Tag Archives: John S. Quarterman

RIP Sonny Vickers + two sewer lines fixed @ VCC 2022-06-23

Update 2022-06-27: Trash boom good; more needed –Suwannee Riverkeeper @ VCC 2022-06-23.

Flags are to fly half-mast Sunday across the entire state of Georgia at the state Capitol and in Lowndes County for the late Sonny Vickers, whose absence loomed large over the Valdosta City Council meeting. The funeral will be 3 PM Sunday. There will be a special election for his Council seat, as required by the city charter.

[Sonny Vickers and other matters]
Sonny Vickers and other matters

Mayor and Council also increased the number of vehicles for their on-call transit service, and approved two sewer line fixes.

One Citizen to Be Heard proposed renaming Cherry Street to Sonny Vickers Lane. Two others asked the city to do more about trash.

Also, that was the last Council meeting for Utilities Director David Frost, whose last day was today (Friday).

Below are links to each LAKE video of each agenda item with a few notes, followed by a LAKE video playlist. See also the agenda. The board packet, received in response to a LAKE open records request, is on the LAKE website. Some of the materials are out of order (I don’t know why), so if you don’t find something at first, keep looking.

Here’s a LAKE video playlist:

RIP Sonny Vickers + two sewer lines fixed @ VCC 2022-06-23
Valdosta City Council Regular Session, June 23, 2022, Valdosta, Lowndes County, Georgia.
Videos by John S. Quarterman for Lowndes Area Knowledge Exchange (LAKE).

-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!

Finances and Okefenokee Swamp @ SGRC 2021-12-09

Here are LAKE videos of (most of) yesterday’s Southern Georgia Regional Commission (SGRC) Council meeting yesterday in Pearson, Georgia.

For some of the items, I have included photographs of the first sheet of the relevant handout(s). For the rest of each handout, please contact SGRC.

Thanks to SGRC Council Chair Joyce Evans and Assistant Director Chris Strom for inviting me to come speak about the Okefenokee Swamp in my other hat as Suwannee Riverkeeper; see the WWALS blog post.

[Collage]
Collage: Audit; New member John Clayton (Nashville); DCA Small Cities Conference; Okefenokee Swamp Resolutions –Suwannee Riverkeeper; Jody Redding, GA Gov. Field Rep.

Here is the complete agenda. Continue reading

Okefenokee resolution, Planning Commission, Airport, Sewer system, Road renaming moratorium @ VCC 2021-11-11

With a packed agenda, the Valdosta City Council passed eight resolutions, approved five bids or purchases, and appointed people to four boards, yet the longest discussion was after all that.

[Mayor, Howard, Gibbs, WWTP, Manager & Tooley, Suwannee Riverkeeper]
Mayor, Howard, Gibbs, WWTP, Manager & Tooley, Suwannee Riverkeeper

Perhaps the most far-reaching item was one of the briefest, presented by Mayor Scott James Matheson: 3.f. Resolution in Opposition to a proposed strip mine near the Okefenokee Swamp, opposing the proposed Twin Pines Minerals (TPM) strip mine or any others within ten miles of the Swamp, asking the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to reverse its abdication of oversight, asking GA-EPD for a moratorium on all mining permits until effects are settled of the recent court overruling of 2020 Clean Water Act changes, as well as to reject the TPM permits, or at least to review those applications as thoroughly as the Army Corps would, and asking the Georgia legislature to prevent such strip mines near the Swamp or any blackwater rivers in the Suwannee River Basin. Continue reading

Videos: Valwood award, river gauges, Comprehensive Plan, Alcohol @ LCC Regular 2021-10-25

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.

[County Manager, PIO, Valwood Valiants, Character Area Maps]
County Manager, PIO, Valwood Valiants, Character Area Maps

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

Videos: Subdivision way out of bounds approved, and million-dollar water main, but Wells Road stays open 2021-10-12

The good news: Wells Road and Folsom Bridge Landing remain open, after the Commissioners unanimously denied the road closure. Thanks to Commissioner Clay Griner for making the motion, saying that the request met none of the criteria.

The bad news: by a 3:2 vote they approved the subdivision way too far north on Val Del Road, far outside the subdivision character area, despite the Planning Commission, county staff, and three speakers against in the Public Hearing. Griner also made that motion. The audience was not happy, especially at Commissioner Scottie Orenstein for voting for that motion.

[Subdivision too far north on Val Del approved, audience reaction, Wells Road stays open, un-needed $million water main approved]
Subdivision too far north on Val Del approved, audience reaction, Wells Road stays open, un-needed $million water main approved

The Commissioners also approved without comment the $1 million unnecessary water main as part of the $5 million utilities package.

They approved everything else unanimously.

Below are LAKE videos of each agenda item with some notes, followed by a LAKE video playlist. See also the agenda and board packet and the LAKE videos of the previous morning’s Work Session.

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

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).

Packet: Stream monitoring, trash franchises, wetlands credits, force main, quit claims, paving, and Accountability Court @ LCC 2020-04-28

Apparently there was no legal public notice and no recording of the April teleconference meeting with the dial-in code changed less than three hours before, with $6,913,575.06 in taxpayers’ money being decided.

[Photo: Pine Grove Road Collection Center]
Photo: Pine Grove Road Collection Center

For that Regular Session of the Lowndes County Commission, at which everything was approved unanimously except the one split vote on the single-source no-bid stream monitoring contract, LAKE sent an open records request for “the teleconference audio recording and the log of teleconference attendees (who dialed in, by name, or, if name is not known, by telephone number) for the April 28, 2020, Lowndes County Commission Regular Session.”

The response from the County Clerk was:

The April 28th telephone meeting was not recorded other than the minutes that were taken. Further, the program used does not record a phone log for the option utilized for this meeting. This being case, there are no records responsive to your request. I do expect the next meeting to be held in the Commission Chambers with social distancing requirements observed. This being the case, citizens will have an opportunity to attend in person which is a much better format for everyone.

Well, that’s a matter of opinion. Do you think it’s better to have to wear a mask to the Commission Chambers and risk getting infected, than to listen on the phone?

The Valdosta City Council had their meeting this Thursday on facebook live. The Madison, Florida, BOCC has been doing theirs on gotomeeting. It’s curious how the most populous county in the region can’t manage a teleconference or video meeting.

LAKE received the full board packet two days after the meeting, at 5:07 PM on Thursday, April 30, 2020, in response to an open records request. It’s on the LAKE website. We look forward to Lowndes County putting its full packet on its website along with the agenda and one-page agenda sheets per item. Many other counties in Georgia and Florida have been doing this for years.

When will the Lowndes County Commission catch up with the 21st century?

April-28-2020-Commission-Meeting-Packet

By far the biggest item was the $6,545,729.00 Coleman Road Force Main Replacement. The county apparently saved a bunch of money by removing many amounts from the bid for the county to do directly.

[Amount Removed from Bid]
Amount Removed from Bid

Curious how they didn’t do that for the sole-source no-bid $45,120.00 Professional Services for Sampling, Monitoring and Reporting of Impaired Streams. More on that in another blog post.

The county bid everything else that could be bid, including the $228,400.95 Continue reading

Teleconference: Stream monitoring, trash franchises, wetlands credits, force main, quit claims, paving, and Accountability Court @ LCC 2020-04-28

Update 2020-05-10:

Update 2020-05-09: Board packet.

Update 2020-05-02: Gretchen’s notes on each agenda item.

Was this even a public meeting? The Lowndes County Commission approved everything on its agenda yesterday, even though only really perceptive citizens could figure out how to listen to the teleconference. In which they approved everything, with only one split vote, for a $45,120.00 single-source item.

[Agenda Versions]
Agenda Versions

At 2:38 PM, less than three hours before the 5:30 PM voting Lowndes County Commission Regular Session, they made this one change to the online agenda:

Old:
“The call in number is 813-769-0500 and the access code is 373-829-614#”

New:
“The call in number is 813-769-0500 and the access code is 584-852-611#”

Can you spot the change? It’s the access code.

I didn’t notice the agenda had changed, so I used the old access code. Which only started a teleconference five minutes late, and then had 18+ minutes of silence.

Gretchen did notice the agenda had changed, but there was no indication of what had changed. She carefully looked to find that different access code. It’s a good bet Gretchen was the only citizen on the conference call, because likely few other people figured that out.

But that didn’t stop the Commissioners from approving everything on the agenda.

The only split vote was for: Continue reading