Category Archives: LCC 2011-12-13

Abandoning part of Bethany Road contentious and enlightening @ LCC

Quite a few people showed up at the Lowndes County Commission public hearing about abandoning part of Bethany Road, speaking pro and con. We learned many interesting reasons for abandoning that road, which would apply to many dirt and maybe paved roads in the county, many of which are on the county’s paving list. More about that and an interesting view of the press in later posts. First, here’s what we’re talking about.

12 December 2011 Work Session

Here are the minutes:
Abandonment of a Portion of Bethany Road, County Engineer, Mike Fletcher, presented a request by citizens for the abandonment of a portion of Bethany Road. Mr. Fletcher explained that the Commission was being asked to make an initial determination that either the section of the county road system has been ceased to be used by the public to the extent that no substantial purpose is served by it, or that its removal from the county road system is otherwise in the best public interest. Mr. Fletcher added that once the initial determination was made, staff would move forward with the appropriate advertising of a public hearing at which time the Commission could make a final decision.
Here’s video in which County Engineer Mike Fletcher said the part of Bethany Road to be abandoned runs from Bethany Drive down through the Stith and Turner family properties towards Old US 41 North as far as the Rykard property, and that all residents would still have access out to other roads. County Manager Joe Pritchard noted that Continue reading

Cloudy transparency on RFP & bidding —Barbara Stratton

Received today on Transparency by a County Commission. -jsq
I don’t know how you found this example, but good work & thanks for the research. This is a real genuine effort to produce government transparency. Anything short of this is faux transparancy. Can you find out how the citizens were able to get this good faith transparancy enacted?

I am expecially concerned with the cloudy transparancy on RFP & bidding procedures within our county. Having spent 12 years in government construction contracting I know the detailed safeguards that have been enacted to protect the taxpayers from contracting fraud & crony capitalist back door agreements. It is my observation that these safeguards are being bypassed by end around tactics & the current popularity of public/private partnerships has a plethora of possiblities for good old boy system abuses.

Recently a local contractor started work on an unfunded, unawarded government project that was exposed by the local newspaper. The city’s answer to the illegal contracting procedures was to issue a contract change order for $143,807 with a 10% contingency. It has been my experience that anytime a contractor starts work on an unfunded project said contractor eats the cost of any work completed & all contractors are aware of this rule.

In addition it is a dis-service to taxpayers for that amount of money to be

Continue reading

I really support … allowing non-violent offenders the opportunity to work and rehabilitate — Jessica B. Hughes

Received yesterday on Ankle monitoring for Lowndes County Jail. -jsq
I really support this idea. Initially, I was concerned about it, because I know that things like the SCRAM bracelet and the ignition interlock devices are very expensive to install and maintain, especially if you consider the costs involved with probation fees. $213.00/month may not sound like a lot of money to some people, but it is a king’s ransom to others (saying $7.00/day makes it seem more manageable). Still, allowing non-violent offenders the opportunity to work and rehabilitate themselves outside of a prison is a big step forward in the philosophy of crime and punishment in this county, in my opinion.

-Jessica B. Hughes

Transparency by a County Commission

Here’s what local government transparency via the web looks like. Our county commission could do this.

Here’s how the Commissioners of Travis County, Texas do it:

Video files of commissioners court meetings are available online. Agenda items are available by noon the day after the meeting.
For example:
Voting Session Agenda
Tuesday, December 13, 2011 Complete Agenda Backup Materials, 120 MB

This web page version is derived from a manual conversion of the official document of record for the convenience of the user. Travis County has posted this notice and agenda in good faith, in compliance with Government Code section 551.056. Please note that, in the event of a technical problem beyond the county’s control that prevents the county from posting here or that results in an erroneous posting, notice of this meeting and agenda posted at the courthouse remains valid

By “Backup Materials” they mean the packet the Commissioners got.

The rest of that web page fior their 13 December 2011 meeting has video and text for ciizens communications and consent items, plus each item that had its backup information in the Commissioners’ packet is separated out with video, text, and backup links.

And for next week’s meeting, 20 December 2011, the complete agenda with links to Continue reading

Ankle monitoring for Lowndes County Jail @ LCC 13 December 2011

Tuesday the Lowndes County Commission approved ankle bracelet monitoring for nonviolent jail inmates so they can serve the rest of their time outside the jail, putting them in a better environment and decreasing expenses at the Sheriff’s office. This sounds like a good idea. I have not expressed an opinion because, as Barbara Stratton pointed out, the public doesn’t really know what was in the proposal County Commissioners got in their agenda packet. However, I would like to compliment Commissioner Joyce Evans about trying to do something about nonviolent prisoners.

Summarizing the ankle monitoring discussion of Monday morning, County Manager Joe Pritchard Tuesday evening asked the Lowndes County Commission to approve continued work by county staff with the Sheriff’s office in implementing an ankle monitoring system to move some inmates out of the county jail.

Commissioner Richard Raines gave the credit to Commissioner Joyce Evans for both proposing a drug court and for proposing ankle monitoring.

Commissioner Evans declined comment but did make the motion, seconded by Commissioner Powell, and approved unanimously.

The VDT had a little more information in David Rodock’s Wednesday story: Continue reading

County Public Hearing on Comprehensive Plan

Tuesday the Lowndes County Commission finally held the missing public hearing about the Comprehensive Plan, and it was pretty painless: only one citizen spoke, and she spoke for. If they’d held it two months ago like all the local cities did, they wouldn’t now be risking not getting state or federal grants because they may not be certified. They still didn’t distribute the draft STWP and ROA before the hearing as the state requires them to do, so they could still be in trouble with the state. However, at least they reset their timeline and held the hearing. That’s a step towards transparency as defined by the state guidelines the county already agreed in writing to follow.

Commissioners had as much to say as they did at the Work Session Monday morning: nothing.

The one citizen, Gretchen Quarterman, said:

I’m a super fan of planning, and I’m a fan of the Comprehensive Plan. I think that if we don’t know where we are going, and we don’t have a plan on how we’re gonna get there, we’re not gonna get there. And the five year plan that tells us exactly what we’re going to in the next five years to get to our 2030 plan is a groovy idea. So that part I’m in favor of. I’ve been over this document pretty thoroughly with Jason, and I still have some questions outstanding which I’m sure that they’ll get resolved. He’s been super helpful.

The one thing I talked to Mr. Raines about and I would encourage the other Commissioners to consider is that in section 4.5.1, at least that’s what I have it on my document. Investigate

Continue reading

About the audio, and thanks to Aaron Kostyu

Answering part of Barbara Stratton’s questions, the audio access was part of the award the Commission gave LAKE for blogging questions like yours. You may know it as a bill of attainder. When the commission moved to the palace, we tried sitting in several locations and found that the front couple of rows, near the edges have the best sound. When we were banished to the back corner, we found the audio on the recordings was nearly inaudible. Perhaps our readers and listeners noticed that too.

When we mentioned the poor audio quality to Aaron Kostyu, Director of Technology, he informed us of the possibility of a direct microphone feed in the “media nook” (to the right of the door as you go in) to a properly equipped camera. He even showed Gretchen a camera that had the proper features. A bit of shopping later, we purchased a Canon HFR21 that appears to have many of the features needed for effective recording of these meetings.

Because the “media nook” speaker output had never been used before Monday, Continue reading

I feel we are selectively being left out of the process. —Barbara Stratton

Received yesterday on Videos for Lowndes County Commission 13 December 2011. -jsq
These videos are fantastic & I love the sequential playlist. How did you get permission to connect to the county microphones? Thanks to both of you, John & Gretchen, we citizens who can’t make all the numerous meetings have excellent access to view the proceedings. I need info on the new camera please.

I have a question. Since all meetings are open to the public & all information is accessible by open record requests why do the various entities have a habit of not publically answering questions related to money amounts publically? Very often I have noticed all local government entities share a habit of referring money & budget amounts and/or bid questions to the packets each member has in front of them instead of vocalizing them. Since the public attendees do not have access to this information I feel we are selectively being left out of the process. Citizens should not have to process & fund open record requests for information that should be part of the public meeting. Since you have more experience with local entities can you explain this practise?

-Barbara Stratton

Videos for Lowndes County Commission 13 December 2011

Here are videos for the entire Lowndes County Commission Regular Session of Tuesday 13 December 2011. Gretchen took these using a new camera with fast stop-start, high zoom, and taking audio input directly from the county’s own microphones. How do you like it?

See also the previously-posted agenda and the videos of Monday morning’s Work Session.

Here’s the playlist:

Videos for Lowndes County Commission 13 December 2011
Regular Session, Lowndes County Commission (LCC),
Valdosta, Lowndes County, Georgia, 13 December 2011.
Videos by Gretchen Quarterman for LAKE, the Lowndes Area Knowledge Exchange.


County’s website: Reapportionment maps

Since we posted the Reapportionment maps obtained Tuesday evening, the county has posted PDF versions of this same information on their own website. Copies are on the LAKE website and appended below. I’ve added HTML tables of the statistics.
VAP is Voting-Age Population.


Commission Explansion Update

At the December 13, 2011, meeting of the Lowndes County Board of Continue reading