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The Grady County Lake Authority sought and received the Grady County Commission’s backing Tuesday to purchase a drone, which can be used for multiple purposes, but one primary use would be in the battle to control invasive grasses at Tired Creek Lake.
Lake Authority Chairman Steven Childs made a presentation to the authority and commissioners during a joint meeting Tuesday afternoon. Childs, who works in the timber industry, explained how drones are regularly used in his profession. Childs informed local officials how a sophisticated drone could be used to pinpoint problem areas in the lake and to focus spraying of chemicals to combat hydrilla, coontail, and diad could be done more effectively and efficiently.
With night vision capabilities, Childs said he could see the drone being used in search and rescue efforts as well as in firefighting.
However, Childs said his original intent in bringing forward the proposal was to more effectively control the growth of the invasive grasses. The authority has previously recommended and the county approved the purchase of carp fish to assist in grass control and the problem spots are being routinely treated with chemicals. Childs said he believes having an aerial view and pinpointing trouble spots could allow the chemical application to be done in a more effective manner.
At an estimated cost of $300 per acre to spray for grass in the lake, Childs says the authority is concerned with getting the “most bang for our buck.”
The authority voted unanimously to recommend to the county the issuance of a request for proposals for a drone. The county commission voted at its regular meeting Tuesday night to proceed with soliciting proposals.
During Tuesday’s joint session, both entities agreed to adhere to a 2016 joint resolution that outlines the specific duties and responsibilities of both the authority and the county commission in regard to the lake.
Grady County’s administrator, J.C. (Buddy) Johnson III, said he did not have a problem with the agreement as long as there was leadership and involvement from the authority in the process of moving the lake forward and ultimately seeing it developed.
Lake Authority member Laura Register described the agreement as “good” and said that it comprised parts of the legislation creating the authority into an easy to understand document that outlines each parties’ role in the lake management and development.
Authority member Bob Ponder agreed and the authority indicated that Authority Chairman Steven Childs and Vice Chairman Chip Wells should be the primary points of contact with the administrator, but Ponder said that if those two were not available, any of the authority members should be willing to step in as needed.
Another point of discussion Tuesday was the opportunity to refinance a bond issued in 2010 for the construction of the lake and dam. Johnson admitted that only recently had county officials realized the authority is the lead agency regarding the bonds and potential refinancing.
Although the county commission previously contracted with Davenport & Company to assist with financial matters including the possible refinancing of the debt, Johnson said Tuesday that the authority could utilize the firm’s services or do something entirely different. However, he said Davenport officials would be present for the authority’s June 1 meeting and the county administrator urged the authority to hear what the firms’ representatives had to say before making any decisions.
Register said that when she served on the Grady County Board of Education she had been involved in bond financing both with public offerings and private placement with banks. She said that the school system had saved significant money in the past and most recently with a public offering. “Is that what Davenport is recommending?” she asked.
Johnson said Davenport officials would share all options and make recommendations, but that it would be the authority’s final decision as to what approach to take.
Vice Chairman Wells, who is a local banker, said in his preliminary discussions with folks knowledgeable of the bonds savings of approximately $1.5 million could be realized based on the current market.
Wells asked for permission to contact Davenport representatives to have a discussion and seek information prior to the June 1 meeting in order to better familiarize himself with the firm’s research and recommendations.
“I have no problem with that whatsoever and frankly, would encourage it,” Johnson said.