that, we don’t need to even come to the board meeting. We asked him a simple question and we can’t get an answer.”
Billingsley said he had discussed the matter with Brooks and Smith.
“I haven’t had anyone come and tell me they are overworked,” Sanders said, which drew an angry response from Brooks.
“They don’t come to you because they don’t want to talk to you,” Brooks said. “These people stay away from you. They are starting to stay away from Ralph because they are getting the runaround. Ralph is going to do whatever in the hell he wants so let’s just move on.”
The Lowndes County Board of Supervisors also took the following actions on Monday, June 3.
• Brooks and Smith were appointed to serve on an ad hoc committee focusing on economic development on the island.
• District 2 Supervisor John Holliman asked for a resolution recognizing the new Hope baseball team for winning the 5A State Championship.
• Spencer Broocks of Golden Triangle Planning and Develoopment was given approval to advertise for professional services for the HOME Project.

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