Glynn County residents may see more differences in the mainland and St. Simons Island over the next year.
Looking back over the last year and into the new one, county commission Chairman Bill Brunson and County Manager Alan Ours said some big changes will likely come from an ordinance rewriting initiative the county is undertaking.
Earlier this year, the Glynn County Commission set aside $200,000 to hire a consultant that will look at the county’s ordinances and recommend changes to bring them up to modern standards and set them in line with the recently updated comprehensive plan.
“They’ll start with the low-hanging fruit, the surface level things that need to be changed,” Ours said.
While many countywide ordinances will likely change, Brunson said regulations applying specifically to St. Simons Island — dealing with residential and commercial development in particular — may be introduced along different lines than those on the mainland.
“This will be a very onerous process dealing mostly with St. Simons,” Brunson said.
When most county ordinances were written, they could easily be applied to the entire county, he said. St. Simons is now the most densely populated part of the county, however, and needs different regulatory considerations when it comes to development.
As examples of possible divergences from countywide ordinances, Ours said county staff had discussed creating more overlay districts like the St. Simons Island village preservation overlay district.
Ours also mentioned a zoning practice called form-based code, which is equally concerned with the aesthetic aspects of a structure as the specifics of size and shape.
The county commission will not do it alone, Brunson said, as the Mainland and Islands planning commissions will be driving forces behind the ordinance changes.
While such changes would lead to further differences in the two areas, Brunson said he hopes they will smooth tensions between the county commission and island preservation advocates.
Several island residents have taken the county to court over the last few years, alleging improperly approved ordinance amendments, site plans and subdivision plats, among other things.
Judges presiding over planning and zoning lawsuits have decided in the county’s favor so far, but Brunson hopes the ordinance changes will address “out-of-control” development on St. Simons Island.
“We can’t be ‘the island’ and ‘the mainland,’” Brunson said.
Ours cited the comprehensive plan, which will serve as a guide when rewriting the ordinances, as a major achievement for the county in 2018.
In order to prepare for the future, the county used 2018 as a period to act on lessons it learned from hurricanes Matthew and Irma, Ours said.
Upgrades to the county Emergency Operations Center in the Glynn County Police Department’s headquarters, along with upcoming improvements to the headquarters and contracts for logistical support during another storm will greatly improve officials’ abilities to manage another disaster, Ours said.
“A lot has been done to strengthen emergency preparedness and our ability to recover,” Ours said.
He also put public safety high on the list of areas in which the county improved in 2018.
New equipment and software for the police and fire departments, as well as the county’s 911 Center, an increased emphasis on community policing and a tax increase to pay for raises for public safety officers, among other things, have made a dent in crime, Our said.
He added that high-profile arrests and drug busts over the last year are direct evidence of the county’s investment in public safety, which is at the top of the county’s strategic plan.
“I really think we’re on track,” Ours said.
In addition, 2018 marked Brunson’s second year as chairman following a 2017 agreement among commissioners that each chairman would serve for two years instead of one if possible.
“It’s a challenge, but it’s very rewarding and it ought to be the precedent,” Brunson said.
Continuity and the chance to build long-term professional relationships with other government officials, he explained allowed him to serve the county in ways he wouldn’t have otherwise been able to.
In conclusion, Ours said the coming year looks bright.
“A lot of communities aren’t as fortunate as Glynn County. We’re a growing county a lot of people want to visit and want to move to,” Ours said. “We’re blessed.
He intends to work on his top three priorities: overseeing the strategic plan, the ordinance rewriting initiative and execution of special-purpose, local-option sales tax projects.
When lousy crooks stooped to pilfering from children this holiday season, some local cops stepped up to make sure the bad guys did not also steal the magic of Christmas from the kids’ young hearts.
Thanks to the initiative of officers with the Glynn County Police Department, a boy in the Arco neighborhood is riding a brand new bicycle and Christmas came after all to three Glynn County siblings.
Yet, just a couple of weeks ago, it was looking like a blue Christmas for them all.
Za’Dante Turner is an upbeat youngster who befriended members of the police department’s Community Relations Unit. The cops on the unit met Za’Dante when their beat took them to his neighborhood on Ogg Avenue. They challenged each other to foot races, told jokes, cutting up and stuff — just guys horsing around. In fact, the cops even gave Za’Dante his own honorary badge and badge number.
But the upbeat Za’Dante was hiding a sad secret.
“He was telling us about how his bike had recently been stolen,” said officer Marion Haire. “It was kind of sad.”
If anybody knows how important a bicycle is to a guy, it is these four officers with the community relations unit. Bicycles are the preferred mode of transportation for Haire and fellow officers Robert Mydell, Josh Williams and Michael Kanago. “We all just decided let’s pitch in and buy him a bike,” Haire said.
The next time Za’Dante saw the officers was Dec. 20, the Thursday before Christmas. The officers came bearing a brand new Nitro Circus boy’s bicycle, complete with a big red Christmas ribbon on the handlebars. The gift even included a new lock, to help keep the prize out of the hands of thieves.
“I don’t know if he expected to see us again, but we made time to go as a group and do this specifically for him,” Haire said. “It’s just a way of bridging that gap between police and the community. He could see that we’re not just police officers making arrests, but also people who care about our communities and what happens within them.”
In another part of Glynn County, siblings Chip, Destiny and Isaac had presents already under the tree at their grandmother’s home to remind them that Christmas was just around the corner. Then, the unthinkable occurred. Burglars struck at the home, taking with them the youngsters’ presents.
Glynn County Police Lt. Jeremiah Bergquist first learned just how hurtful this theft was to the children from a friend, Jason Dickerson. “I had a friend of mine who personally knows the family,” said Bergquist, who works with the department’s Street Crimes Task Force. “When he called me, I thought, serving the community is what we do. What better way to serve than to reach out to these kids?”
His fellow officers readily agreed. Several officers immediately began pooling their resources. Heck, Capt. Tom Jump even donated all his winnings from a 50/50 raffle.
Newly-elected County Commissioner Wayne Neal got caught up in the holiday spirit and pitched in as well.
On Christmas day, officer Brandon Rusch delivered the new presents to Chip, Destiny and Isaac.
“We were able to provide Christmas for these kids, beginning with my friend Jason reaching out to us,” Bergquist said. “Being in a position to provide that assistance, I guess that’s what Christmas is all about.”
The Glynn County Board of Education is considering a plan to make use of the historic Glynn Academy building and to better secure the high school’s campus.
The concept, proposed at the most recent facilities committee meeting, includes repurposing the historic Glynn Academy building into a new school entrance set up.
The plan includes the construction of a small structure between the historic building and the Glynn Academy building, in which the front office is now located, to be used as a controlled entrance to campus.
The goal is to have a single, secure entrance and exit to the campus, as the current open set up of the campus creates potential safety hazards.
“As part of the school security issue, it has raised its head in the last year or so, as we looked at ways to make that difficult campus secure down there,” said Al Boudreau, executive director of operations for Glynn County Schools. “That area between the old original building and the GA building was a place we need to have some control structures.”
A fencing project has been ongoing to completely close off the campus. The school board is also waiting for approval from the city commission to install gates on Mansfield Street to close off the campus.
“With it being on their right of way, they have to give us permission to control that street,” Boudreau said. “They wanted to tie it in with us giving them back some extra property at Wright Square, so they can return Wright Square to its original configuration.”
The school board has requested to put the gates at either end of the portion of campus that includes Mansfield Street. The gates would remain open outside of school hours.
The proposed plan for the historic Glynn Academy building recommends relocating the principal’s office into the building.
The nurse’s office may also be moved there, and a historical display may be set up.
The building carries with it a rich history.
Constructed in 1840, the historic Glynn Academy building is the oldest wooden schoolhouse in Georgia. The building served as the only public school building in Brunswick for more than 50 years.
The building was disassembled in 1915 and reassembled in the Sterling community.
Using ESPLOST 2 funds, the school board relocated the building back to Glynn Academy’s campus in 2008.
“We only budgeted enough money to relocate it, but not to actually finish it,” Boudreau said.
No funding is currently budgeted for the project, he said. The proposed plan is just a concept option.
“If we really want to secure that campus, this is how it could be done,” he said. “… The next thing we need to do is estimate what that concept would cost. We haven’t done that yet.”