Several items were pulled from a rather lengthy consent agenda at the Glynn County Board of Commissioners meeting Thursday night, and one involving how the county deals with voter registration shed light on a process that could be called rather antiquated.
During the public comment period, Jeff Kilgore directed attention to a number of items on the commissioners’ consent agenda and questioned the called-for spending. That included No. 7 on the agenda, which was a request for approval to hire “two temporary full-time employees for the Board of Elections for the span of one calendar year to scan registration cards into their electronic system and increase the BOE (Fiscal Year 2019) budget in the amount of $40,716 with funding to be provided from the County Manager’s Contingency Fund.”
Kilgore questioned why the county couldn’t just get a digital file from the Secretary of State’s Office, and wondered why there would need to be staff for a year, when by his experience, it shouldn’t take more than four months.
Commissioner Bob Coleman requested that item be pulled from the consent agenda, along with items asking for $85,000 for temporary staff for the Property Assessor’s Office and a resolution to amend the FY 2018-19 budget.
County Manager Alan Ours said he received a call from Board of Elections member Tyler Clark in early November asking for additional staff to handle scanning of 57,000 voter registration cards, which needed to be completed ahead of the 2020 elections. Ours said that Clark told him if the work was completed before the span of a year, that they could end the temporary employment of those extra workers.
Also, the workers scanning those registrations would be able to check to make sure that the voters in question are alive and living in the county.
Commissioner Michael Browning said he went down to the elections office after the general election in November, and apprised himself of the situation at hand, and said after going through the matter with staff, that it probably should have been addressed earlier.
“The big issue in verifying voters is that the voter information in Glynn County has always been kept on voter registration cards — on a piece of paper,” Browning said. “Voter information, with a signature. And you have votes, provisional votes or any other kind of vote that comes in that’s not out of the machine, they have to go back and check that information, where a vote has to be verified. All that’s done manually here in Glynn County.
“And there is a room — I’ll invite anybody to go down and look at it — but there is a room that is chock full of everybody that has ever registered to vote in Glynn County, that their registration for some good reason hasn’t been purged already. And apparently we have some that are, Commissioner Murphy talked about, sounds like they should be purged, the age that these voters apparently are today.
“But what’s happening there is, every time we have to approve — I say approve, every time the Board of Elections has to verify a vote, they have to go in that room and pull that card. I mean, you need to go in there and look at it. I was amazed that there were that many registrations in Glynn County. It is tends of thousands of them. And I’m sure they have been struggling with this for years, after seeing what I saw a couple weeks ago.”
The commissioners approved the outlay with a 6-1 vote, with Coleman casting the no vote. Commissioners also unanimously approved the money for the assessor and for the budget amendment.
They went into executive session while discussing giving a right-of-way permits to Sea Island Acquisition to lay fiber-optic cable within the right-of-way of Sea Island Road and Frederica Road, and when the commissioners returned, they approved that, with Coleman dissenting.
Adoption of the Sunday brunch amendment, which was approved by voters to allow alcohol consumption at restaurants beginning at 11 a.m. on Sundays, was approved 5-2, with Coleman and Commissioner Bill Brunson casting no votes.
Steve Jackson was sleeping soundly and safely, or so he thought, in September when a loud crash jolted him awake.
“I was sleeping in the living room,’’ he said standing beside his pink clapboard house on South Harrington Road. “As soon as it fell, I ran out here with my flashlight.”
What he saw was a dead water oak that that a storm that pushed over onto the roof of his house. He paid someone to cut the tree off his home, but he couldn’t afford to have it hauled away so it still lies in pieces on the east side of the house a few feet away from where tarps cover a gaping hole before trailing down the side of buckled wall.
The tarps kept the rain out through October, but now the roof is sagging more and, during the recent four days of rain, a lot of water came through.
Disabled and a diabetic, the 65-year-old Jackson said he had no homeowners insurance and doesn’t have the money to pay for repairs.
The house was not in the best of shape before the tree came down. The paint is peeling and the house, likely built during World War II, is showing its age.
“It was built before I was born. I was born in that house,’’ Jackson said. “We had the midnurse (midwife).”
Until a few decades ago, his few neighbors lived along South Harrington, which with parallel North Harrington Road, formed a historic community of African Americans. Before desegregation, African-American children attended one-room South Harrington School a few doors away from Jackson’s house. The house is likely among the three or four oldest remaining in a community that many want to preserve starting with restoring the school.
There were few dwellings in the woods between the two Harrington roads, but most of that land has been sold and cleared and houses have gone up cheek-to-jowl taking up most of the small lots. Many are occupied by retirees who moved south for the weather and younger people who found good jobs in the area.
It is one of those relatively new neighbors, a New Hampshire woman, who is spearheading an effort to raise money to make Jackson’s house sound again. Joanne Gauthier is disabled herself but is putting off treatment until she gets a few things done including remodeling her house up the street from Jackson.
“I walk every single day,’’ she said. “I’d see him. He’d wave at me.”
Indeed, Jackson and some of his friends or cousins are usually out in the yard sitting in the shade in the summer or by a seemingly constant fire in the colder months.
“Right after Thanksgiving, I asked, ‘Steve, what are doing about your roof?’’’ she said.
Jackson acknowledged about all he had done was appeal to relatives who have an interest in the property.
He was one of 13 children, and the six who are living own the house together.
“It’s heirs’ property. I can’t do anything unless all the others agree to it and they can’t do nothing unless I go along with it,’’ he said.
One of those heirs, his older brother Joe Lewis Jackson, also lives in the house part-time.
Gauthier doesn’t rest a lot herself. She has done most of the remodeling work on her house alone and even had to go back and redo some shoddy work by contractors and finish up projects others walked away from. But if they thought they could simply keep her money for work undone, they were wrong. In several cases, Gauthier has gone after them unrelentingly until she got her money back and that’s the same energy she has put into helping Jackson.
Having organized nextdoor.com in her neighborhood, she first wrote about Jackson’s plight on social media and has since appealed to churches and several agencies. Although she relies heavily on social media, she also believes in personal appeals and has made many.
She started a Gofundme page for Jackson that has raised about half of what she calls “a rough estimate.” Roofers have been asked to provide more detailed estimates.
But before tackling the roof, she learned the Jackson brothers had other needs including a couple of beds, a refrigerator and stove. Those needs were all met and someone donated a new gas range, but, she said, “We can’t put it in the kitchen because the floor’s rotted.”
Gauthier admits to rising late and she takes a break in the afternoon, but the rest of time she goes without stopping sometimes on her house and other times, at least recently, working to raise money for Jackson’s roof.
“I’ve spent 70 hours,’’ she said, “responding to emails, making appeals” and prodding Jackson.
She goes to see him about every day to keep him on a task that is new to him. That includes putting out fliers asking for help.
She asked him Monday, “You put out those fliers yet?”
When he answered he had put some out, she said, “Put out some more.”
If Gauthier can get a few more things done, she and Jackson won’t be neighbors much longer. Once the renovations are done, she’s going to move back to New Hampshire to care for her elderly father and mother.
“I was supposed to have moved in April,’’ but the work has taken longer than she expected, she said.
She hopes to get back home to her parents soon, but not before her house is ready to sell and Jackson again can live in all of his.
The horrific events that unfolded 77 years ago today at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii galvanized Americans like never before, from World War II’s front lines in Europe and the Pacific to the home front in communities across this nation.
Perhaps no community better exemplifies the contributions and sacrifices made here at home in response to the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, than right here in the Golden Isles. From military training to civilian industry, Glynn County teemed with activity aimed at winning the war — so much so it would be difficult to contain all of the elements in one location.
Until now. The World War II Home Front Museum opens its doors to the public for the first time at 1 p.m. Saturday, located at the Historic Coast Guard Station at Coast Guard Beach on St. Simons Island. Exhibits, galleries, interactive media, personal recollections and more help bring to life the trials and triumphs of the war years in the Golden Isles, covering everything from the Liberty Ship-building yards on the Brunswick River to the deadly German U-Boat attack of two tanker ships offshore from St. Simons Island.
Tickets to the museum cost $12 for adults and $6 for children ages 12 to 6; kids 5 and under are free.
Saturday’s opening culminates four years of preparation on behalf of the Coastal Georgia Historical Society, which collaborated with designers of the National World War II Museum in New Orleans to bring the museum to fruition. Its opening to the public will be preceded Saturday morning by a private function featuring guest speaker Rob Citino, the senior historian of the National World War II Museum in New Orleans, La.
“We have been working on this project for four years, to bring this all together for the community,” said Mimi Rogers, curator for the historical society. “This museum encompasses everything that occurred here on the home front; it allows everyone to see that our community did so much for the war effort during World War II.”
Perhaps the most notable efforts unfolded at the shipyards run by J.A. Jones on the Brunswick River, which churned out nearly 100 Liberty Ships from 1943-45. The shipyards employed 16,000 women and men to produce the cargo ships that carried supplies and munitions to the warfront, turning a sleepy backwater into a bustling boomtown in the process.
Some of the best and brightest from the U.S. Navy and Marines were sent to a school established at the King and Prince on St. Simons Island, where they learned to harness the new technology of radar to the advantage of Allied air power. Naval pilot training occurred at present day St. Simons-McKinnon Airport, which also served as a base for the Civil Air Patrol’s monitoring of the coast.
Naval Air Station Glynco established its airship base at the present-day Brunswick Golden Isles Airport, from which blimps provided aerial escorts that kept offshore merchant ships safe from U-Boats.
The need for such escorts hit home early in the war. On April 8, 1942, a German U-Boat torpedoed the tankers Esso Baton Rouge and S.S. Oklahoma some 12 miles offshore from St. Simons Island, killing 22 merchant mariners. This deadly incident punctuated the need for the onshore blackouts of homes and businesses.
The blackouts, gas rationing, bond drives and other sacrifices of everyday citizens also are highlighted at the museum.
A gallery and exhibit will address each aspect of the local home front during WWII, including a Combat Information Center, and an iconic storefront from the WWII era. Interactive features will allow visitors to experience plane spotting, radar-directed aerial combat and, yes, Liberty Ship construction.
“There is also a 10-minute video introduction that outlines the story of what took place here,” Rogers said. “It puts it in context with what was happening in the war, and how things that happened here were so significant.
“And there will be a gallery devoted to each aspect of World War II on the home front,” Rogers added. “We wanted to put together a compelling story to tell, so that people of all ages would enjoy coming here to experience it.”
The World War II Home Front Museum is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday, and from 1:30 to 5 p.m. on Sundays. Joint tickets to visit both the World War II museum and the historical society’s St. Simons Island Lighthouse Museum cost $20 for adults and $10 for children. Anyone with a personal military ID card received a $2 discount.