TIFTON -- The Tift County Board of Commissioners will decide several issues affecting county employees Monday during the regular session meeting for January.

The board will vote on a new vehicle policy drafted by County Manager Bill Park. The policy has been discussed for several months and had been tabled, but should be voted on Monday. The most controversial subject of the new policy is a ban on smoking or use of tobacco products in county vehicles, included in the current draft of the policy.

The board will also vote on an educational funding and reimbursement policy. The policy would allow, in certain cases, for the county to pay or reimburse employees for non-required training and certifications. In some cases, the county would reimburse employees based on the grade they received during training and only grades of C or higher would receive any reimbursement. Only 75 percent of non-graded courses would be eligible for reimbursement.

If the county pays for non-required training for an employee, then the employee would have to sign a promissory note. If the employee were to then leave the county's employment within two years of the training's completion, the employee would be responsible for paying the county back for the training. The employee would also be responsible for paying back the county if they failed the course.

A limit of $3,000 in educational funding during one fiscal year will be placed on all employees. Furthermore, availability of funding will be limited by the amount of money available in the county budget.

The board will vote on a new county credit card program drafted by Park. The program would help to reduce the load of purchase orders by county employees by allowing department heads to make retail purchases for supplies using the cards. Also, the cards could be used for air travel, rental cars, meals, entertainment and lodging. The cards would require extensive documentation, and the department heads would be required to keep track of all receipts and bills associated with their cards. The cards would be issued by First Community Bank.

Also, the board will decide a new vice chairman to succeed Charlotte Bedell, commissioner from District 6. Bedell had served the remainder of the vice chairman's position vacated by Daughtry Melton when he resigned to run for commission chairman during the last election.

In 1999, the board voted to have the vice chairman position change every odd year, with candidacy based on the longest length of service. Bedell and Commissioner Donnie Hester have been with the board for the longest period consecutively.

The board will vote on bids for a water system upgrade for the Taylor Ridge and Spring Hill subdivisions. The county received two bids, one for $355,340 from Lawn Cutters, Inc. of Omega and one for $506,830.83 from McLendon Enterprises of Vidalia. Consulting company Robert and Company recommended that the county accept the low bid from Lawn Cutters, Inc.

The business owners of the Crafty Sun, which is now closed, requested that the board award them a tax write-off. According to the owners, a letter was sent to the tax assessor's office notifying that the Crafty Sun was closed effective Nov. 30, 2003. However, the letter was not received in time for it to be removed from tax books. Because the business has already been entered into the tax digest, only the county commission can grant a tax write-off. The issue will be decided Monday.

The board will consider a retail beer and wine license application from Chet P. Patel for the convenience store formerly known as Race Trac. Patel has begun leasing the store and has changed the name to Raceway. The application comes with the approval of Sheriff Gary Vowell.

The board will need to find a replacement for Roy Rankin on the Southwest Georgia Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities and Addictive Diseases Planning Board. Rankin had been selected to finish out the term of James Lastinger on the board, but had to resign due to conflicting financial interests. The term of the appointment will last through July 31, 2006.

Bids for a four-year soft drink contract for the recreation department will be discussed and voted on Monday, with a recommendation from Recreation Director Craig Sowell.

To contact reporter Dusty Vassey, call 382-4321, ext. 208.

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