Category Archives: Transparency

Agenda: Budget Hearing @ LCC 2024-06-13

Update 2024-06-17: Video and Slides: Budget Hearing @ LCC 2024-06-13.

Maybe you’d like to be the one citizen who shows up at the Lowndes County budget hearing this morning.

[Budget Hearing @ LCC 2024-06-13 Public Hearing on the proposed FY 2025 Budget]
Budget Hearing @ LCC 2024-06-13 Public Hearing on the proposed FY 2025 Budget

Other than Gretchen Quarterman, who is on her way with the LAKE video camera. Which is the only way most people will know what went on there, since the county does not video budget hearings.

The agenda, posted “Jun 13, 2024 7:56 AM”.

LOWNDES COUNTY BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS
PUBLIC HEARING ON THE PROPOSED FY 2025 BUDGET
THURSDAY, JUNE 13, 2024, 9:00 A.M.
327 N. Ashley Street – 2nd Floor

  1. Call To Order
  2. Public Hearing
    1. Presentation of the Proposed FY 2025 Budget
      Recommended Action:
      Documents:
  3. Adjournment

It says “Documents:” but no documents were attached.

On the Finance department web page, the Most Recent document is the operating budget for fiscal year 2024 (not 2025).

I have filed an open records request for the presentation slides and any other materials for today’s budget hearing.

-jsq

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!
http://www.l-a-k-e.org/blog/donate

Video and Slides: Budget Hearing @ LCC 2024-06-13

If you missed the June 13 Budget Public Hearing, presumably you may get another chance at the next Lowndes County Commission meeting.

The vast majority of revenue for the Lowndes County government comes from taxes.

Most of that comes from property taxes, and almost a third from Local Option Sales Tax (LOST).

Only about a fifth of General Fund expenditures goes to the general government, about an eighth each to Public Works and to Judicial, while a third goes to the Sheriff’s Office.

[LAKE video and Finance Dept. Slides: Budget Hearing @ LCC 2024-06-13]
LAKE video and Finance Dept. Slides: Budget Hearing @ LCC 2024-06-13

Here is the LAKE video of the 9 AM, June 13, 2024, PUBLIC HEARING ON THE PROPOSED FY 2025 BUDGET.
https://youtube.com/playlist?list=PLshUv86fYkiEWkgeC7dlEnYHi7FxjWHLh&si=wKn4TCmyAfliQArs


Video by Gretchen Quarterman for Lowndes Area Knowledge Exchange (LAKE).

The presentation slides, received in response to a LAKE open records request, are on the LAKE website.

They are not yet on the Continue reading

Videos: Hospital Authority appointment, 6 rezonings, paving and resurfacing, subdision infrastructure, probationers @ LCC Regular 2024-05-14

An hour-long Regular Session is very unusual for the Lowndes County Commission. Much of it was taken up by two rezonings: REZ-2024-08 on River Road (10:43) and REZ-2024-09 Dasher Grove Subdivision (12:24). For River Road, the applicant discussed setbacks and fire trucks and answered Commissioner questions about house prices and lot sizes. For Dasher Grove, Commissioner questions were mostly about how many lots and when T-SPLOST road work on Val Del Road would take place. Remember, that road work is your tax dollars going to subsidize subdivisions.

Nobody spoke against those rezonings nor against any of the others. All the rezonings and everything else passed unanimously, including they reappointed Hospital Authority incumbent Shirley Garland as expected.

[Collage @ LCC Regular 14 May 2024]
Collage @ LCC Regular 14 May 2024

There was discussion about the apparent price rise by 8.b. Pronto Consulting for Software as a Service to manage probationers. It is actually just that Pronto started with a discount, and this time is not supplying a discount. The total undiscounted amount was always in the county budget.

In Citizens Wishing to Be Heard, Mark Perkins of Lake Park had some questions about the burn ordinance.

Also, Representative John LaHood (R-175) was recognized by the Association of County Commissioners of Georgia (ACCG) for his work on legislation regarding Service Delivery Strategies.

Below are links to each LAKE video of each agenda item, with a few notes by Gretchen Quarterman, followed by a LAKE video playlist.

See also the Continue reading

Videos: Hospital Authority appointment, 6 rezonings, paving and resurfacing, subdision infrastructure, probationers @ LCC Work 2024-05-13

Update 2024-05-27: Videos: Hospital Authority appointment, 6 rezonings, paving and resurfacing, subdision infrastructure, probationers @ LCC Regular 2024-05-14.

This Work Session was long by Lowndes County Commission standards, more than half an hour.

[Collage @ LCC 13 May 2024]
Collage @ LCC 13 May 2024

Almost half of that, 13 and a half minutes, was on 7.c. REZ-2024-08 River Road, 4374 River Road, mostly about spacing between houses and fire risk.

Another five minutes was on 7.d. REZ-2024-09 Dasher Grove, about the timeline for Val Del Road improvements.

Notice the Val Del Road improvements are TIA projects, which means tax-paid road improvements to benefit a private developer. Yet this and other such rezonings appear in the agenda as “BUDGET IMPACT: NA”.

Commissioner Mark Wisenbaker asked if the packet materials could be projected on the screen for 6.a. Appointment – Hospital Authority of Valdosta and Lowndes County. ITS Director Aaron Kostyu said he did not have the ability to do that.

Well, the County Planner manages to project all the materials for the rezonings. Why can’t the ITS Director project materials for other board agenda items?

Or the County Commissioners can look at the LAKE website, I suppose.

Or county staff could put the board packet on the county’s own website.

Either way, the Commissioners could use the Internet to look at it on their tablets.

The Commissioners could just direct staff to put the packet on the county’s website.

Commissioners also had some questions about why the increases in Continue reading

Videos: Race Track Road SE abandonment and TXT-2024-01 ULDC Amendments @ LCC Regular 2024-04-09

“We’re down to one!” said Commissioner Scotti Orenstein, seeing Commissioners Joyce Evans and Demarcus Marshall coming out of the elevator before the April 9, 2024, Lowndes County Commission Regular Session.

“Due to an issue with some advertising, staff is requesting this item be tabled until until the May 14, 2024, meeting,” said Engineering Director Chad McLeod, in 5. Public Hearing a. Abandonment of a Portion of Race Track Road SE.

[Collage @ LCC 9 April 2024]
Collage @ LCC 9 April 2024

They meet again this morning at 8:30 AM for their Work Session, and Tuesday at 5:30 PM for their voting Regular Session.

Their Regular Session two weeks ago would have been very brief, except for Continue reading

Videos: Race Track Road SE abandonment and TXT-2024-01 ULDC Amendments @ LCC Work 2024-04-08

The Lowndes County Commissioners had no questions about the two items in their Work Session Monday morning.

In the meeting, the only thing unusual was the County Manager gave her report, because she was going to be absent the next day.

[LAKE Videos: Racetrack Road SE Abandonment and ULDC Text Amendments @ LCC Work 2024-04-08]
LAKE Videos: Racetrack Road SE Abandonment and ULDC Text Amendments @ LCC Work 2024-04-08

The interesting parts were outside the meeting:

  • Before the meeting, I asked Information Technology Services (ITS) Director Aaron Kostyu if the sound box in the video pen at the back of the room would be fixed soon. He said that was a $1700 item, but they were working on it. I asked loudly enough that all of the Commissioners could hear me, including when I noted that it’s hard to hear Commissioners on our videos without the direct audio feed. He said some of them probably would still be inaudible.
  • I went up to where Commissioner Joyce Evans was sitting and indicated that if Commissioners push their microphones away, they’re hard to hear. She said I was pointing at Commissioner Scottie Orenstein’s microphone. We shall see.
  • I had a video camera fail, so I took these videos with my phone, starting after they did, so the call to order and approval of minutes agenda items are not in these videos. Also, my phone does not stop and start videos quickly, so there may be a second or two missing between clips.
  • After the meeting was adjourned, Commissioner Mark Wisenbaker said he was disappointed to get dressed to come there for such a brief meeting. I feel his pain. It’s an hour round trip for me, this time for a five minute meeting.

Below are links to each LAKE video of each agenda item, followed by a LAKE video playlist.

See also the agenda and the board packet. Continue reading

Packet: Race Track Road SE abandonment and TXT-2024-01 ULDC Amendments @ LCC 2024-04-08

Update 2024-04-10: Videos: Racetrack Road SE Abandonment and ULDC Text Amendments @ LCC Work 2024-04-08.

This is the briefest Lowndes County Commission agenda I’ve seen in a while, with only two items: Abandonment of a Portion of Race Track Road SE (for Southern Gateway LLC) and TXT-2024-01 ULDC Amendments, both Public Hearings.

[Race Track Road SE abandonment and TXT-2024-01 ULDC Amendments @ LCC 2024-04-08]
Race Track Road SE abandonment and TXT-2024-01 ULDC Amendments @ LCC 2024-04-08

This is the last Public Hearing for the ULDC Amendments, after the one last month at the Planning Commission. So if you have any input, better show up Tuesday, or contact Commissioners or Planning/Zoning department head JD Dillard beforehand, preferably in writing.

The bit that may affect the most people is 10.00.07 Board of Commissioner Public Hearing Procedures. Continue reading

ULDC Text Amendment Status @ LCC 2024-03-26 2024-02-26

Update 2024-03-23: Packet: ULDC text amendments, Hahira Personal Service Shops, Valdosta PSS and rezonings @ GLPC 2024-03-25.

Here is the ULDC Text Amendment handout from the Lowndes County Commission Work Session of February 26, 2024, received in response to a LAKE open records request.

[ULDC Text Amendments Status, Public Hearings @ LCC 2024-02-26]
ULDC Text Amendments Status, Public Hearings @ LCC 2024-02-26

Continue reading

Videos: Tax Assessor appointed, Special Assessment Rate, VOCA, federal consultant @ LCC Regular

The new Tax Assessor is Richard Holcomb, nominated and appointed by acclamation.

That’s to fill the unexpired term of Gene Felts, who was appointed two weeks ago, got sworn in, and resigned before his first Tax Assessor meeting.

This time, Lowndes County Manager Paige Dukes did read out the list of remaining candidates.

However, we the taxpayers and voters still do not get to see the applications, which are not in this board packet, either.

[Collage @ LCC Regular 23 January 2024]
Collage @ LCC Regular 23 January 2024

The County Manager’s Report took six minutes.

Commissioner Mark Wisenbaker wanted to know more about the Animal Shelter budget, which took another minute.

A citizen waved around her Citizens Wishing to Be Heard (CWTBH) form and asked to speak, but was predictably told by Chairman Bill Slaughter that she could not because she did not turn in the form before the meeting. I’m told her name is Kelley Saxon.

In Georgia, many other county commissions converse with citizens during the meeting without requiring a form.

Meanwhile, in Florida, by state law any citizen can speak on any agenda item.

The whole meeting took 16 minutes.

See also the Continue reading

Videos: Appoint another Tax Assessor, Special Assessment Rate, VOCA, federal consultant @ LCC Work 2024-01-22

Update 2024-01-24: Videos: Tax Assessor appointed, Special Assessment Rate, VOCA, federal consultant @ LCC Regular 2024-01-23.

They’re not actually appointing a successor for James Puckett, whose term expired. They’re appointing a Tax Assessor to fill the unexpired term of Gene Felts. At the Regular Session Monday morning, Lowndes County Manager Paige Dukes clarified that Gene Felts was picked at the last meeting (2024-01-08) and he was sworn in on 2024-01-10 however he then resigned for personal reasons.

We the taxpayers and voters still do not get to see the applications, which are not in this board packet, either. This time the County Manager did not even read out the names of the remaining applicants.

Maybe somebody should tell the appointees that substantial hours of training are required after being appointed.

They vote tonight at 5:30 PM.

[Collage @ LCC Work 22 January 2024]
Collage @ LCC Work 22 January 2024

About the Cornerstone state and federal lobbying contract, the County Manager said they were concerned about SB 349. Continue reading