Board discusses hiring project manager and land planner
Grady County commissioners continue to press forward on the construction of the 960-acre lake on Tired Creek.
Over the course of the last week, the board has approved contracting with The Lucas Group, a professional recruiting firm with offices in North America and Europe, to assist with the hiring of a project manager for the lake, and commissioners have also met with land planners and landscape architects David Malcolm and Charlie Johnson of Wood & Partners, which has an office in Tallahassee.
County Administrator Rusty Moye urged the commissioners to partner with The Lucas Group to conduct a nationwide search for the lake project manager. Under the agreement, the county would pay a fee of 25 percent of the starting salary of the project manager if the county hires an applicant identified for the position by the recruiting firm.
Moye says the firm would not only assist with the recruitment effort, but would also assist with developing the job description and the advertisement for applicants.
The county administrator made his recommendation Wednesday during a called meeting. Commissioner Charles Norton said he needed more information about the job description, and Moye said this group would help develop the responsibilities of the position.
Norton expressed his opinion that Tired Creek consultant Wm. Thomas Craig and his associate Laura Benz should have input in the job description and responsibilities for a project manager.
Moye agreed and said he would have Craig and Benz review the job description and have the opportunity for comment.
Then at Tuesday’s commission meeting, Moye presented a proposed advertisement for the position that outlines job duties and experience desired in a project manager for Tired Creek.
“Other commissioners may have comments, but I think it is very important that grant writing experience should be a requirement for the job,” Chairman Al Ball commented.
The board chairman said that even though bond financing for the project has been approved, the county should continue to seek grant funding for the project.
Vice Chairman Charles Renaud and Commissioner Norton questioned the need to hire a full-time project manager at this point in the process.
Renaud said the board had discussed seeking local legislation to create a lake authority and perhaps the county should delay hiring a project manager until a lake authority is put in place.
“This person would transfer to the authority. I think we should move forward as soon as practical. This person has 40 years to get caught up on before knowing what the project is all about,” Moye said.
The county administrator estimates 40 percent of his work is now dealing with Tired Creek or related issues. He said the project manager could take over some of the additional work that he and County Attorney Kevin S. Cauley are currently doing.
“I know we need somebody, but is this a full-time position at this time?” Commissioner Norton asked. In his opinion, he said, the project is not moving fast enough to warrant a full-time position.
The board instructed Attorney Cauley to travel to Savannah Tuesday for a meeting with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and Vice Chairman Renaud suggested the approval of the job description be tabled until the board hears an update on the meeting.
“We may have a better understanding of the time line after we get a report from the attorney,” Renaud said.
Chairman Ball said it may be premature to make a decision on hiring a full-time person, but he favors spending as much time as necessary to seek out the most qualified and talented individual for the position.
“I don’t think we need to feel like we’ve got to make a decision next month. We need to know who is out there and what our choices are. I think it is a good idea to start the search early,” Ball said.
Commissioner Bobby Burns noted that applicants that may be available now could be off the market by the time the commission decides to hire someone.
Vice Chairman Renaud asked if The Lucas Group had helped develop the job description Moye presented, and the administrator said yes.
Commissioner Burns asked what the project manager be doing during the nine to 12 months it will take for the dam design. Moye said he is in constant contact with officials with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Tommy Craig’s office and other firms interested in offering their services to the county for the lake project.
“All I’m asking you to make a decision on today is a basic job description. The person you will ultimately hire will be someone you interview and feel comfortable with. If you are not interested in moving now, then I need to tell The Lucas Group to hold off,” Moye said.
Commissioner Norton repeated his question as to whether or not it is a full-time position, and Moye replied, “I think it is if the right person comes in.”
Chairman Ball says if someone who has to be trained is hired, then it would not be a full-time post, but if the “right person” is hired, they should begin the search now for funding opportunities.
The commission chairman said he does not look on the position as a drain on the county, but as someone who could earn their pay through obtaining grants for the project.
After discussing the matter further, the board voted to table the matter for two weeks and discuss the most recent Corps meeting with Attorney Cauley. Commissioner Elwyn Childs voted against tabling the matter saying, “Personally, I think we need to start looking now. We’re not going to find someone to do it overnight.”
Also at Tuesday’s commission meeting the board met with the land planners and landscape architects of Wood & Partners.
The land planning firm has been involved in such Georgia projects as Reynolds Plantation and The Ritz Carlton at Lake Oconee and have recently been hired to assist the Bibb County commissioners revise the master plan for Lake Tobesofkee.
“Plan for the long term. It is important that you think about putting together a map of your long-range plan for the lake and adjoining area,” David Malcolm of Wood & Partners said.
The land planner said his firm can assist the county in leveraging county funds with state or federal grants that may be available. Malcolm said his firm has assisted other clients with obtaining grants for various projects.
Charlie Johnson, a native of Cairo and now associated with Wood & Partners, told commissioners that the lake project would not come together all at once. “You need to look at phasing the project in. What will happen first, what needs to happen 10 and 20 years down the road. We can help with that planning,” Johnson said.
On a personal note, Johnson said the Tired Creek lake would be a huge public amenity, the like of which was not available to him growing up as a child in Grady County.
“You have a big responsibility to make sure this project is done in the right way, and we would love to be involved. This lake will be an economic and environmental boon for this county,” Johnson said.
Previously, the county has contracted with land planners Roy Ashley & Associates of Atlanta. County Administrator Moye said that the board could continue to work with the Roy Ashley firm or they could decide to work with Wood & Partners.
Commissioner Norton suggested it was premature to make any decisions on hiring land planners, but Moye reminded the board that a plan for the 100-foot buffer around the 960-acre lake required in the permit must be put in place before the county authorizes the harvesting of timber in the lake bed.
“Let’s wait and discuss with Attorney Cauley what he learned at the meeting today with the Corps and come back to this,” Chairman Ball suggested.
Commissioner Childs asked Malcolm and Johnson if they had been involved in planning for a project similar to Tired Creek. Malcolm said Wood & Partners has been involved in the construction of the largest man-made lake in South Carolina, Hampton Lake, and they had developed the buffer plan around that lake, which would be similar to the plan needed for Tired Creek.
Childs also asked about the firm’s involvement with Lake Tobesofkee in Bibb County. Malcolm said the county had make the mistake of leasing out the marina, but maintaining operations of other lake amenities and the county was having to subsidize the lake operations through the general fund.
“You don’t want to have to do that. Through proper planning you can understand from the beginning the costs and put components in the right places,” Malcolm said. The land planner said Grady County can learn from the mistakes of others like Bibb County.
Bibb County is now wanting to look at the possibility of adding cabins and even a conference center near the lake that could help defer the expense of managing the public amenity.
Chairman Ball thanked the land planners for their interest in the project and commented, “It is good to know we have some options available to us and we will be back in touch.”