County officials say community service programs will continue as normal this summer despite the retirement of coordinator and 29-year employee Sylvester Harris.
People working off justice court fines by doing such tasks as landscaping, mowing grass and picking up litter will report to the Columbus-Lowndes Recreation Authority for assignments, while 10 area high school students will participate in the county’s summer litter control program, just as last summer, County Administrator Ralph Billingsley said Friday. Students will be hired this week and be split into two five-person crews with a supervisor for each. A projected date for them to start is June 3.
Billingsley said Harris, whose retirement is effective at the end of this month, will supervise one of those crews this summer. He oversaw all 10 students last summer before supervisors agreed to Billingsley’s recommendation to split the program into two groups this summer.
As for replacing Harris, whose resignation due to health concerns was accepted by the board of supervisors during a recent meeting, Billingsley said he will evaluate the structure of the program to see if there are improvements that can be made, which is standard protocol after any departure.
“We’re evaluating the effectiveness of the community service coordinator position to see if there are any changes that need to be made to improve it going forward,” Billingsley said. “If I determine that changes can be made that will improve the department, then I will make a recommendation to the board.”
Justice Court Judge Chris Hemphill said he recently ordered several violators to be placed on community service as he normally would.
“I was on the bench last week and had several people put on community service,” Hemphill said Friday. “I asked what was going on (with that department after Harris leaves) and I was told it’s continuing and they’re being taken to (Propst) Park for community service.”
Nathan Gregory covers city and county government for The Dispatch.