The Chairman confirmed that yesterday’s “Lowndes County Commission Goals” was a continuation of the rather testy goals discussion at their February planning session, in which they disagreed on things such as whether to hold Work Sessions at times when working people could attend. And ten days later held a three-minute Work Session. There’s still no agenda for that 9:30AM to 10:30AM Goals meeting on the county’s website, even though it appears they had one.
They declared Solid Waste Management accomplished, yet they spent even more time discussing Litter Control and Beautification and kept that on their short-term goals. Later they seemed to decide to make a special class of ongoing issues, including litter and Moody AFB.
The elephant in the room is that tax revenue is down and inconsistent.
Below are links to each LAKE video of that Goals meeting, with a few notes, followed by a video playlist.
1. Solid Waste Management
Video. Four years ago, the county told the VDT code enforcement would handle any roadside trash dumping resulting from the county closing its collection centers. In this video, the Chairman says that’s happening. Funny how I see a lot of trash still out there. Also, how many cases has the county actually pursued? The Chairman said the fines don’t even cover the cost of enforcing them. Commissioner Demarcus Marshall suggested a tax and requirement for participation. The Chairman said that could only be done through property taxes for solid waste, and he said there was a bill that would not allow counties to add additional fees to the property tax bill but “you could include it in it; put it in the envelope”. Rather than penalizing citizens for the county’s mistakes, wouldn’t it be easier than dealing with rate hikes from ADS to reopen the county’s collection centers and fund them through a special tax district, as state law expressly authorizes in O.C.G.A. 36-70-24:
(3)(A) The strategy shall ensure that the cost of any service which a county provides primarily for the benefit of the unincorporated area of the county shall be borne by the unincorporated area residents, individuals, and property owners who receive the service. Further, when the county and one or more municipalities jointly fund a county-wide service, the county share of such funding shall be borne by the unincorporated residents, individuals, and property owners that receive the service.
(B) Such funding shall be derived from special service districts created by the county in which property taxes, insurance premium taxes, assessments, or user fees are levied or imposed or through such other mechanism agreed upon by the affected parties which with the intent of subparagraph (A) of this paragraph;
Despite that open question, the Chairman declared “We’re going to call that one accomplished”. Yet they discussed litter again in the same meeting.
2. Inspections Department
Video. For some reason the county wants to “take this service in-house”. But they can’t change anything about this until the Service Delivery Strategy (SDS) contention between the county and the local cities about tax distribution is resolved. Commissioner Scottie Orenstein said the county is known as hard to do business with. Apparently that’s why they want to do this. I wonder if the county would be better than the city at permitting and inspections, considering the thirteen-year mess they’ve made of trash collection.
3. Appointed Tax Assessors
Video. The voters did vote to change the Tax Assessors to be appointed by the county commission. That will begin with Tax Assessors taking office in January 2020. The Chairman said they needed to put serious thought into qualifications and candidates.
4. Animal Welfare Ordinance
Video. This goal was a recommended update to the animal ordinance by for June 2015. They discussed it at their 2016 planning meeting. It’s among their current list of ordinances to be updated.
5. Litter Control and Beautification
Video. They want to appoint a task force for litter and beautification, including recommending financing options. Various discussion about KLVB and other groups and agencies. The Chairman thinks programs to educate the community about litter are important. Maybe the Commission could learn something while they’re at it. At the next Commission meeting they’ll be looking at a proposed contract with GDOT for mowing around I-75 exits; see also HB 170. GDOT cares because Lowndes County and Valdosta are the gateway into Georgia. If they want to beautify the exits as “entrances into our community”, how about put some solar panels there, show this as a community on the forefront of the change to renewable energy, and produce revenue?
Commissioner DeMarcus Marshall said the Deep South Sanitation Authority is providing some grants for little pickup. The Chairman said that was the case. I don’t know whether they were referring to Deep South Sanitation LLC, the local company that has one of the two permits for trash pickup, or the Deep South Municipal Regional Solid Waste Management Authority (WMA).
6. Veterans Advisory Council
Video. Was discussed during road naming policy. Further discussion of establishing such a council. Includes dealing with homelessness and criminal justice system. Commissioner DeMarcus Marshall will send information about what other counties are doing, and the idea of the Council is to have a representative from each city in the county. Commissioner Scottie Orenstein said there is a meeting set up in Hahira o April 10th, asking for Orenstein and Marshall to be there in support.
7. Risk Analysis of Private Water Systems
Video. Instead of dealing with them one by one. Seems like a good idea to look at all of them and cumulative risk. Chairman said age, infrastructure in place, etc. would be considered. He said as a short-term goal it was completed, but as a long-term goal there was still work to be done on regulations, requirements, etc.
8. Bemiss Firestation Upgrade for EMS
Video. Due to request from South Georgia Medical Center to locate an ambulance and an EMS crew there to improve response times to the north side of the county. Still need to identify funding source. Still open as short-term goal.
Long Term Goal (LTG) 1 – High Speed Internet
Video. Identify stakeholders, identify current capabilities, develop scope of work and possible funding mechanisms, all for community-wide economic development. They haven’t done anything because it would cost money and they don’t understand rapidly changing technology. Also not enough attention at state level. I haven’t heard that the county has consulted people who have actually done this for other communities. The Chairman did say he had learned that broadband is a quality of life issue, “not much different anymore than having electricty to the home”, as important as for economic development. He didn’t mention also for education. Yet they still used changing technology as an excuse, and only decided to continue to monitor the situation.
He said he had heard of a trial in Brunswick, GA to do high speed Internet through electric utilities. This has been a possibility for decades. Wireless would be a lot faster and would be more flexible for changing technology.
The Chairman said the Commissioners have an obligation to the community for quality of life and economic development, but he only mentioned continuing to discuss with state and federal legislators. Chairman said $40+ million about 4 years ago to put in a fiber loop. Yes, but the incumbent wireless providers already have their towers up.
The Chairman’s summary: “I believe this is something that will stay with long-term”. If they keep waiting on the state or the feds to do something, they’ll never do anything. And he kept talking about “fiber and broadband”. Which will never go to every county household, while wireless can. They’re also talking to Moody AFB. Maybe Moody can move this along.
LTG 2. Inland Port
Video. Another one where they’re waiting on the state. Another “continue to monitor”.
LTG 3. Adult Court for Drug and Mental Health Accountability
Video. The county allocated matching grant funds for a court, especially for recidivism, and the court has been established; several actually. So when they actually want to do something, they can.
LTG4. Support MAFB
Video. Another mention that the Chairman went to San Antonio, Texas with Moody AFB Colonel Colonel Susan M. Riodan-Smith to talk about the county now running Moody’s wastewater system. I think they decided to add a category of ongoing issues, including litter and Moody AFB.
LTG 5. Old Courthouse Remediation
Video. Chad McCleod knows the details, but he wasn’t there. County Manager Joe Pritchard said they’re working on selecting an architect, and would still need to know the intended use. Eventually the Commission needs to make up their mind about the old courthouse.
LTG 6. MAZ Tax Relief
Video. Maybe accomplished by lower property assessments.
MAZ Tax relief (cont)
Video. Board of Assessors canceled for the later meeting that same day and rescheduled for a later day. So Commissioners talked more about MAZ.
- Employee Health and Wellness Program
Early Retirement options or need
Video. The Chairman said they weren’t to the point of needing to consider early retirement. But they’re thinking about it.
4H Camp usage
Video. They want to market the camp somehow. Apparently to produce revenue. There’s a lottery now to get it reserved. One Commissioner suggested (I think jokingly) to sell it to the city for an auditorium.
- Tax Revenue is down and inconsistent
Development Authority Report and T-SPLOST
Video. Commissioners want someone from the Development Authority to give a report on current status and stuff.
Here’s a LAKE video playlist:
Videos: Lowndes County Commission Goals
Goals, Lowndes County Commission (LCC),
Video by Gretchen Quarterman for Lowndes Area Knowledge Exchange (LAKE),
Valdosta, Lowndes County, Georgia, March 27, 2017.
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