JUNE 20, 2017
Tifton, Georgia


During Tifton City Council's meeting Monday night, Mayor Julie Smith blasted County Manager Jim Carter and County Commission Chairman Grady Thompson for " threats, harassment and bullying" the City of Tifton.

"I'll be damned if I'll be bullied for one more second," a defiant Mayor Smith said. She made the comments a s City Council voted unanimously to table a resolution to equalize water rates between residents of the City of Tifton and Tift County.

"The  city  has proposed in this resolution to equalize the base water rates ... as a good faith solution since no action has been
taken in over 10 years," Smith said. "This was mentioned to the county manager and to the county chairman four months ago, but we haven't heard any comments about this until now."

She noted that the city's plan would  increase base water rates for city customers from $7.72 to $9.11 while reducing the base rate for county residents from $11.49 to $9.11.

"If that is not a fair start in working together, I am evidently not sure what is," the mayor said.

"Amazingly, the city's efforts to reduce the rates to county residents have been met with disparaging editorials in the paper by Commissioner Robert Setters and threats by Grady Thompson ... to sue the City of Tifton," Smith said. "His words were, 'You all will serve jail time.'"

Smith noted that "just last year alone, the county attorney collected over $330,000 in taxpayer money; do you think another threat of a lawsuit is good for anybody 
 except the county attorney? I don't -- that's your money, boys and girls, y our tax dollars ."

She said the county chairman has also informed her that Tift County will not call for a public vote this November to continue the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, or SPLOST, which Smith said has collected  more than $60 million for capital improvements in Tifton, Omega, Ty Ty and, "the great irony ," for the county as well.

"This could be considered a form of coercion or maybe just dirty politics," Smith said. "We will not be bullied by the county any more. The line is drawn."

The city has made personnel changes to better work with the county, the mayor said, but "the lack of communication is as bad as I've ever seen it. This tells me that the problem is, and always has been, not with the city personnel but with the current county administrator, Mr. Jim Carter."

Smith said that "despite the misguided path the county manager, Mr. Carter, is on, the city fully intends to maintain the direction and course of conduct which represents what is best for city residents while, at the same time, having full consideration of the needs and desires of the county residents when it comes to quality water and sewer services."

County Manager Jim Carter did not respond to queries Tuesday from the Tifton Grapevine.


Tifton City Council on Monday adopted a $42,349,571 city budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1.

The budget is balanced without a tax increase, without raising fees and without the use of reserve funds, said City Finance Director Wayne Putnal. He noted that last year's general fund budget was balanced using $1,052,388 from  reserves.

"The balancing of the FY (Fiscal Year) 2018 general fund budget could not have happened without the reorganization and streamlining of various departments and close examination of departmental expenditures," Putnal said.

The finance director pointed out that the City of Tifton has lost approximately $800,000 in funding from Tift County for the fire department since the county decided to break away from the joint department and create a stand-alone county department.

Council members asked about city fire department staffing in the new budget. City Manager Pete Pyrzenski said he and Fire Chief Bobby Bennett are reviewing staffing levels in the next few months to determine if any further adjustments are needed.


"Are You Smarter Than a Len Lastinger Bee?" You can show your smarts by voting once a day through this Friday, June 23, for  Len Lastinger Primary School's video of that name to help the school get a $20,000 grant for playground equipment.

Len Lastinger Primary's video is one of 10 national finalists to win the $20,000 playground grant.
Click above image to see the video on the voting page.

Through  June  23, anyone may vote online once a day by going to @LenLastingerPrimary on Facebook and following the  link to the voting page or by clicking on the video image at right or by Clicking Here

Each of the top five vote-getters will receive a $20,000 grant  to purchase new playground equipment. Winners will be announced June 26.   

The grant is part of "Let's Play," an init iative by  Dr Pepper, Snapple and the national non-profit KaBOOM! The goal is  provide kids and families with the tools, places and inspiration to make active play a daily priority. 

Organizations nationwide submitted videos illustrating the importance of play for a chance to win one of the five $20,000 grants.   
"In the near future, our school population will change to Pre-K through 5th grade . In anticipation of that, our PTO has led our school community in a project to 'Build Our Dream Playground, '" said Richard Fisher , principal of Len Lasting Primary School .

"Being a 'Let's Play' video contest winner would be an incredible jumpstart toward creating an interactive play experience for our students."

Fisher said that if the school wins, "we will purchase a fun, new play structure with smart technology. This unique play structure allows students to engage in traditional play as well as access a suite of games that promote teamwork, develop creativity and problem-solving skills. The extreme makeover of the north end playground will be conducted with the support of the Tift County Board of Education."


Dr. Kim Ezekiel has resigned from the Tift County Board of Education, effective June 30. She has accepted a position as a Title I education program specialist with the State Department of Education

State law prevents state education employees from serving on local school boards.

"We are proud to know that the State Department of Education recognizes what our local board has known for a number of years," said Tift School Board Chairman Jonathan Jones. "Dr. Kim Ezekiel is a highly talented individual who serves our community with excellence as an educator, administrator and board member."

"Dr. Ezekiel has been a valuable part of our board, and we hate to see her go," said Superintendent Patrick Atwater. "We know that she will continue to serve the needs of students at the state level, and we thank her for her many years of service."

Ezekiel began her career with Tift County as a teacher in 1982, working until 2012 when she retired as principal at Len Lastinger Primary School. She has been on the board since 2013

"One most important thing I've ever done is to serve on this school board for the past four and a half years," Ezekiel said. "I have mixed emotions about tendering my resignation because, upon retirement, it was my dream to continue my legacy in education by serving the community as a school board member. It is my hope that the board continues not to allow politics or money to become greater priorities than the children we serve. I am looking forward to watching and observing the successes of this school board. I will truly miss the wonderful people I have had the opportunity work with and the impact we have made together. I thank District I for the opportunity."

Georgia law states that the remaining board members may appoint someone from District 1 to fill the remainder of Ezekiel's unexpired term, after which a new representative would be elected, the school district said.


The fourth annual Watermelon Crawl 5K and Fun Run will be July 8 at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College

The event is a fundraiser to establish the Jerry Moore Memorial Scholarship. Once the endowment funds are in place, the scholarship will be awarded each year to a student majoring in agriculture. Moore was an ABAC alumnus who died in 2013 at the age of 46.

Individual runners may register for the Watermelon Crawl for $23 that includes a T-shirt and runner's bag. Phantom runners who may not be able to participate in the race may register for $25, and families (up to six members of immediate family) may register for $75. Registration is open at

Participants may also register on race day for $25 for individuals and $85 for families. Registration begins at 7:15 a.m. on race day, and the 5K starts at 8 a.m. Those not participating in the 5K may walk the 5K path or take part in the one-mile fun run, which begins at 8:30 a.m.

Tax-deductible donations also may be made to the scholarship fund, payable to the ABAC Foundation. For information, visit  or contact Josie Smith at  or at 229-402-3655.


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