Tuesday, June 16, 2020
Tifton, Georgia
Tifton Grapevine
Years of disagreements between Tift County and the City of Tifton have culminated in both governments deadlocked over the delivery of essential services .

Because of the deadlock , the county has sent a letter saying it will end specified services within the city during the coming months.

This would result in the city having to handle its own recreation, tax collections, animal control, city elections, non-emergency 911 dispatching and the housing of city inmates – now overseen by the county.

Recreation, animal control and 911 dispatching are currently paid through the county's general fund by all Tift countians , both inside and outside incorporated areas. At no cost to the county, the city directly pays for its elections, pays the tax commissioner for collections and pays the sheriff for inmate housing.

However, the county must allow the election office, the tax commissioner and sheriff to work with the city in handling those services. City Attorney Rob Wilmot said the county is halting those relationships.

A neutral mediator , allowed under state law to help resolve disputes, filed a report dated Monday determining that the city and county are at an impasse and that the mediation has been ended .

"The level of distrust is such that these parties are talking at cross purposes, and neither side can appreciate the other side's position," wrote Susan W. Cox , the third-party mediator from Statesboro .

The impasse arose when the county's "final proposal" stated that the city must accept the county's latest offer as one bundle in providing recreation, tax collections, animal control, city elections, 911 dispatching and inmate housing. None of the items could be negotiated separately and should be either accepted or rejected all together. If rejected, the county said it will stop providing those services within Tifton city limits.

"I confirmed with the county's counsel that their offer was conditioned upon ... an 'all or nothing' position; i.e., either the city agreed to all of the terms regarding all of the services ... or they agreed to none of them," the mediator wrote.
"After reviewing the offer, the city could not agree to all of the proposals," the mediator wrote. "If the county's offer had allowed negotiations on the six services ... the city felt that further agreement could have been reached."

Tift County Commission Chairman Grady Thompson , in a letter to Mayor Julie Smith on June 9, said the county had hoped its latest proposal would solve all service-delivery issues except for water and wastewater, which is pending in Superior Court .

"As has been the case in all previously county-submitted solutions, this plan once again included concessions to the City of Tifton in an effort to bring more than two years of service delivery strategy negotiations between the parties to a close," Thompson wrote.

"The City of Tifton's rejection of every county proposal, coupled with the city's consistent desire to cherry-pick services it will allow Tift County to deliver, leaves no clear pathway forward."

Mayor Smith told the Tifton Grapevine that if the city had accepted the county's proposal, "we would have had to significantly increase the millage rate . We did not feel it was in the best interests of our constituents. We do not want to raise millage rates or fees ."

Smith said that "City Council felt that we could provide those services that would not require the millage rate to increase." Her message to Tifton taxpayers is "we want to get quality services at cost-effective rates," she said.

"It was an all-or-nothing thing. If only we could pull some services out and take them individually. We're happy with the tax commissioner; we're happy with recreation; we're happy with the sheriff housing prisoners. There are some services that we are very comfortable with."

The mayor added, "We're very receptive and very open to continue discussions. Our ultimate goal is that, hopefully, the city and the county can stay together on some of these things."
Tifton Grapevine
Tift County now has 433 positive cases of the coronavirus , which includes a local elected official . There were 327 cases one week ago.

Tift County Commissioner Melissa Hughes , who is second vice president of the state's counties association (the Association County Commissioners of Georgia), announced Monday that she has tested positive.

"As careful as I have been, wearing my mask, washing my hands, not visiting nor letting anyone visit me – not even my son or grand girls – I have tested positive for COVID-19 ," Hughes posted on social media.

"I didn’t or don’t have any major symptoms. I was not reckless in my health. ... So I am saying all this to say, this virus is real; it has not gone anywhere ."

Tift County's 433 cases represent 1,060 per 100,000 residents, said the Ga. Department of Public Health (DPH). Proportionately, that is more than counties in the Atlanta area – DeKalb registers 556 cases per 100,000 residents ; and Fulton , 468 per 100,000 . The DPH said there has been a total of 22 deaths of Tift residents from the virus and 81 hospitalizations of county residents.

Statewide , there are 59,078 positive cases and 2,529 deaths, the DPH reported Tuesday. Gov. Brian P. Kemp announced Tuesday that the state Department of Community Health has now tested 100 percent of nursing home residents in facilities with 25 or more beds.

This marks a 12 percent improvement in one week. Additionally, staff testing in nursing homes is up 12 percent week-over-week, Kemp said. Across all long-term care facilities with 25 beds or more, 77 percent of residents and 57 percent of staff members have now been tested, both of which are up 9 percent in the past week.
Tift County High School's Class of 2020 515 strong – held a formal commencement ceremony Saturday morning at Brodie Field . Delayed three weeks because of the pandemic , the school's largest-ever senior class sat six feet apart on the field as friends and family observed strict social distancing in the stands.
Sixteen students have been selected to serve as members of the Stallion Society at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College .

Society leaders, chosen for their enthusiasm, leadership ability and academic standing, welcome and aid incoming students.

New members include Abbi Ladson , a nursing major from Moultrie; Alyssa McDaniel , a business major from Tifton; Caroline Sullivan , a biology major from Tifton; Corley Thacker , a nursing major from Covington; Dulce Agundis , a business major from Hazlehurst; Haven Hollingsworth , a nursing major from Pitts; Kirstin Wickett , an agribusiness major from Citra, Fla.; and Klarissa Williamson , an animal science major from Crestview, Fla.

Other new members include Madison Lane , an agriculture major from Gainesville; Megan Gaines , a biology major from Tifton; Reginae Batts , a biology major from Tifton; Shamiyah Williams , a history and government major from Tifton; Sydney Thomas , a rural community development major from Colquitt; Toxey Tuten , an animal science major from Waycross; Torri Williams , a business major from Sylvester; and Hailee Rasbury , an agricultural education major from Pinson, Ala.
Paul Willis , executive vice president for finance and administration at ABAC , has been named an honorary alumnus by Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College's Alumni Association .

Willis joined the ABAC administration in 2009 as college enrichment director. He served as director of the Ga. Museum of Agriculture and Historic Village at ABAC, and vice president for external affairs and chief of staff before assuming his current position.

In 2014 , Willis received the E. Lanier Carson Leadership Award for College Administrators and was instrumental in bringing Greek life to the campus. He was also charged with assimilating the Ga. Museum of Agriculture and Historic Village into the ABAC campus in 2010 . Under his direction, the museum expanded with three new historic buildings and increased the number of special events, workshops, and special exhibits.

While vice president, Willis completed structural changes within the ABAC Foundation and the Alumni Association, expanded homecoming activities, helped to increase giving to ABAC, and led the college's strategic planning process.

He previously served in several executive roles at the University of Florida .
The COVID-19 Drive-Thru Testing Clinic is located at:

Eighth Street Middle School
700 W. 8th Street, Tifton

Patients are asked to enter the clinic from 6th Street
(behind the school)
The clinic is located on the east side of Eighth Street Middle School, between the school building and the football stadium.  Signs around campus will direct patients to enter from 6th Street, behind the track, at the entrance to 6th Street Academy.  Follow the drive around to the Southwell Mobile Clinic for registration.

  • Patients need to have proper identification and will not need to exit their vehicle.
  • Before coming to the Drive-Thru Clinic, please call Southwell’s COVID-19 Hotline at 229-353-2819
This dog is currently on stray hold at the Tift County Animal Shelter . If not reclaimed, the dog will be available for adoption or rescue. V isit  the Animal Shelter from 1-6 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, or call 229-382-PETS (7387).
Pets of the Week are sponsored by:
Branch's Veterinary Clinic
205 Belmont Ave., Tifton, 229-382-6055
– JUNE 14, 1972
What was called the "most disastrous fire in Tifton's history" destroyed the Town and Country Shopping Plaza on Wednesday night, June 14, 1972 . The blaze started shortly after 8 p.m. in the rug department of Roses and quickly spread to adjacent businesses, according to press reports. The loss was upwards of $10 million . Looters stole thousands of dollars of merchandise from the burned stores.
Call Us at 478-227-7126

Your Locally Owned Digital Newspaper!

To Subscribe, CLICK HERE!
By Appointment
Monday - Friday
10 a.m. - 4 p.m.

We are Looking Forward
to Serving All of Your
Housing Needs
Tifton Grapevine
e-published every Tuesday and Friday

Frank Sayles Jr.
Editor & Publisher
Bonnie Sayles
Managing Editor
A Service of Sayles Unlimited Marketing LLC , Tifton, Georgia