Two newly-elected officials spoke at the Thursday session: new Tax Commissioner Rodney Cain who was full of praise for his staff, and new-old Sheriff Ashley Paulk, who said he had more important things to do than to go get undocumented workers out of the fields. “I tell ICE come show me a warrant.” Here are LAKE videos of that day, and stay tuned for Day 2!
Total 2016 revenue was $88 million, with about $50 million into the General Fund and slightly less out. Expenditures were under budget, but tax revenues were more below budget. Not just for last year: SPLOST revenues have been steadily down the past four or five years. Speculation is because more people are buying online.
They think “everyone is satisfied” with the current solid waste situation. I’d be more satisfied if there wasn’t constant litter from paper cups to mattresses left along the roads and on my property. However, Joe Pritchard promised that the county will send code enforcement to pick up litter at boat landings.
The Naylor Boat Ramp is still in the works, with the same impediment that they didn’t budget enough SPLOST funds for anybody to bid that low, so they’ll have to do much of the work themselves. But they do seem serious about doing it.
One goal is to establish a plan for long term High Speed Internet capacity. However, they’re still studying it, with no actual plan. At least they’re studying it. Chairman Bill Slaughter even said “We can’t wait on someone else to do something, we are going to have to move forward.” That’s a big change from his October 2013 pronouncement that “We have broadband.” This time he also said it would be good for everybody. Which agrees with rigorous research that shows that for income, jobs, and creative workers we need as many people as possible to use fast affordable Internet connections; adoption matters more than availability, and speed matters for creative workers.
They’re seriously considering doing county permitting separately from Valdosta. Why is not entirely clear. And six years after Gretchen first asked for a list of ordinances, they’re trying to update some of them.
Apparently “Citizen Engagement” means they want to tell people things, not that they want citizens to become involved. Not that they had to worry about that: Gretchen was the only citizen there.
They tended to discuss things according to when somebody was available to talk about it, and, as they warned on the agenda, they spent as long as they wanted to on each item.
Here are links to each of the LAKE videos for Day 1, with a few notes, mostly by Gretchen, followed by a video playlist.
Audit Report – Henderson & Godbee, LCC
Video. A summary of the financial statements for the year ending June 30, 2016.
Total Revenue $88,741,000
General Fund had 250,000 income at the end of the year.
General Fund Income $50,145,000
General Fund Expenditures $50,076,000
Revenue was under budget by $233,000
Expenditures were under budget by $475,000
(Property) Taxes decreased by $285,000 from previous year
Sales Taxes Decreased $341,000 from previous year
Finance – Harrison Tillman and Stephanie Black
Video. Local Option Sales Tax income has decreased every year since 2010. Vehicle Sales Tax is part of that but does not account for all of it. Last 4-5 years there is no pattern in buying and people are just buying less. State’s revenue is still continuing to decline also. Speculation that more people are buying on line.
Tax Commissioner Rodney Cain and Chief Deputy Lucinda Guest
Video. Welcome to new Tax Commissioner and his exuberant statement of how much he likes the job.
He has identified one problem employee and that person has been terminated. Everything else is going well and he invites people to stop by the Tax Office to visit him.
Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax – Harrison Tillman
Video. Tax Revenue is significantly down. A lot of this is because of TAV change made a couple of years back. Also, peoples shopping habits have changed.
Video. A review of what they planned last year. (this actually too a long time over both days to review)
Solid Waste (about 8.5 minutes). In which County Manager Joe Pritchard promised to have Code Enforcement pick up litter at boat landings.
Planning, Permitting and Inspections – Should the county stop using Valdosta city permitting and inspections department (about 20 minutes)
Tax Assessor Referendum – they seemed happy the referendum was approved even with the slim margin. Tax Assessors will be appointed beginning with 2020 terms. (about two minutes)
Animal Welfare Ordinance (about three minutes)
Litter Control and Beautification ( about 10 minutes)
“Beautification doesn’t necessarily mean divided highways with trees and planted flower beds and finished .. and all that, it means pick up the trash”
2016 Goals (cont)
Video. Lowndes County Veterans Advisory Committee – discussion but nothing actually decided. (about 9 minutes)
Can Veterans Day be a county employee holiday. Not for this year, the calendar is set. Discuss for next year. (about 1 minute)
Community Water Risk Assessment. 85-90 Private Water Systems. Many have hydrants but are not suitably designed to have pressure should fire department hook to the hydrant. County is trust indenture to these wells. It is an expensive problem to solve. New community systems must be built to county standards should they have to be taken over, there wouldn’t be significant cost to tax payers. (about 13 minutes)
Bemiss Firestation upgrade to include EMS. Because of change of leadership at Hospital, this is likely not going to happen. Perhaps there will be a free standing facility. (about 6 minute discussion)
Sheriff Ashley Paulk
Video. 620-630 Prisoners at the Jail. Costs $45 per day to house them. Has changed medical providers and are treating more patients locally, rather than sending to the hospital. Was allocated in budget money for 10 cars but was able to get a deal and buy 12.
Sheriff’s view on undocumented workers starts at 13:30:
“There was a question that came up about immigration and hispanics: what’s going on with that.
“You know, you’ve got to prioritize, in my opinion. This is what I tell ICE, I dealt with ICE back in the ’90s: If they’ve got a warrant for a bad person, a felon, a robbery or killing…. Hispanics are not troublesome people. So you want to go out and get a man that’s working…. Maybe he’s not paying federal taxes, but you know he is working, gainfully employed, he goes home at night and goes to bed, doesn’t breaking into cars and houses. You want concentrate on the criminals who are doing the shooting and everything else, not go out and get people out of the fields picking vegetables.
“The only problem you have with hispanics is they don’t have driver’s licenses, and they will get drunk, but usually not so bad to drink and drive.
“I tell ICE come show me a warrant. I’m not saying we’re a sanctuary, but we’ve got more important things to do as far as looking after this county.”
Brief discussion of benefits of body cameras and upgrades to current equipment.
Crime Lab discussion starts at 16:05.
2016 Goals (part 3)
Video. Broadband again: “we can’t wait on someone else to do something, we are going to have to move forward”.
Inland Port starting at 1:20 – unlikely to become inland port but there are transportation related items county should consider. (about 6 minute discussion)
Adult Drug / Mental Health / Accountability Court starting at 7:13 (about 7 minute discussion)
Support Moody Air Force Base – starts at 14:19 Water and sewer agreement is part of P4 Initiative. (about 30 minute discussion)
Facilities (SPLOST project status)
Video. Updates were given on:
- Naylor Boat Ramp
- Freedom Park Basketball Courts
- Civic Center renovations
- Naylor Community Center
- Animal Control building
- Library Renovations
- Evidence Storage
- Fire and Rescue
- 911 Facility Renovation and Expansion
- Historic Court House Renovation – will go to bid so that all architects have an opportunity to bid.
- Soccer Complex in Hahira
- Miracle Field
They began and ended with river access. At minute 41 – the Naylor Boat ramp is the only access to the Alapaha in Lowndes County.
This was informative and interesting.
Permitting, Inspections, Planning – what would it cost?
Video. A detailed accounting estimate of what it would take to provide the services of permitting and inspections which is currently contracted from City of Valdosta.
Video. Occupational License ordinance was first. Written in 1995 and needs an update. Business Licenses are paid annually. Items that need to be addressed are many new kinds of businesses, solicitors and peddlers, and the traffic hazard of people panhandling. People don’t know (for example) that you have to get a permit from the Sheriff’s office to have a raffle. Working with Attorney to update.
This is six years after Gretchen first asked the county for a list of ordinances.
Here’s a LAKE video playlist:
Videos: Annual Planning Meeting Day 1
Planning Meeting Day 1, Lowndes County Commission (LCC),
Video by Gretchen Quarterman for Lowndes Area Knowledge Exchange (LAKE),
Quail Branch Lodge, 7601 Zeigler Road, Lake Park, GA, February 16, 2017.
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