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Agri-Park Board of Directors Committee Meeting Minutes – (APPROVED)

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19 OCTOBER 2022


The Chair George Witt asked Benny Birdsong to offer a prayer and lead the pledge.  The Chair then asked the County Executive Graham Stowe to introduce the newest appointed commissioners to the Committee.  Those are:  Maurice Woodard, Caleb Savage, Matt Rubelsky, Tim Risner, and Gayle Jones, with the County Executive as a non-voting member.  The Chair mentioned the other non-commissioners on the committee, representing Giles County service organizations.  Those are:  Jason Doggett representing the Civitan Club, Benny Birdsong representing the Lions Club, George Witt representing the Cattlemens’ Association, and Mayor Pat Ford (absent) representing the Rotary Club.


Electing new officers.  Before the nominations, County Executive noted no second was required for the nominations.  George Witt was nominated by Bennie Birdsong for Chair, and Matt Rubelsky was nominated by Gayle Jones.    With a vote of 4 to 3, Matt Rubelsky was elected Chair.  For Vice Chair, Caleb Savage was nominated, and George Witt was nominated.  With a vote of 4 to 3, Caleb Savage was elected Vice Chair.  For Secretary, Gayle Jones was unanimously elected.  At this time, the newly elected Matt Rubelsky took the Chair and presided.


The County Executive said that while no agenda was made available, that he, the previous Chair George Witt, and Benny Birdsong had been meeting on various items for discussion.  The County Executive provided a history of how the county currently has a Charter for the Board approved at state level (last amended in 2001) and that the county’s only written by-laws were out of date.  Currently, the county had been using more of a rules/regulations custom approach.  He recommended a sub-committee be established to draft proposed by-laws for the board’s approval, as well as a county attorney review, in particular for a 501(c)(3) organization, commonly referred to as charitable organizations.   The Chair asked for volunteers and with George Witt and Benny Birdsong volunteering, the Chair included himself and the County Executive to this sub-committee. Commissioner Terry Jones suggested the County Technical Assistance Service (CTAS) be contacted for help and that a benchmark be established with other counties’ approaches.  The Chair asked for a vote on agreement with all members voting aye, no opposed, and the Chair said would start immediately.  In keeping with rules of order a motion by Commissioner Savage, seconded by Jason Doggett was made and approved to appoint this sub-committee.  As an Ad Hoc committee, it was stated the Chair has the authority to appoint.  A question by Commissioner Joyce Woodard was on a handout provided on by-laws and where did they come from.  County Executive said the by-laws were drafted by a previous County Executive, Ms. Janet Vanzant, but were never formally approved at full commission, but that, if approved within this Board, the full commission approval is not required.


Previous minutes of 5 July 2022 were moved for approval by Commissioner Caleb Savage, seconded by George Witt, and were approved.  Next item for discussion was the Facility Lease Agreement.  County Executive mentioned there were several versions, none dated.  He recommended a sub-committee be identified to look at the different versions, and revisit the fee schedules, the leases, the rules and regulations, and laws.  A motion by Commissioner Caleb Savage, seconded by Commissioner Gayle Jones, for a sub-committee to be appointed was made and approved.  That sub-committee will consist of Commissioners Caleb Savage and Gayle Jones, and Benny Birdsong, Jason Doggett, the Chair and the County Executive.  While this group will not meet in public, there will later be a public meeting.  In addition, the sub-committee will have a draft by the next meeting in November.  County Executive said the by-laws should be the first priority, and they would get together on those by next week.  Commissioner Brad Butler said all meetings should be open to the public.  This raised several differing opinions about open meetings, decisions being made for example, difference between a Board and a county commission, and how a 501(c)(3) should be conducted.  The County Executive said he would get with the CTAS on these questions.  A question from Commissioner Terry Jones on why all Giles County Districts aren’t represented as members on this Board, and Commissioner Gayle Jones said she would like to see all seven, because of liability.  Dr. Lathrop said the Charter would have to be amended and should be done through the county attorney.  Benny Birdsong mentioned the cost to others outside of the county commissioners, (who pay nothing individually although the county does provide funding to the agri-park), and that cost is $10K for being represented on the board so he suggested eliminating that requirement.  The Chair said this draft would be starting from the ground up.  County Executive recommended keeping the current members until can restructure.  The sub-committee of six was moved for approval by George Witt, seconded by Jason Doggett and was approved.


Under Old Business – County Executive mentioned the shelter grant, currently at $4.3M (started at $1.5M), and stated while approved up to federal, the next action is in FEMA hands, and no funding has been received to date.  Those funds may not be received until around January.  Another Health Department grant of $250K, to extend the walking trail with additional signs, pole shelter, was described. There will only be four awards this year, so looking positive.  A motion by Jason Doggett, seconded by Commissioner Savage to approve applying for the grant was made and approved.   Commissioner Gayle Jones asked about matching funds or other strings attached and was told no.  Commissioner Joyce Woodard said during previous discussions a mention of donating a tree along the walking trail was discussed.  Jason Doggett said in the strategic plan, the walkway was to be totally around the park.   The plan was described as available, detailed, and through.  A question on the size of the park and apparently several numbers have been provided with Commissioner Butler doing on the spot check said 45.9 acres.  The County Executive said a previous playground grant has also been pursued, and should be hearing from that grant, perhaps in December.  Jason Doggett asked about an extension for the construction which had a deadline and was told by the County Executive that no word had been received at this time.


Any other old business – no.

Any new Business – County Executive mentioned another area, which he said did not require a sub-committee, but a need to develop a “work list” which may require funding to correct issues such as health and safety.  He mentioned the great work Benny Birdsong has done and is doing, but that some of the work may need more than one person, and that the total workload may require additional resources.  He further mentioned Benny Birdsong, Commissioner Matt Rubelsky, Jason Doggett, Commissioner Maurice Woodard, Johnny Pruett, Jerry Farmer, and himself had toured the park and saw several needs that should be addressed quickly, e.g., a bridge falling down over part of the trail.  Commissioner Joseph Sutton asked about ADA compliance and was told by Jason Doggett that every time a grant is applied for, the ADA must show compliance.  Jason said he would volunteer to work with Benny.  In addition, along with the Chair and Jason, Commissioner Terry Jones nominated Johnny Pruett and Jerry Farmer and the plan was to get together on Friday.  Jason also raised the question of the responsibility of the Grand Jury to inspect county facilities and a report then be given back to this committee.  Another question on the bleachers and the concession stand and their viability was raised.  Commissioner Butler said that someone had recently looked at the bleachers and they only had minor issues.  Re the concession stand, since that is where the shelter will be built, the current concession stand will be demolished so spending additional funds at this time might not be cost effective, per Benny Birdsong.


George Witt moved for adjournment and with Commissioner Savage providing the second the meeting was adjourned.


ATTENDEES:  Directors of this Board – Chair Matt Rubelsky and other commissioners Caleb Savage, Gayle Jones, Maurice Woodard  Other members – George Witt, Benny Birdsong, Jason Doggett, Mayor Pat Ford (absent)  Other Commissioners in attendance – Terry Jones, Erin Curry, David Adams, Joyce Woodard, Dr. James Lathrop, Joseph Sutton, David Wamble and Brad Butler  Other attendees – County Executive Graham Stowe,  members of the public