The 2018 Lowndes County Commission Retreat was just about the exact opposite of a commission meeting, except that same group of people are present (almost). There was discussion, disagreement, laughing, sighing, interrupting, listening, inside jokes, outside jokes, and general exchange of views. Those things don’t happen in a commission meeting. This year’s retreat was particularly different because there was no time frame attached to any agenda item and they didn’t discuss topics in exact order, and some topics got covered repeatedly. Commissioner Evans said to me during a break that the previous format of having departments just give a report can “get boring” and she had suggested that they have a different format with more discussion about communications.
The agenda was available on-line but was hard to find and the link I followed to find it is gone now. I did manage to download it before it went away. Find it here: 2018 LCC Annual Planning Meeting Agenda (plus searchable text). There were paper copies available at the meeting after the first break.
I sometimes think that the commissioners may be getting used to me but then, no, don’t be silly.
At the lunch hour, the Commissioners stepped outside to take a group picture and as County Clerk Page Dukes suggested that they get closer and not have so much “space” between them, Commissioners Orenstein and Griner (I live in their districts) huddled together.
Below are links to each LAKE video, with a few notes followed by a LAKE video playlist.
- Audit Report Generally not the most engaging part of the meeting but if you care where money to run the government comes from and where it goes, this is important.
- SPLOST VII Financials SPLOST income is variable because it directly depends upon how much people buy in Lowndes County. If people shop online or out of the county, then there is less sales tax income. More shopping, more income. Projects get scheduled based up how much money they need, how much money has come in, and if the project can actually be done for the amount of money allocated. Funding for road pavings, water and sewer upgrades, historic court house renovation and much more comes from this pot of money.
- Comprehensive Financial Report Finance Director Stephanie Black was absent because of a family emergency so County Manager Joe Pritchard gave the financial overview and answered questions. There was a discussion of Moody AFB support in this section.
- Roads, Streets, & Bridges This section is really TSPLOST. Some commissioners are for it. Some against. How much money might it generate? What projects might get done? What if the vote fails? What if it passes and then the regular SPLOST fails? There is great detail in this section about what projects are in the list. It wasn’t clear to me how the TSPLOST projects will help citizens. It was clear how they will help businesses and developers.
- Water & Sewer Infrastructure Water and sewer infrastructure projects do get covered in the regular meetings because the county is making an effort to connect all parts of the county water system for redundancy. Some additional things they talked about were a potential spray field at the north end of the county and how the type of soil matters for that. An ongoing issue has been the distance a development is from existing water and sewer to require connection. Some one did mumble the words “tap fee” but they didn’t actually discuss it as that topic is controversial in every community.
- Planning and Zoning: Land Use: Future Development This section was by far the most interesting and alarming from my perspective. I’m very interested in planning and zoning so when County Planner Jason Davenport revealed that Lowndes County has ten times the number of new housing starts than the city of Valdosta, all I could think of was sprawl. Yes, Valdosta is having some apartment complexes built but not enough to balance it out. If you only watch one section, watch this one.
- SPLOST VII Projects This was an overview of SPLOST history, projects that have been completed over the last thirty years and those that haven’t.
- Road Maintenance Public Works Director Robin Cumbus gave detailed information about road and right of way maintenance.
- SPLOST VII Facilities The Naylor Boat Ramp is a SPLOST project that I’m interested in but sadly so little money was allocated that it has taken for what seems like forever for the project to get started. It’s started now and they actually talked about it first! Have a favorite SPLOST project? This is the section to find out about it.
- Historical Court House Renovation Basement and restrooms will be the first things to get attention in the historic court house.
- Are there any questions you have for staff? Not at this time.
- TSPLOST and growth And another go around about TSPLOST. I had to leave before they were finished.
Here’s a LAKE video playlist:
Videos: Day 1, Planning, Lowndes County Commission
Annual Planning Meeting, Lowndes County Commission (LCC),
Video by Gretchen Quarterman for Lowndes Area Knowledge Exchange (LAKE),
Valdosta, Lowndes County, Georgia, 19 February 2018.
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!