Monday, April 24, 2017

Oconee County Commissioners To Hold Budget Hearings For Two Departments Prior To Its Regularly Scheduled Meeting

Rescheduled Hearings

Oconee County commissioners tomorrow (Tuesday) night will discuss budget requests from two key departments, Parks and Recreation and Utility, in hearings rescheduled from last week.

The Board of Commissioners has set aside two hours before the regular Board meeting for the two departments, which have more interaction with citizens than many of the others in the county.

Parks and Recreation Department Director John Gentry will make requests for fee levels for park programs, and Utility Department Director Wayne Haynie will propose water and sewer rates.

Items on the agenda for tomorrow night’s BOC regular meeting include second reading of a Door-to-Door Solicitation Ordinance, second reading of changes to the county’s Alcohol Ordinance, and a proposal for a transit van long sought by Coroner Ed Carson.

The budget hearings begin at 5 p.m., starting with the Utility Department. The regular meeting, billed as an agenda-setting session, starts at 7 p.m.

Both meetings are to be held at the Courthouse in Watkinsville.

Rescheduled Session

Originally, the Board of Commissioners was to review the budget requests for the Utility Department and the Parks and Recreation Department on April 19, the third day of budget hearings.

Finance Director Geddings At Budget Hearing 4/17/2017

Commissioners moved quickly through the sessions on April 17 and 18.

Three of the items originally scheduled for April 19 were moved to April 18, and the remaining two–Utility and Parks and Recreation–were delayed until the newly scheduled session tomorrow.

Commission Chair John Daniell said at the April 17 meeting that Haynie would be presenting new data on water and sewer usage and rates and would need extra time for that purpose.

Different Process

Under Commission Chair Melvin Davis, who retired at the end of last year, much of the budget negotiations took place before the budget hearings.

At the hearings, department heads and constitutional officers then made their cases to the voting commissioners.

Representatives of many of the departments did not even appear before the Board this year, with Finance Director Wes Geddings simply reviewing the requests on their behalf.

Emil Beshara, director of the Public Works Department, noted at the meeting in April 17 how different the process was this year.

“I want to say how much I appreciate the openness of this particular budget process,” he said as he began his presentation. “We enjoyed that very much. Not knowing how our budget’s been amended until the public meeting shows up is sometimes problematic.”

Requests Presented

Geddings noted at the beginning of the session on April 17 that the plan is for all county employees to get a cost of living allowance of 0.3 percent and that that figure was used in calculating all department budgets.

In addition, the budgets include a 6 percent increase in benefits across all employees, he said.

Most department heads requested only slight changes in their budgets from the year earlier.

Geddings, Daniell and County Administrator Jeff Benko reviewed those requests and recommended increases and decreases in those figures.

Tranport Van

Coroner Carson did request once again a transport van, and that request was not included in the recommended budget--to Carson’s obvious disappointment.

The agenda for tomorrow night’s meeting includes discussion of a used transport van being offered to the county by Athens Ford at a cost of $11,000.

That figure includes a used stretcher.

Reggie Hudson from Athens Ford sent Daniell an email on April 17 indicating that he would “accept a payment of $5,000" and treat the remaining $6,000 as a charitable contribution.

Agenda Items

The Solicitation Ordinance before the Commission for second reading would require commercial solicitors to register and pay a fee before being granted permission to solicit. The law would not affect non-profit groups.

The Alcohol Beverages Ordinance would lower from 25 to 21 the age allowed for those holding an alcohol license in the county and from 19 to 18 the age of servers.

Daniell said at the meeting on April 4 that final action on the two ordinances would be taken on May 2.

Another agenda item is for a change order to increase the cost of a segment of the McNutt Creek sewer line from $3,395,298 to $4,215,298 to allow for construction of a tunnel under SR Loop 10 rather than the originally proposed bore.

The Board also will consider bids for construction of a traffic signal at the intersection of Mars Hill Road, Rocky Branch Road and Virgil Langford Road. The low bid is for $98,357 from GBK Mechanical Inc. of Villa Rica on I-20 west of Atlanta.

Videos

Under the policy Daniell has established, citizens are not able to comment on items on the agenda unless the Board takes action.

The agenda does not designate items in advance as those on which the Board will take action, so it isn’t possible to know in advance whether citizen comment will be allowed on the budget items reviewed above.

Videos of the budget hearings on April 17 and April 18 are on the Oconee County Board of Commissioners Channel of the Oconee County Observations Vimeo site.

I recorded the session on April 17. Sarah Bell recorded the session on April 18.

I edited the video to take out the dead time between presentations, but I did not eliminate any of the discussions of the budgets.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Oconee County Puts Two Projects On Three-Year Hold Because Of Issue With Ground Clearance Permits

Timbering At Issue

Oconee County has informed developers of two projects, both of which have been before the county’s Development Review Committee in recent weeks, that their projects are on hold because they cleared trees from the sites without getting clearing and grubbing permits.

A representative of one of those projects--the expansion of Briarwood Baptist Church on Hog Mountain Road--was before the DRC on Friday and was told that even though the DRC approved the Preliminary Site Plan the county would not issue any permits for work to go forward.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Oconee County Says It Cannot Provide Sewer Capacity To Auto Dealership Being Built On SR 316

12-18 Month Delay

Oconee County told Mercedes-Benz of Athens Friday that the county will not be able to provide sewer service for the planned new auto dealership on SR 316 at Virgil Langford Road for another 12 to 18 months.

The announcement coincided with the release of a memorandum stating that those requesting Letters of Availability of sewer service be advised of limited capacity in parts of the county’s service area and the complete lack of availability in others, including where the Mercedes-Benz facility is planned.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Georgia Department Of Transportation Releases Maps Of U.S. 441 Widening In Oconee County

Show Bishop Roundabouts

The Georgia Department of Transportation today (Tuesday) released electronic versions of the five maps it unveiled March 28 at a meeting of the Oconee County Citizen Advisory Committee on the widening of U.S. 441 from Watkinsville to the Apalachee River.

Included were maps showing two alternate designs for the roadway through Bishop as well as three maps of the sections of roadway through Oconee County

Monday, April 17, 2017

Alexion Decides Not To Expand Oconee County Plant And Cancels Land Purchase At Gateway Business Park

90 Day Deadline

Alexion Pharma of New Haven, Conn., has decided not to expand its operation at the Gateway Technology Business Park on the edge of Bogart, dealing a setback to efforts of the Oconee County Industrial Development Authority to develop the business park.

Rick Waller, chair of the IDA, announced the decision of Alexion as an afterthought following his Chair Report to the IDA last week.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Sewer Issues At Top Of County Concerns, Citizens Told At Oconee County Town Hall Meeting

Closing Question

James Gaither, 1040 Cumberland Road, north of Watkinsville, asked the final question at the Town Hall Meeting held by the Oconee County Board of Commissioners on Thursday night.

“If you guys could have one thing off your plate right now, or tomorrow morning, what would you choose--to be done with it, don’t have to worry about it for another 10 years?” Gaither asked.

Dollar General Store Under Construction On U.S. 78 In Oconee County

Near Dickens Corner

Exterior construction is complete on the 9,100- square-foot-building on U.S. 78 and Pete Dickens Road that is slated to be the location of the first Dollar General in Oconee County.

According to the estimate on the building permit the county issued late last year for the project, interior and exterior construction is to be completed by early next month.