As you can see, the agenda for 5:30 PM this evening includes the usual Financial Report, Audit, Royalties, and Grinding Reimbursement, plus appointment of a Nominating Committee for Officers, and a Rate Adjustment, at the Deep South Solid Waste Authority meeting. Continue reading
Update 2021-11-08: Videos: Comprehensive Plan Update Public Hearing 2 @ LCC 2021-10-26.
The County Manager said the Character Area Maps were not changing in the Comprehensive Plan Update, so she expected the Public Hearing Tuesday to be brief, but a quorum would be required. At the end, I thanked the Commissioners for not changing the character area maps and asked them to follow them in future rezonings.
The river gauge funding and the beer and wine license sailed through unanimously. The longest items were the two part Proclamation Presentation to Valwood Valiants Volleyball Team and the County Manager’s Report.
Here are links to each LAKE video of each agenda (and non-agenda) item, with a few notes, followed by a LAKE video playlist. See also the LAKE videos of the same morning’s Work Session, the agenda, and the board packet which we received in response to a LAKE open records request and put on the LAKE website. Some day the county will put its own board packets on its own website. Continue reading
With the new 2.5 mil fire millage on unincorporated Lowndes County, property taxes in unincorporated Lowndes County will still be lower than in Valdosta.
The slides, presented by Finance Director Stephanie Black, were informative, although somewhat hard to read on the screen behind the Commissioners. They are not on the county’s website, and also not in the board packet.
Commissioner Mark Wisenbaker asked one question, wanting to know what the total millage would be for residents in the unincorpated parts of the county. Answer: 13.1.
Nobody spoke for or against at the Millage Rate Hearing, so it took less than eleven minutes.
The Lowndes County Commission voted in its Regular Session 20 minutes later.
Here is the LAKE video of the Millage Public Hearing. See also Continue reading
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?
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.
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!
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. Continue reading
Suing local businesses helps run up fees to the county attorney, says County Manager Joe Pritchard. He didn’t mention that continuing to promote sprawl for example through the county’s thoroughfare plan also runs up fees that property taxes will never meet. Commissioners seemed very concerned about “stakeholders” whom they said were “the development community, the real estate community” and “the construction and homebuilder industries”. Maybe somewhere they mentioned the agricultural and forestry industries, or sales tax payers even if they don’t own real estate; if so I missed it. At least they’re thinking about the Comprehensive Plan and the general direction of the county in a public forum. And the County Planner did talk about quality of life. Plus it seems business prospects bringing that up got the attention of the County Manager. They said they have a responsiblity to set the direction of the county. How about instead of continuing to drive sprawl outwards, which is a fiscally (and environmentally) irresponsible path, turn to directing development to be more dense in already-developed areas? They continue this morning at 8:30 AM, and Gretchen is there again with the LAKE video camera.
Both Chamber of Commerce Chair Myrna Ballard and Lowndes County Manager Joe Pritchard say the VDT is inaccurate. The VDT took offense at Ballard’s assertion. Which do you believe? I believe I’d like to see the evidence, not just the VDT’s assertions. And this junior high school cat fight the VDT insists on is not helping fix the real problem with water and wastewater in Valdosta and Lowndes County: the widespread and longterm damage to our watersheds that turned a normal rain in 2009 into a 700 year flood, and caused another flooding of the Withlacoochee Wasterwater Treatment Plant this year. I’m all for investigative reporting, but I have not yet once seen the VDT investigate the real underlying issues of longtime clearcutting and building of roads subdivisions, and parking lots without adequate consideration of water flows.
The VDT front page today has yet another story attacking the City of Valdosta, Loan info from GEFA contradicts City: $11 million awaits disbursement, loan amounts don’t match. I can’t make much sense out of it, because while Jason Shaefer has dug up a lot of interesting information, he doesn’t include dates for much of the financial detail he attributes to GEFA. Let’s see the VDT publish the documents they are referring to. The city does publish its Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports. The VDT has a website, and could publish whatever records it got from GEFA, which after all were produced using our tax dollars, and are therefore public records. Or if the documents are somewhere on GEFA’s website, the VDT could publish links to the specific documents. The VDT did publish a timeline of correspondence with the City about loans, so it could just as easily publish the GEFA documents and its own page-by-page and chart-by-chart comparison so we could all see for ourselves.
The VDT prepended this blurb to its timeline:
It has come to the attention of the Times that the Chamber of Commerce has called a special meeting on Tuesday to address what COC Pres. Myrna Ballard terms as “damage to our community’s reputation” due to the stories that have appeared in the newspaper. The invitation for the 9 a.m. meeting at the Chamber office was extended to only a select group of Chamber members, no media, and states that Mayor John Gayle and City Manager Larry Hanson will explain the city’s financial status. The Times takes very seriously the implication that the newspaper has written anything that is “inaccurate,” as stated by the Chamber. As such, the Times has chosen to show the public the information provided to the newspaper in response to questions posed to the City, with no editing, to allow citizens the opportunity to see for themselves if what the Times has written is an “inaccurate” portrayal of the city’s financial status.
What was that again?
The Times takes very seriously the implication that the newspaper has written anything that is “inaccurate,” as stated by the Chamber.
How about as stated by Lowndes County Manager Joe Pritchard? In a letter from him to me of 29 January 2013 Pritchard stated:Continue reading
Why should businesses have to pay an additional license fee for Sunday alcohol sales, if the only justification is to raise money to pay for administering that license? That was a topic at yesterday morning's Lowndes County Commission Work Session for agenda item 6.a. Revision to the Lowndes County Alcoholic Beverage Ordinance.
Finance Director Stephanie Black mentioned the things we already heard from the staff, brown bagging, social hosts (serving alcohol at private events to underage drinkers), and the Sunday package sales. She said for the voter-approved Sunday alcohol sales the license fee would be $250, plus a requirement for an immigration affidavit. Commissioner Powell took exception to that additional license fee, which would be on top of a license fee already necessary for the rest of the week. Black and Chairman Paulk defended it as necessary to collect money to administer the license fee. Powell wondered if they'd need the money if they didn't have the license fee. Paulk said the city of Valdosta charges $1000 for a Sunday license. Powell said he disagreed with that, too.
Here's the video:
Additional license fee for Sunday alcohol sales?
Work Session, Lowndes County Commission (LCC),
Video by Gretchen Quarterman for Lowndes Area Knowledge Exchange (LAKE), Valdosta, Lowndes County, Georgia, 10 December 2012.
Underfunding of Georgia’s ethics commission has led to numerous inappropriate fines, some of which are still being straightened out after many months. Maybe the legislature should fund the ethics commission to a working level and make it independent of the legislature.
David Rodock wrote for the VDT 29 September 2011, Transparency Confusion: New campaign contributions system leads to officials owing fines,
The Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Commission posted a seven-page list online earlier this week ethics.ga.gov of local government officials who have supposedly failed to submit their campaign contribution information this year.
According to the state organization’s website, each late filer owes fines of different amounts.
Various elected officials were quoted in that article saying the fines were inappropriate. Many of those fines had already been removed from the list by the time that article was written.
There have been calls to properly fund that agency and to make it independent of the legislature. The Columbus Ledger-Inquirer wrote 25 January 2012, Ethics panel needs funding and independence,Continue reading
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?