Very unusual: two Commissioners commented at the end. Chairman Bill Slaughter had already been quite clear that the new fire department millage was to aid population growth in unincorporated parts of the county. Mark Wisenbaker thought the fire department millage was premature because it did not consider land with no structures, agricultural land, etc. He was the only Commissioner to vote against 5.l. Adoption of Unincorporated Fire Millage. Clay Griner thought it was something they could improve as they go along.
None of them mentioned that the fire millage applies to personal property as well as to real estate (land). At least one of the Commissioners was unaware of this, and, since none of them ever seem to have mentioned it to the public, I’d bet the public is unaware unless they carefully examined their property tax statements. Applying that fire millage also to personal property is apparently how they kept it as low as they announced in the millage rate hearing. Nevermind such a personal property millage falls heaviest on companies with the most personal property, which would likely be Packaging Corporation of America (PCA), commonly known as the paper mill at Clyattville. It’s not clear that companies with much personal property are the most in need of new fire services.
The County’s support of unincorporated growth apparently includes building next to wetlands, or in areas the Army Corps of Engineers recently declared not to be wetlands, since that had just been discussed by County Manager Paige Dukes and the Chairman.
I have an idea! How about build only close in to existing services, instead of sprawling farther out, where no taxes will ever pay enough for sending school buses, Sheriff, and Fire. See this report the County commissioned: The Local Government Fiscal Impacts of Land Use in Lowndes County: Revenue and Expenditure Streams by Land Use Category, Jeffrey H. Dorfman, Ph.D., Dorfman Consulting, December 2007. As Dr. Dorfman summarized in a different presentation,
Local governments must ensure balanced growth, as
sprawling residential growth is a certain ticket to fiscal ruin*
* Or at least big tax increases.
Trees and crops don’t call the Sheriff or the Fire Department much and don’t need school buses, but subdivisions do, so forestry and agriculture are far more cost-effective in tax collection vs. services.
Everything except the Fire Dept. millage passed unanimously. Even the late-added mystery-location 5.j. Proposed Sale of County Real Property to Industrial Authority, which came with no map, no street address, and no parcel numbers.
Here are LAKE videos of each agenda item, followed by a LAKE video playlist. See also the agenda and board packet, the LAKE videos of the previous morning’s Work Session, the LAKE videos of the millage rate hearing, and Outgrant: Moody AFB Hightower Road easement to Lowndes County @ LCC 2021-08-23
1. Call to Order 2. Invocation 3. Pledge
4. Minutes for Approval
5.a. Beer, Wine, and Liquor License South Lowndes Bottle Store
5.b. Beer and Wine License – Bigfoot – 6872 Lake Park Bellville Rd.
5.c. Approval of Easement Documents for Hightower Road
5.d. Approval of Lease Amendment Number Three to Bellsouth
5.e. Resolution for Infrastructure for Val Del Estates Subdivision Phase I
5.f. Adding Dispatch Consoles 11 and 12 for the 911 Center
5.g. Alapaha Plantation Proposed Consent Order for Water
Video. Isn’t this place actually called Lake Alapaha?
5.h. Whitewater Road Manhole Emergency Repair
Video. Even for an emergency, Utilities asked for bids and got two. That’s good news.
5.i. Mud Swamp Road and Swamp Edge Drive Private Road Dedication Advisement
Video. Engineering Services Director Chad McLeod said this is not actually adopting the roads into the county system at this time; it’s merely starting the process with quit claim deeds and survey plats. Commissioner Mark Wisenbaker said it was not all of Swamp Edge Road, just part of it. McLeod said a tenth of a mile.
In case, like me, you didn’t know where Mud Swamp Road and Swamp Edge Drive are, they’re off of Indian Ford Road, which is off of Old Clyattville Road, a bit west of I-75 Exit 11, south of Valdosta. Both roads are between two arms of Mud Swamp Creek. See also Roads next to Mud Swamp, which drains to Alapahoochee, Alapaha Rivers @ LCC 2021-08-24.
5.j. Proposed Sale of County Real Property to Industrial Authority
Video. Still a mystery what exact piece of property this is. No map was shown. No description was given. No parcel number. Just acreage. Not too transparent.
5.k. Adoption of the Millage Rate
5.l. Adoption of Unincorporated Fire Millage
Motion by Commisioner Orenstein, seconded by Commissioner Griner to adopt the fire millage of 2.5 mil. The motion passed 4-1 with Commissioner Wisenbaker voting against.
6.a. TIA-03 Hightower Road and Cooper Road NE
7. Reports – County Manager
Video. County Manager Paige Dukes thanked Commissioners for moving forward with Mud Swamp Road and Swamp Edge Road, and she thanked the citizens who live there.
She complimented Commissioner Scottie Orenstein for becoming the Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority (GEFA).
She asked for a special called meeting on Monday, August 30, 2021, about potential water and sewer projects for the state’s distribution of the federal American Recovery Program Act (ARPA) funds.
COVID update: Leadership Lowndes canceled their health and human services day, but Ashley Tye offered the County’s AOC from which they spoke (online?).
The next employee vaccine clinic would be September 2nd, 8-10AM.
Chairman and Manager attended the morning’s Technical Review Committee (TRC) meeting about wetlands that the U.S. Corps of Engineers had recently de-certified. The Chairman said it was a very positive meeting, and the surveyors and engineers in the room acknowledged there is an issue that needs to be addressed. He commended county staff for working on a more stringent process for buiding next to wetlands.
8. CWTBH / Commission Comments / 9. Adjournment
Video. A Mr. John McMullen was on the list for Citizens Wishing to Be Heard, but had already left. None of the four Citizens signed up to speak about Mud Swamp Road still wanted to speak, except one. He gave his name before he got to the microphone, but he lives on Swamp Edge Drive. He thanked the Commissioners “100%”. His question was about the local residents’ work including on beaver dams, which they are clearing every few days, and work they had done on building up the road. He wondered when the county would be out to do something.
The County Manager said they had to wait for the Commission to act. Now they will schedule staff to go out and start planning. But residents still need to sign the quitclaim deeds.
Commissioner Scottie Orenstein said he knew Fire Chief Guyton pretty well, and he thought interim Chief Ashley Tye and new Chief Green would agree that previous model would not be sustainable, and the new Fire Department path is better. Including Danny Weeks and 911, and the Sheriff’s office.
The Chairman called it “a historical moment.” He thinks the Census results will surprise everyone with how the unincorporated parts of the county are growing. He thinks that means they have to be prepared. And the fire discussion had gone on for five years. Economic development, expanded fire and rescue service, citizens in growing unincorporated areas.
Commissioner Mark Wisenbaker said, “I think we don’t ever need to forget about the taxpayer. And those people who this tax puts a hardship on. And there are many out there it’s going to put a hardship on. Especially people who have land with no structure on it. Who have vegetable farms. Etc. Etc. Vacant land. And I think it’s just premature to make this decision right now without considering all of those situations for those people.”
Commissioner Clay Griner said he thought they were moving in the right direction from a fire rescue standpoint. And while what they did may not be perfect, they could make it better as they go along. So he’s enthusiastic, he said. Then he moved to adjourn and they did.
Here’s a LAKE video playlist:
Videos: Commissioner Comments, Mud Swamp Road, Fire Millage, Hightower Road, GEFA @ LCC 2021-08-24
Valdosta, Lowndes County, Georgia.
Videos by Gretchen Quarterman for Lowndes Area Knowledge Exchange (LAKE).
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