We learned why Lowndes County has gotten religion about Internet access and speed: Moody AFB wants it.
Commissioner Scottie Orenstein made the case for board packets and agendas in electronic form instead of the paper packets they currently use. Maybe they’ll even reveal them to the public before their meetings, like real MSAs do. Meanwhile, Community Engagement means marketing, as in telling people what the county did, not listening to the citizens.
They talked about interconnecting (almost) all of the county’s water systems, about routes to get trucks out of downtown Valdosta. The water-sewer ordinance is in ten or twelve pieces, and the county is all for expanding water and sewer throughout the county as long as it doesn’t cost developers money.
There’s a regional T-SPLOST meeting in Waycross by SGRC Feb 28 2017, but Lowndes commissioners and staff said nothing about public transportation for a T-SPLOST. Regarding public transit, the urbanized area is not just Valdosta, includes Stone Creek and “all the way up to Hahira”, as well as Bemiss Road towards Moody, i.e., what the county calls “central Lowndes County”. If your road is not among the 115 on the SPLOST list, it won’t get paved.
County Manager Joe Pritchard said there had been some recent animal cases that motivate review of the recent Animal Control ordinance but he didn’t say what they were. They also talked about the land bank, without saying which five parcels they were referring to.
Commissioners apparently had submitted secret lists before the retreat which some of them apparently wanted to edit at the end of the retreat. Nonetheless, Chairman Bill Slaughter opined that “Lowndes County is as transparent as we could possibly be.” He indicated he thought the only further step would be to ask citizens to vote in meetings. Well, how about do what Augusta-Richmond County or Tallahassee-Leon County do: let citizens speak on any agenda item, not to mention at the beginning of the meeting? And that thing Commissioner Orenstein suggested, which even Effingham County already does?
And no Lowndes County Commission meeting is complete without alcohol. That’s related to Adult entertainment, of which the county has only one, Peaches on Bemiss Road. They skated around why they can’t do away with that, namely Moody AFB.
Here are links to each of the LAKE videos for Day 1, with a few notes, mostly by Gretchen, followed by a video playlist.
Infrastructure – Utilities – Steve Stalvey gives an overview
Video. Utilities Director Steve Stalvey gives an update on Water/Sewer Infrastructure Area1 – Bemiss/Studstill to Stafford Wright to Staten Road to Sermons Lane to Clyattstone to Old US41N.
Clyattstone is “on” the paving list but timing depends upon funding.
Area 2 84/Indian Ford Road to Old Clyattville.
Area 3 I75 Exit 11 / whitewater just below exit !! to Caroll Ulmer.
Area 4 Lester/Copeland to Permiter to HWY84 Firestation – would like to put water tower at forestation.
Area 5 Moore Crossing to Lakeland HWY to Knights Academy to Bemiss Knights to Spring Creek
When all these projects are complete, there will be a complete loop among the major county water system (not Lake Alapaha).
It may be possible to get out of area bidders and overall lower price if some of the areas are bid together.
Sewer gets into more money force main and gravity are both options.
At about minute 27 they talk about the spray field, permit overages (generally are at 60-70% of permit capacity) .
I wondered to myself — What percentage of unincorporated county residents are on public water, what percentage are on private community systems and what percentage have private home wells.
Transportation- Mike Fletcher gives an update on proposed truck route
Video. Everyone would like to get trucks out of downtown Valdosta near the historic courthouse.
#1 Savannah Ave – doesn’t really solve problem and goes through neighborhoods.
#2 – South of Savannah Ave – same problems as #1.
#3 – South Bypass – off of James Road – need keep trucks out of the Mall area.
#3a? South Bypass – St Augustine Road – but the railroad by US-84 would need an overpass and it is so close to US-84 that it would have to have cloverleaf exits and would be expensive.
#4 Western Perimeter – South of Indian Ford would need a bridge over I-75.
#5 Use of Gil Harbin to Statenville HWY.
(some of these aren’t clear exactly and I didn’t have a map with the routes marked on them).
The commissioners discussed the idea of having a resolution in support of the idea of a bypass without actually saying what route they prefer.
Transportation – Public Transit presentation by Mike Fletcher
Video. The Urbanized area is more than just the city of Valdosta. It goes up Bemiss Rd to MAFB, it goes up N Valdosta Rd and then old US41N to Hahira.
5311 Public Transit must begin or end in a rural area 5307 is for urban transit and requires fixed stops.
He gave painstaking details on the number of riders of the MIDS 5311 system and only about 1/3 of the trips in 2016 qualified as the program defines endpoints.
He also gave details of the recently ended fixed route MIDS bus route. And talked about sources of funding for the same.
- Public Works Director Robin Cumbus gives an overview
SPLOST – paving list presented by Mike Fletcher
Video. 115 projects that are on the list. Some are very old and just never get done. Two pages (I didn’t see this list). SPLOST 7 – if you aren’t on this list, you aren’t a candidate for paving. For every road, they look at does county have ROW, is it a school bus route, what is the traffic cost, what is the maintenance cost.
SPLOST 7 was voted with 25M for road but because of low sales tax collections the actual number is 19M+.
Years ago, some roads were paved with surface treatments but these only last 5-7 years before they need new asphalt.
TSPLOST – county or region can issue one – Mike Fletcher gives information
Video. February 28 is a public hearing in Waycross about a possible regional TSPLOST – Someone(s) need to go to this.
Lowndes County can have voters decide on a one county TSPLOST or they region can vote (as they did several years ago).
Details about exactly how TSPLOST works (or doesn’t) and what projects might be done (for example Lowndes could build a truck bypass but the state/feds still might not reroute US84 out of downtown) TSPLOST is a 5 year sales tax.
There was NO talk of funding public transportation with a county TSPLOST.
Policies (Ordinances) – Water and Sewer – adopted 2002
Video. The regulations regarding water and sewer are in 10-12 parts and the County Clerk is working with the County Attorney to get it all into one ordinance like they did with the Alcohol Ordinance last year.
There was a proposal by the chairman to expand water and sewer all throughout the county. “won’t cost developers any more money”.
There was a lot of talk about Nelson Hill, Blue Pool and housing types, our community make up and more.
Policies (Ordinances) Alcohol Ordinance
Video. A lot of ancient history about how the county got where it is with the closing times, serving times, etc.
Policies (Ordinances) – Adult Entertainment
Video. There’s only one… Peaches on Bemiss Road, and apparently some Commissioner from the south end of the county had never heard of it.
Policies (Ordinances) Animal Control / Land Bank
Video. Animal Control – needs to be reviewed based upon recent court cases (isn’t clear where these cases were)
Starting at about minute 2 Land Bank – there are currently five parcels and the city of Valdosta wants the county to allocate funds (it wasn’t clear to me for what).
Starting about 13:55 – Zoning and the ULDC – can be changed as necessary but no discussion now.
Video. A group from the Georgia Military Affairs Committee has been meeting to discuss Internet access, including potential USDA funding. Aaron Kostyu has been attending, discovering this area will not be eligible. “We will need to do further work with Moody” about gaining Internet speed. They’ve been talking to the Chamber and to AT&T. T wants to do satellite instead of fiber. County Manager Joe Pritchard talked about a potential public-private partnership, which he said would need to be vetted. He did say the entire county needs access. County Chairman Bill Slaughter emphasized the expense, and how the incumbent providers wanted to go at the higher density areas first, with rural areas as the last to be considered. All true, but other communities have done it, so might Lowndes County could as well.
Electronic Agendas – Commissioner Orenstein makes the case
Video. Electronic Records can make staff and commissioners more efficient and things can be printed as necessary, instead of printing everything for every commissioner. Not to mention electronic records are much easier to search.
Community Engagement and Marketing
Video. County Clerk Paige Dukes gives an update out interviews, outreach, events, web site, etc.
Discussion about Code Red and ways to reach citizens. Most of the talk was about telling citizens things, not so much about getting input from citizens.
- Criminal Justice – Ankle Monitoring/Accountability Courts
Video. Apparently, Commissioners had submitted ideas ahead of the retreat and if there was something that they heard at the retreat that they now wanted to add or subtract from what they had previously submitted.
The list wasn’t provided to the citizens in attendance.
Things got a little bit testy at the end. Commissioner Demarcus Marshall asked to have Work Sessions held at a time of day when citizens weren’t working. Others didn’t like that.
Commissioner Clay Griner indicated because the staff supplied all the information they needed “what else is there to talk about”? Well, remember back when Chairman Rod Casey said between Commissioners and staff they knew everything there was to know about solid waste? And then their plan failed and another had to be adopted?
Chairman Bill Slaughter opined that “Lowndes County is as transparent as we could possibly be.”
They moved to adjourn into executive session, after Gretchen had to ask them for what purpose. Transparent, they say….
Here’s a LAKE video playlist:
Videos: Annual Planning Meeting Day 2
Planning Meeting Day 2, Lowndes County Commission (LCC),
Video by Gretchen Quarterman for Lowndes Area Knowledge Exchange (LAKE),
Quail Branch Lodge, 7601 Zeigler Road, Lake Park, GA, February 17, 2017.
Investigative reporting costs money, for open records requests, copying, web hosting, gasoline, and cameras, and with sufficient funds we can pay students to do further research. You can donate to LAKE today!