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Grady and Thomas may split cost of new Extension agent

After a drought of nearly 30 years, the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service office in Grady County could have a Family Consumer Sciences agent added to its staff.
Grady County Cooperative Extension Coordinator Deron Rehberg met with Grady County commissioners this week to discuss the possibility of adding a FACS agent, formerly referred to as home economist agents, to the local staff to be shared with the Thomas County Cooperative Extension Service office.
“Currently, there are no agents in the counties on the border. It’s been 20-plus years we’ve been without one here. When I came to work 30 years ago we had one,” Rehberg said.
According to the county coordinator, the Extension Service is trying to build back the position, many of which were cut in 1991 and never restored.
“When we get calls now we have to refer them to the agent who works out of Baker and Mitchell counties, but if we have requests for programming, we can help them,” Rehberg said.
Rehberg said FACS agents do much more than they did 30 years ago, and he shared with the county commission some of the educational programs a FACS agent can provide including state approved training for child care provider continuing education, ServSafe Food Service Manager and Employee Certifications, School Nutrition Employee Training, cancer prevention cooking schools, as well as diabetes prevention cooking schools to name just a few.
Rehberg estimates it would cost Grady and Thomas counties $10,000 each to supplement the FACS agent position with the remainder of the agent’s salary and benefits being paid with state funds.
“Do you get enough calls to justify the position?” Grady County Commission Chairman Ray Prince asked.
Rehberg said that since there has not been an agent here in so many years the number of calls had dropped, but if the public is made aware of the services and programs that would be available, the demand locally would increase.
The county coordinator also recommended inviting UGA officials to attend a meeting in which they could share more details and answer any questions the commissioners might have.
Commissioner June Knight asked if Thomas County was interested and what was the demand for a FACS agent there.
“They’ve had an agent sooner than we have. They’ve only been without one maybe 10 years, so their volume of calls is more,” Rehberg said.
Rehberg is also currently serving as the interim county coordinator in Thomas County and he reported he had made a similar presentation to Thomas County Administrator Mike Stephenson, but Stephenson had not carried the request before the commissioners in Thomas County yet.
“I’d like to hear more about it,” Commissioner Keith Moye said and Chairman Prince and Commissioner Knight echoed those thoughts.
County Clerk Carrie Croy was requested to schedule a follow-up meeting with the commissioners, UGA personnel and Rehberg to discuss the opportunity further.

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