Last week’s Lee County Commission meeting was dominated by the proposed boat ramp and discussion of four bids for heavy equipment purchases by the Public Works Department.
Don Windham, a resident of the Canuga subdivision just across the road from the proposed boat ramp, spoke against building it, citing traffic, trash, safety, gangs, and teenagers, among other things. He left before I could speak with him but I asked another person who will be speaking with him to contact me about possibly putting his thoughts on SWGAPolitics.com.
Leesburg Councilman Betty Johnson also spoke against the ramp, citing traffic concerns and maintenance costs. She had spoken with Chief Harris of the Lee County Sheriff’s Office and apparently there have been almost double the number of wrecks in that area this year as compared to the prior two years. Chairman Ed Duffy also spoke against the ramp, again citing traffic and safety concerns. Ultimately, Commissioners Muggridge, Williams, and Roland voted for the ramp while Commissioner Johnson did not. Chairman Duffy asked that it be put on the record that although he did not have the opportunity to vote on the measure (as the Chairman only votes to break ties), he also opposed it.
Ultimately, I also oppose it, and while traffic is certainly a concern – that could be alleviated by putting the ramp on Highway 32 just outside the Leesburg city limits – my objection is the amount of money involved and who is paying for it. County Manager Alan Ours told the board that because the state planned to pay for it using boat motor fuel taxes, it had to have motorized boat capability or the State could not pay for it. I still say Lee County could pay for a canoe ramp if that is what we really wanted, and volunteer effort could be used to build out the rest of the park, not counting the ramp itself and parking areas. This would both save quite a bit of money and instill a sense of civic pride, meaning it is a “win-win” scenario here. This is NOT a park with a truly state or federal purpose, and the state and federal governments should not be asked to pay for it.
The other item that caused much discussion was the heavy equipment bids for Public Works. Commissioner Roland questioned the need for both a track excavator and a wheeled excavator as well as the need for three motorgraders – all after being told that Public Works Director William Clark was unavailable due to his wife having a surgery earlier this week. (Our thoughts and prayers go to the Clark family for a speedy recovery for Mrs. Clark, btw.) Chairman Duffy said that he had complete faith in Mr. Clark, and that if Mr. Clark said he needed this equipment then he needed this equipment.
There happened to be a Caterpillar representative in the audience, and he asked if it was in order if he answer some of Commissioner Roland’s questions. Chairman Duffy invited him to proceed, and he noted that basically a track excavator can get work in muddy, non-paved areas that a wheeled excavator would get stuck in. Meaning that while the wheeled excavator can be driven anywhere in the County, it cannot work in areas where there has recently been heavy rainfall or burst pipes. Without the track excavator, this could cause delays in needed repairs. This sounded reasonable to me, and ultimately three of the four bids were approved unanimously, with Commissioner Roland being the only dissenting vote on the track excavator.
The Commissioners also approved a bid for repairs on New York Rd unanimously, and Commissioner Muggridge updated the Commission on the progress of the Complete Count Committee.
Finally, in the public forum, I spoke about my plans to organize a MLK Day of Service to clean and repair the park at Academy Avenue and 4th Street in Leesburg. I also told the Commission that it needed a name, and was informed by Commissioner Muggridge that it did, in fact, have a name – Leesburg Central Park. That was actually my fault for having bad information, though the information I had came from one usually highly reliable source in particular – who shall remain nameless at this point.