The August meeting of the Emanuel County Board of Commissioners was called to order this past Monday evening in the Commissioner’s board room of the John C. Coleman County Office building. Commissioners Foskey, Oliver, Sherrod, and Thompson were present. Commissioner Davis was absent due to illness. Chairman Hugh Foskey welcomed a sizable crowd and called on County Attorney Richard McNeely for the invocation. Following the Pledge of Allegiance, the minutes of prior meetings were approved.
Brett Manning of the Regional Commission was on hand to formally present the County with checks totaling six million dollars in state grant funds awarded to Emanuel County for three recreation projects. Manning commended the county for its efforts in securing the funds and Chairman Foskey added the thanks of the county commissioners to Administrator Guy Singletary for the role he played in managing the applications for this history-making award.
Next on the meeting’s agenda was a Public Hearing regarding the fate of Chandler Road. Citizens from the area of the road in question spoke for and against the idea of closing the road and offered valid arguments, respectively. Chairman Foskey advised that the commission would reach a decision by the next regular meeting.
The final agenda item prior to old business concerned the John C. Coleman Hotel. Prior to public comments, Commissioner Jim Sherrod took the floor to dispel two rumors concerning the county’s building programs. The first was to make it clear that the new county office building being built adjacent to the post office would house the Office of the Tax Commissioner, license tag and title department, the Tax Assessor, and the Election Board and Voter Registration Office. This building would not provide offices for the Board of County Commissioners. The second point was to assure the public that regardless of any vote that may take place concerning the Coleman Hotel, the Hotel was not being considered for demolition.
At that point, the commissioners heard public comments from five individuals in favor of renovating the hotel and continuing to take advantage of the building’s prime downtown location to serve as the center of county business. Those speaking in favor were Shari Watt, representing the Veterans of the Library, George and Missy Elder representing the Emanuel County Historical Society, Attorney Jerry Cadle, and Bobby Reeves.
Cadle reminded the commissioners of the inherent value of rehabilitating versus new construction. Reeves spoke of the iconic position the building has enjoyed for almost one hundred years as a witness to the progress of the town and county. Chairman Foskey then spoke in opposition to renovating the building. The Chairman said he had given the subject a lot of thought and wanted to have his say. Foskey expressed his opinion that a lot of people in the county don’t feel the same way as the speakers here do and characterized his position as being against wasteful spending. Commissioner Sherrod expressed his position as respectfully disagreeing with Foskey and listed the improvements that would be facilitated in the operation of various county offices by taking advantage of the building that is already in operation. Sherrod reiterated the fact that the citizens of Emanuel County made clear their support of renovating the Coleman Hotel in the overwhelming vote on the last Special Purpose Local Sales Tax referendum.
Sherrod then made the motion to undertake the renovation project. The motion was seconded by Commissioner Oliver. Voting in favor of the motion were Sherrod, Oliver, and Thompson. Chairman Foskey voted against.
Under new business, the commission voted to enter into discussions with Buckley & Associates, Architects for planning of the Coleman Hotel project. Commissioners then heard a status report on the transition of the Recreation Department into a new management system of specified responsibility. This plan is still evolving. The commission was also updated on the continuance of further planning stages for the development of the three recreation projects which they have now received funding for.
Chairman Foskey called for a motion of adjournment which was moved and seconded bringing a very busy night to a close.