Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Four Of Five Of Oconee County Commissioners To Get Salary Increases In January

Daniell Refused Increase

The Oconee County Board of Commissioners tonight is scheduled to continuing its discussion of how to spend the 3 percent set aside in the current Fiscal Year 2016 county budget for salary increases for county employees.

The Board will not be discussing the salaries of its members.

The budget the commissioners approved on June 2 includes a 2.0 percent increase in the salary of Commission Chairman Melvin Davis, a 2.6 percent increase in the salary of Commissioner William E. “Bubber” Wilkes, and a 1 percent increase in the salaries of Commissioners Jim Luke and Mark Saxon.

Commissioner John Daniell has refused to take an increase in his salary, which stands at the same level it did in Fiscal Year 2012 and is actually less than he was paid the year before. Daniell took a voluntary cut of 10 percent in his salary in Fiscal Year 2012.

Starting on Jan. 1 of 2016, Davis will have an annual salary of $103,095, Wilkes will be paid $26,775, Luke will receive $23,562, Saxon will have a salary of $21,420, and Daniell will be paid $17,008.

Enabling Legislation

The compensation paid to chairman and the other four commissioners is determined by he language of the county’s enabling legislation, approved by the Georgia General Assembly in 1998.

John Daniell 7/7/2015

The chairman is paid 113 percent of the highest base salary paid to four county office holders: the sheriff, the probate judge, the tax commissioner, and the clerk of Superior Court.

The other commissioners are paid 27 percent of the highest salary paid to these four officer holders.

When the General Assembly increases salaries of these office holders, as it did this year, the salaries of the commissioners increase.

The General Assembly had not increased salaries for these four office holders since 2010.

Not Publicly Discussed

The commissioners also get an additional 5 percent salary increase when they complete a four-year term as a commissioner.

Wilkes, who was elected in 2014, had served on the Commission previously.

The enabling legislation does not designate the chairman as full-time or the other four commissioners as part-time, but Davis has an office and staff and works full-time, and the other four commissioners do not have individual offices or staff and do not work full-time.

None of the budget documents publicly released by the county included the salaries of the commissioners.

I obtained the documents via an open records request.

The commissioners also can receive health insurance though the county, but Commissioner Luke is the only commissioner who uses that benefit, according to the records I received.

Agenda For Meeting

The agenda for tonight’s meeting includes a discussion of “step/longevity compensation.”

Commissioner Daniell has been an advocate of a new system of classifying movement through a series of “steps” that would have some impact on compensation.

The discussion of this reclassification has been vague in BOC meetings to date.

County Administrative Office Jeff Benko is scheduled to lead a discussion of the topic tonight.

COLA Increase

At its June 2 meeting, when the Board of Commissioners adopted the Fiscal Year 2016 budget, it included a 3 percent increase in the salary pool for county employees.

The commissioners decided at that time to allocate half of that amount, or 1.5 percent, for cost of living adjustments, to go into effect on July 1.

They decided to hold the remainder of the money for allocation after the first of the year.

Since that time, they have been in disagreement about how to go about allocating that money.

Job Classification Study

Chairman Davis has argued that the unspent salary money should be allocated based on merit, and he has pushed for a new study of job classifications in the county as a step toward doing that.

Commissioner Luke has said such a study is a waste of money, since the last one done was ignored because the Commission did not find the advice given to be helpful.

Commissioner Daniell has argued that the county needs to study alternative ways of rewarding employees who move through “steps” in the employment ladder.

At its July 7 meeting, the commissioners agreed to issue a request for proposals for a “pay classification systems study,” but they did not agree to undertake the study.

Commissioners Luke and Daniell said they were willing to postpone making a decision until they saw the cost. Commission Mark Saxon said he felt it worth issuing the RFP.

Other Agenda Items

The meeting tonight also includes a discussion of an overlay zoning district for the Mars Hill Road corridor.

An initial public meeting, held last week at the community center in Veterans Park, was attended by about 20 people.

The discussion tonight is to be a second public discussion of the topic.

The Commission also will get a contract for approval for removal of sludge from the county’s wastewater treatment plant on Rocky Branch Road and discuss changes in the county’s water and wastewater ordinance.

It also will consider a proposal to protect and strengthen the roadbed of the county’s iconic Elder Mill Bridge.

Friday, July 24, 2015

State Environmental Protection Division Found No Problems With Oconee County Sewage Plant Discharge Based On Data County Provided

During Critical Period

The Georgia Environment Protection Division detected no problems with the quality of water discharged from Oconee County’s two wastewater treatment facilities during the September 2013 to April 2015 period, even though the agency criticized the county for “serious violations” of its permits to operate the plants during that time.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Oconee County Citizen Committee Recommending SPLOST Funding For Historic Projects

Barnett Shoals And Jail

An Oconee County historic and scenic sites committee on Tuesday night is scheduled to make its recommendation that the county spend Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax revenue on preservation of the historic Barnett Shoals area along the Oconee River and on renovation of the old jail behind the Courthouse in Watkinsville.

The Committee—actually a subcommittee of the Recreational Affairs Committee and of the Cultural Affairs and Tourism Committee—will make its report to those two full committees at 6 p.m. at the Community Center in Oconee Veterans Park.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Atlanta Developer Submitted Plans Last Month For Environmental Permits For Expanded Epps Bridge Centre

Tributaries To McNutt Creek

Atlanta Developer Frank Bishop filed paperwork with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers late last month for Phases II and III of Epps Bridge Centre, to be built in the wooded area across the Oconee Connector from his existing shopping center.

Bishop filed the paperwork with the Corps of Engineers because he plans to alter streams and wetlands on the property and needs permits from both the state of Georgia and from the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers before he can begin construction.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Oconee County Code Enforcement Looking Into Location Of Boswell Signs—Again

Connector And SR 316

The Oconee County Code Enforcement Office is once again investigating a two-sided sign installed by Boswell Properties on the southwest corner of SR 316 and the Oconee Connector.

Boswell Properties reinstalled the signs sometime in the last few weeks to list property owned by Maxie Price, the Loganville auto dealer and businessman who has several properties in the county.

Thursday, July 09, 2015

Oconee County Animal Control Board Refused To Support Animal Control Department Director’s Call For Tougher Laws

Board Openly Divided

The Oconee County Animal Control Advisory Board yesterday afternoon refused to support Catlyn A. Vickers, director of the Oconee County Animal Control Department, in her request for increased powers to investigate complaints about animal abuse in the county.

Board member Helen Fosgate made a motion calling for a strengthening of the county’s animal control ordinace, but the motion died for lack of a second.

Monday, July 06, 2015

Route East of Bishop Selected As “Starting Point” For Study of U.S. 441 Bypass Options In Oconee County

Public Works Director Reports

The Madison Athens-Clarke Oconee Regional Transportation Study (MACORTS) Policy Committee on Wednesday morning is scheduled to formally add the four-laning of U.S. 441 from Watkinsville to the Apalachee River to the FY 2015– 2018 Transportation Improvement Program.

The action is a necessary step for the reactivation of the project, which includes a bypass of the city of Bishop.