Category Archives: Transparency

Budget and wood pellet farm –Adel City Council 2020-09-08

Adel staff answered extensive questions about the budget, in the Adel City Council meeting, Tuesday, August 8, 2020. The proposed wood pellet plant for export to Europe was criticised by several local citizens, and defended by members of local authorities and commissions, as well as its CEO, speaking from Houston, Texas, on a laptop screen.

Budget & Wood Pellet Plant @ Adel City Council 2020-09-08

Below are links to each LAKE video of each agenda item and each speaker, with a few notes. See also Continue reading

Update: rezonings w. Tiger Creek, whose communications tower? @ LCC 2020-09-08

Here are the answers to these questions from Saturday:

  1. Why is the owner of the planned 300-foot communications tower off US 84 a secret?
  2. Why does the agenda sheet for REZ-2020-11 Bella Mill Plantation, 8450 Ousley Rd., next to Tiger Creek and a short distance upstream from the Withlacoochee River, make no mention of sewage or the size of the septic system relative to the number of expected attendees at the planned event facility?

[Proposed interior sketch]
Proposed interior sketch

  1. TWR 2020-02 is by Diamond Communications and AT&T.
  2. REZ-2020-11: the Department of Public Health determines septic system sizes. That Department won’t issue a septic system permit until they are satisfied.

These answers came from JD Dillard, Lowndes County Planning and Zoning Director. I called him yesterday before the Regular Session Tuesday, and he called back with the answers.

How does the Department of Health determine septic system sizes? Partly by Continue reading

Reappointment to GLPC, three rezonings w. Tiger Creek, whose communications tower? @ LCC 2020-09-07

Update 2020-09-09: Update: rezonings w. Tiger Creek, whose communications tower? @ LCC 2020-09-08

Why is the owner of the planned 300-foot communications tower off US 84 a secret? The Lowndes County Commission will deliberate on that rezoning and three more Monday morning at 8:30 AM and vote on it Tuesday at 5:30 PM, after these rezonings were heard Monday at the Planning Commission.

Why does the agenda sheet for REZ-2020-11 Bella Mill Plantation, 8450 Ousley Rd., next to Tiger Creek and a short distance upstream from the Withlacoochee River, make no mention of sewage or the size of the septic system relative to the number of expected attendees at the planned event facility? Why is there no mention of any speakers against this rezoning, even though there was at least one at the Planning Commission?

[Conceptual Plan]
Conceptual Plan
PDF

In addition to two other rezonings, the County Commission will most likely reappoint Tommy Willis to the Planning Commission.

Here is the agenda. The entire board packet for Monday and Tuesday is on the LAKE website, along with the minutes for the previous meetings two weeks ago, in response to a LAKE open records request. Thanks to new County Clerk Belinda Lovern and Sabrina Denson for speedy responses to such requests.

LOWNDES COUNTY BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS
PROPOSED AGENDA
WORK SESSION, TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 8, 2020, 8:30 a.m.
REGULAR SESSION, TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 8, 2020, 5:30 p.m.
327 N. Ashley Street – 2nd Floor

  1. Call to Order Continue reading

Education, Extension, Prisoners, Fire, Water, Sewer, Nelson Hill, Wages, Taxes, Clerk @ LCC 2020-08-24

A busy agenda for 8:30 AM Monday morning, with voting 5:30 PM Tuesday, includes especially taxes, and alcohol, sewer, twice, education, extension agents, Prison Work Details, and Architectural Services for Lowndes County Fire Station #5 – Bemiss Road Fire Station Alterations and Additions.

[Aerial Map]
Aerial Map for Uncle Carlo’s Italian Ristorante, 1024 Lakes Blvd., Lake Park, GA.

Plus appointment of a new County Clerk, Belinda Lovern, and Deputy Clerk, Sabrina Denson. No posting of the positions is mentioned.

Cost What
$147,954.00Annual Contract Renewal, Georgia Department of Corrections – Prison Work Details
$141,841.00Contract for Extension Agents and Staff
$110,000.00Peterson Road Lift Station Emergency Repair
$44,400.00Architectural Services for Lowndes County Fire Station #5 – Bemiss Road Fire Station Alterations and Additions
$41,840.00Nelson Hill Discharge Manhole
$5,699.35Tax Commissioners’ Back Wage Settlement with Department of Labor
$-32,000.00USDA Building Lease Amendment No. 4
$459,734.35Total

The Lowndes County Commission is Repealing Approvals Authorizing the Tax Commissioner to Waive Penalties and Interest, apparently because of a Tax Commissioners' Back Wage Settlement with Department of Labor.

After last year’s vote of the people to ask the Georgia legislature to make the Tax Assessors appointed, not elected, the legislature did that. Now the County Commission is setting the number of Assessors at three, with initial staggered terms of 3, 4, and 5 years, and after that 3 years for each.

This is after two weeks ago the Lowndes County Commission rolled back the tax millage rate slightly.

Here is the agenda. The entire board packet, together with the Minutes of the meetings of two weeks ago (Work Session, Millage Hearing, and Regular Session) is on LAKE website.

LOWNDES COUNTY BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS
PROPOSED AGENDA
WORK SESSION, MONDAY, AUGUST 24, 2020, 8:30 a.m.
REGULAR SESSION, TUESDAY, AUGUST 25, 2020, 5:30 p.m.
327 N. Ashley Street – 2nd Floor

Continue reading

Videos: Maybe revisit lowering millage rate @ LCC 2020-08-10

There was pushback on lowering the millage rate at the Lowndes County Commission Work Session yesterday morning. They will decide this evening at 5:30 PM at the Regular Session.

The Commissioners, like some of the public, also wanted to know when there will be a new County Clerk. Answer, from the former County Clerk, Paige Dukes, who is now the County Manager: not yet; maybe next meeting (two weeks from now).

The $0.9 million low bid from Reames for road paving and a box culvert got no discussion from Commissioners.

The Scruggs Company was offered a special exception to the Comprehensive Plan; one that actually makes sense.

Yes, the Copeland property backs up to PCA.

The Verizon tower got no questions from Commissioners.

Below are links to each LAKE video with a few notes, followed by a LAKE video playlist. See also the agenda and board packet, and the millage rate hearing at 5PM today (Tuesday).

Millage Rate Meeting @ LCC Millage 2020-08-11

The board packet for the Tuesday Lowndes County Commission Regular Session says, on page 65, which is the agenda sheet for agenda item 6.a. Adoption of Millage Rate:

HISTORY, FACTS AND ISSUES: The Board of Commissioners is required to set the county-wide millage rate for 2020. A public hearing was held prior to this adoption as required. The county-wide millage should be set at 10.851 mills with the County receiving 8.601 mills, the Industrial Authority receiving 1.00 mill and the Parks and Recreation Authority receiving 1.25 mills. This represents a reduction of 0.087 mills.

I wondered: when was this public hearing?

[10.851 mills, 8.601 County, 1.00 VLDA, 1.25 VLPRA. reduction of 0.087 mills.]
10.851 mills, 8.601 County, 1.00 VLDA, 1.25 VLPRA. reduction of 0.087 mills.

According to the county’s online calendar, it hasn’t hapened yet, because it’s 5:00 PM that same Tuesday.

So if you’re going to the Regular Session, might as well show up half an hour earlier for the Millage Rate Meeting. Chances are, you’ll be the only member of the public there.

-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!

Packet: Budget, MIDS, Rezoning, Clyattstone Road, Mosquito, Law, Fiber Optic, Alcohol @ LCC 2020-07-13

$3,200,415.50 was on the agenda for this week, presumably approved by now by the Lowndes County Commission, in which they also appointed Paige Dukes to succeed Joe Pritchard as Lowndes County Manager.

[Table of Costs (by LAKE)]
Table of Costs (by LAKE)

Cost What
$2,500,000.00 GEFA Loan Application
$289,498.00 Acceptance of FY 2021 Juvenile Justice Incentive Grant
$198,775.00 Fiber Optic to Lowndes EOC
$102,762.00 Judicial System Software Purchase
$45,790.00 Annual Contract Renewal for Mosquito Identification and Testing
$40,000.00 Office of the Governor Criminal Justice Coordinating Council Accountability Court Lowndes County DUI Court- State Court
$23,590.50 Approval of Clyattstone Rd.-Simpson Ln. ROW and Easement Purchases (Parcels 26 and 34)
$0.00 Amendment to TPO Agreement FY2021 – Transit
$3,200,415.50Total

That’s 2.6% of the $120 million county annual budget.

Curious that they’re willing to spend $198,775.00 for fast, reliabile, Internet connectivity to their own offices but nothing for the rest of the population of Lowndes County.

I’ve lost track of how much they’ve spent on Clyattstone Road to connect Old US 41 N and Val Del Road to promote development in that area.

I commend the county for the GEFA Loan Application for wastewater utilities projects:

HISTORY, FACTS AND ISSUES: The Georgia Environmental Finance Authority offers funding through the State Revolving Fund. Local governments are able to secure low interest loans to be used for utility projects. Lowndes County has identified several lift station and manhole rehabilitation improvement projects.

The loan can be structured to spread repayment over a period of up to 30 years; however, there is no penalty for paying the loan off early. The proposed interest rate will not exceed 1.94% While the total loan amount is $2,500,000.00 it includes a grant component which allows for forgiveness of up to $625,000.00 of the loan amount. Staff recommends approval of the GEFA Loan Application.

The entire board packet is on the LAKE website. Documents received 12:26 PM, Friday, July 10, 2020, in response to a LAKE open records request. LAKE looks forward to these documents being posted on the county’s own website along with the agenda. Continue reading

Pritchard hands over to Dukes as Lowndes County Manager @ LCC 2020-07-14

On August 1, 2020, Paige Dukes will be the new County Manager, after the 20-year reign of Joe Pritchard.

Paige Dukes, County Clerk, 2011-10-13
Paige Dukes, County Clerk, Lunch and Learn, 2011-10-13

Chris Herbert, Valdosta Daily Times, 14 July 2020, Dukes named Lowndes County Manager,

The vote was a split decision, 3-2, with commissioners Joyce Evans, Clay Griner and Scottie Orenstein voting in favor. Demarcus Marshall and Mark Wisenbaker opposed.

Marshall said his no vote was because he wanted to see the position advertised to open the pool up to other candidates.

“I would expect no less than to have this position advertised,” Marshall said. “To advertise it is saying, ‘we’re not just the good ole boys system or good ole girls system.'”

Wisenbaker said he wanted to see a “fresh” perspective from county leadership and hoped a broader search could provide some new outlooks for the county’s future.

“I voted no because I think the citizens of Lowndes County need to be better represented. We need to advertise this job…There’s nothing personal against Ms. Dukes. She’s been here a while. She does a good job. It’s just being able to look out there and see what we may be missing,” he said. “We got a $120 million budget. That’s not small and we need the right people and the right person to carry this on. And we need fresh ideas. We need a fresh person, in my opinion, that can bring new things to the table.”

Those two were in the minority, however, and the three in support said they are certain Dukes is the right decision.

“I’ve been on this board for six years, and Continue reading

Stick with old budget for now @ LCC 2020-06-26 @ LCC 2020-06-26

The Lowndes County Commission did not pass a new budget, and nobody seems to know or at least be willing to say why, even though that was on the agenda for that Tuesday meeting.

Instead, they’ve scheduled a “Special Called Meeting on Friday, June 26, 200, at 9:00 a.m., to consider a resolution to temporarily continue the operation of the 2020 Fiscal Year budget.”

We don’t have the new draft budget, but here’s the general fund expenditure chart from the old budget they’re extending:

[General Fund Expenditures]
General Fund Expenditures
37.12% + 12.17% = 49.29%

I wonder if this delay has anything to do with sales tax revenues being way down due to the pandemic, and nobody really knowing when they might recover?

There’s no video of the meeting, but fortunately the VDT was on the job. Chris Herbert, Valdosta Daily Times, 24 June 2020, Lowndes County Commission tables 2021 budget, Continue reading

Budget, Bevel Creek Lift Station, Val Tech Road widening, Appointments: ZBOA, Library, VLPRA, Construction @ LCC 2020-06-22

The big item on the Lowndes County Commission agenda for Monday to vote on Tuesday evening is the Adoption of Fiscal Year 2021 Budget totaling $59,443,920, with $22,774,781 or 38% to Public safety, i.e., the Sheriff’s department, including the jail.

[A RESOLUTION ADOPTING THE FISCAL YEAR 2021 OPERATING BUDGET]
A RESOLUTION ADOPTING THE FISCAL YEAR 2021 OPERATING BUDGET
PDF

The board packet is on the LAKE website after we obtained it through an open records request.

Although I hear the hotel/motel tax is down 80% due to virus pandemic, the Hotel/Motel Tax FY 2021 County Budget Budgeted Proceeds are $400,000.00. They are budget to go to:

$171,429.00 Transfer to Lowndes County’s Special Services Fund from which the County funds (i) services the County provides primarily for the benefit of the unincorporated area and
(ii) the County’s share of funding of services the County and one or more municipalities jointly fund

$171,429.00 Transfer to Valdosta-Lowndes County Conference Center and Tourism Authority
to promote tourism, convention, and trade shows in accordance with the FY 2021 Budget Plan of said Authority for same which is made a part of this Budget Plan

$57,142.00 Transfer to Valdosta-Lowndes County Parks and Recreation Authority
for capital costs and operating expenses of parks and recreational facilities owned and operated by said Authority

A rare no-match federal grant: Acceptance of FY20 Coronavirus Emergency Supplemental Funding brings the total expected expenditures from this Tuesday’s Regular Session down to less than a quarter million dollars:

Cost What
$148,345.58 Val Tech Road Grading, Drainage, Base and Paving
$82,000.00 Bevel Creek Manhole Emergency Repair
$57,300.00 The Modernization/Upgrade of the Elevator in the Governmental Building
($58,008)
in Federal Funding.
There is no local match requirement.
Acceptance of FY20 Coronavirus Emergency Supplemental Funding
$229,637.58Total

I commend Lowndes County Utilities for moving ahead to fix the recent manhole collapse at the Bevel Creek Lift Station on GA 376 near Loch Laurel Road. See also Sewer line repair between manholes, Bevel Creek Lift Station @ LCC 2020-06-22.

Photo: Terry Richards, The Valdosta Daily Times, Heavy rains cause problems in Lowndes 2020-06-08.
Photo: Terry Richards, The Valdosta Daily Times, Heavy rains cause problems in Lowndes 2020-06-08.

It’s a busy agenda for appointments, to Continue reading