A new 311 phone service designed to help provide information to Columbia County residents was approved Tuesday night by Columbia County commissioners.
The service, which will be made possible through an agreement between the county and BellSouth, will be different from 911 in that it should be used by residents only for non-emergency situations. Officials say it will help relieve calls made to 911 that aren't necessarily emergencies.
"This is intended to take some of the load off 911 operators,'' commission Chairman Ron Cross said.
Pam Tucker, the director of the county's emergency services department, said that with the commission's approval, it should take 30 to 60 days before the new service is approved by the state.
Tucker said it would then take another 30 to 60 days before the service could be operating.
When that occurs, Columbia County would be one of the first counties in Georgia to offer such a service.
"Only two other cities on the other side of the state have this,'' Tucker said.
In other action Tuesday, the commission gave final approval to an ordinance that prohibits trespassing upon a railroad in the county.
County officials say there have been some problems reported lately involving railroad tracks.
Cross has said the creation of the ordinance is based on a requirement by the Department of Homeland Security, which states there should be no impediments to a free-flowing railroad system.
The commission also voted unanimously in favor of a first reading of a resolution to increase the county's water and sewer rate by 4.9 percent for the next three years.
County officials say the increase is needed to help pay for a $30 million revenue bond issue, which will go toward new water and sewer lines and improvements to some water treatment plants - the result of increasing growth in the county.
Billy Clayton, the director of the water and sewer department, said the change will add about $2 to the average homeowner's monthly bill starting in April 2005, lasting through April 2007.
A final vote on the proposed rate increase is set for the commission's next meeting at 4:30 p.m. Nov. 2.
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