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Forysth County officially ends state of emergency

FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — The Forsyth County Commission voted unanimously May 11 to terminate a county resolution that declared a local emergency due to the pandemic.

The resolution had been in place since March 2020 and had to be renewed and modified multiple times since. The emergency resolution allowed special privileges for businesses, such as the ability for restaurants to sell alcohol to-go. It also allowed alcohol vendors to sell without a permit, though this privilege expired well before Tuesday’s decision.

County attorney Ken Jarrard noted that to-go alcohol sales were the last effective provision of the emergency resolution, and that the state passed a bill last year making to-go alcohol sales permanently legal, rendering the resolution useless.

The resolution also allowed the county to hold its meetings virtually. Jarrard said the county would not be able to undertake fully virtual meetings after the resolution terminates, barring another emergency. He said the county could still allow public participation in meetings via Zoom teleconference.

Jarrard noted the county generally kept its emergency declaration ongoing in accordance with the statewide state of emergency declared by Gov. Brian Kemp, which is still in effect. Jarrard said the governor’s emergency declarations have transitioned more to an economic emergency than a disease-related emergency and that it was no longer necessary to keep the county in a state of emergency.

“From my position, I think it’s time to go ahead and rescind this,” Jarrard said.

In other matters covered at the meeting, commissioners voted to renew an agreement with the Georgia Department of Corrections to have inmates from Phillips State Prison in Buford perform public service work in Forsyth County. The agreement provides for work details of up to 10 offenders to work in the county four days per week with a correctional officer providing oversight.

Under the contract, the county would pay just under $50,000 for the year, assuming work is performed four days every week.

County Engineering Director John Cunard said the work detail has been suspended since the pandemic began, and the county is waiting to hear from the prison warden when they will return to work.

The contract amount is for the county to cover the salary and benefits of the working correctional officer. The county will not pay if the work detail is not provided. Cunard said inmate details generally provide services such as litter collection, weed-eating, debris removal and projects with Keep Forsyth County Beautiful.

The County Commission also voted to take ownership of two undeveloped plots on Crooked O Trail, near Forsyth County’s northeast border, to add to the county’s right-of-way. The plots’ owner no longer wanted the unusable land and offered it to the county at no charge.

The board had postponed the item during its April 26 meeting, citing concerns that the land may present liabilities. County Manager Kevin Tanner assured them it would not because the land had no maintenance issues.

Items approved at the May 11 work session will appear on the commission’s May 19 consent agenda, where they will need to receive final approval.

Reach Jake Drukman at 770-847-8334. Follow him on Twitter @DrukmanJake.