Sunday, September 27, 2009

Upcoming Oconee Meetings Deal Wide Range of Issues

Ethics, Solicitation, a Flyover and an Unspent $4 Million

Four meetings of Oconee county governing and advisory bodies in the next two weeks should help shape county policy regarding roadway construction, the future of the courthouse in Watkinsville, ethics, economic development including collaboration with neighboring counties and restrictions on solicitation in county roadways.

The Board of Commissioners will meet at 7 p.m. on Tuesday night in its chambers at the courthouse in Watkinsville to deal with two issues placed on the agenda by Commissioner John Daniell–a potential ethics policy for the county and county strategy for promoting economic development.

Daniell told me tonight he wants to see if there is interest in creating a committee to develop an ethics policy for the county and wants to move forward with discussion of ways the county can promote economic development.

Included in the development discussion, he said, should be possible collaboration with Clarke County. Discussions of such a collaboration have stalled after a panel of community and business leaders recommended in May of 2008 that the two counties work together on development.

The agenda also includes a report by County Attorney Daniel Haygood on a potential solicitation ordinance for the county. The BOC asked Haygood to work on such a document at its Aug. 25 meeting and report back with recommendations after complaints about groups approaching automobiles in busy intersections in the county as part of fundraising activities.

At present, the county has no ordinance to regulate these activities.

The BOC also is scheduled to consider a request for proposals for utility relocation design for the widening of Mars Hill road from SR 316 to Hog Mountain Road in Butler’s Crossing and discuss bids for Jennings Mill Parkway utility relocations.

The board also is to hear a report form county Utility Director Chris Thomas about an upgrade to a county well and the sale of water from Oconee County to Walton County from groundwater sources.

The meeting on Tuesday is to set the agenda for the meeting on Oct. 6, so many of these issues will carry over to that meeting for action. That meeting also begins at 7 p.m. at the courthouse.

On Oct. 13 the Madison Athens-Clarke Oconee Regional Transportation Study (MACORTS) has scheduled a public meeting for 5 to 7 p.m. at the Community Center in Oconee Veterans Park, 3500 Hog Mountain Road, to present an overview of county priorities for roadway construction in the urbanized part of the county for the next five years.

The report lists widening of Mars Hill road from SR 316 to Watkinsville, the widening of Simonton Bridge road from the county line with Clarke county to Watkinsville, and a flyover from Daniells Bridge road to the dead-end of Jennings Mill Parkway at Home Depot as the top priorities.

Watkinsville, which has no representation on MACORTS other than through BOC Chairman Melvin Davis and citizen Frank Watson from the county Citizen Advisory Committee on Land-Use and Transportation Planning, has gone on record opposing the Simonton Bridge road widening.

The MACORTS Policy Committee at its meeting on Sept. 9 adopted the three projects as the top priorities for the county. Official minutes of the meeting have not yet been released, but Sherry Moore, a transportation planner with Athens-Clarke County who is a designated contact person for MACORTS, said Davis and Watson were present at that meeting.

At the Feb. 10, 2009, meeting of the Land Use and Transportation Planning Committee, the group reviewed a series of projects that it was told Chairman Davis had asked it to consider for possible elimination from the list of MACORTS projects, but the committee did not rank order any of the remaining projects–including the three on the final MACORTS list, according to the official minutes.

According to the minutes of subsequent committee meetings, it never has rank ordered or discussed further the projects on the MACORTS list.

The MACORTS rankings also have not been discussed by the BOC at any of its public meetings since the first of the year, according to the minutes of those meetings.

Following the public hearing on the MACORTS rankings of the road projects, the Land Use and Transportation Committee will meet in the same room at the Community Center in Oconee Veterans Park to continue its discussion of the future of the courthouse.

County Administrative Office Alan Theriault is scheduled to talk with the committee about administrative space needs for the county.

The BOC asked the Land Use and Transportation Committee back in March to consider what to do about the courthouse, and the group has held a series of meetings on the topic.

On Nov. 4, 2003, voters in the county approved a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax of one percent for a number of projects, including, according to the ballot, "the acquisition, construction, equipping and installation of expansions of the County Courthouse, the County Government Annex Building, and County Libraries."

The tax designated $4.6 million of the expected $25 million in revenue from the tax for this project.

County Finance Director Jeff Benko told the Land Use and Transportation Committee at its Sept. 8 meeting that about $4 million of that amount remains uncommitted and unspent. The tax is to expire at the end of this month, but it will be followed by another 1 percent tax to run for six years. That tax does not include any mention of the courthouse.

Benko told me in an email message on Sept. 22 that, as required by law, he will have a final report on SPLOST 2003 spending by the end of December of this year and will share it with the public and the board at that time.

In the discussions before the Land Use and Transportation Committee, Strategic and Long-Range Planning Director Wayne Provost, who brought the board’s request for a review to the committee, frequently has referenced the case of Brian Nichols in Atlanta as one of the reasons for the need for a new courthouse.

The current courthouse does not provide the kind of security that the Nichols case illustrates is needed, Provost said. Nichols went on a killing spree in the Fulton county courthouse in Atlanta, where he was on trial for rape.

Nichols escaped from custody and murdered the judge presiding over his trial, a court reporter, a Sheriff's Deputy, and later a Federal agent.

That event was on March 11, 2005, however, or more than a year after Oconee County voters had approved the 2003 SPLOST calling for "the acquisition, construction, equipping and installation of expansions of the County Courthouse."

No one has come forward at the Land Use and Transportation Committee meetings to indicate what county officials had in mind back in 2003 when the county put the SPLOST tax initiative together.

The resolution putting the issue on the ballot was passed by the board on Sept. 2, 2003, but only Davis and Commissioner Margaret Hale from the current board were on the board at that time.

At the Sept. 8 meeting, Provost stressed that the county at present doesn’t know what its needs are and doesn’t know how to go about meeting them. He said the county should contract with an expert to help it decide these things.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Oconee Residents Can Comment on Road Plans at Oct. 13 Meeting

Widening Simonton and Adding a Flyover

Oconee County residents who want to review and offer comments on planned roadway projects in the county that are slated to receive state and federal funding in the next five years–including the proposed widening of Simonton Bridge road–will have a chance on Oct. 13.

Madison Athens-Clarke Oconee Regional Transportation Study (MACORTS) has scheduled a public meeting for 5 to 7 p.m. on that date at the Community Center in Oconee Veterans Park, 3500 Hog Mountain Road.

While much of the media attention to the MACORTS proposal has been focused on the Simonton Bridge road widening to four lanes, the five-year plan also includes funding for a controversial flyover of SR Loop 10 from Daniells Bridge road to what is now called Jennings Mill parkway at Home Depot.

That flyover would be part of a loop the county wants to create, incorporating the Oconee Connector Extension now under construction and part of the current Daniells Bridge road. The goal is to stimulate further commercial development of land along the new roadway.

The MACORTS plan also includes the widening of Mars Hill road to four lanes from SR 316 to Watkinsville.

These projects–Simonton Bridge road widening, the Daniells Bridge Road Extension, and the Mars Hill road widening–are the three that county representatives to MACORTS have designated as the top priority for state and federal road funding in the urbanized northern part of the county.

MACORTS is the metropolitan planning organization for southern Madison County, Athens-Clarke County, and northern Oconee County.

The document to be reviewed and commented upon at the Oct. 13 meeting is called the Fiscal Years 2010-2013 Transportation Improvement Program and the Fiscal Years 2014-2015 Second Tier of Projects.

This documents is required by the federal government and the Georgia Department of Transportation for federal and state roadway funding.

The current document was approved by the MACORTS Policy Committee at its meeting on Sept. 9.

Representing the county at the meeting were Board of Commissioners Chairman Melvin Davis and Frank Watson, a citizen member from Oconee County, according to Sherry Moore, a transportation planner with Athens-Clarke County.

Moore, designated as the contact person by MACORTS, told me yesterday that the official minutes of the meeting have not yet been released to the public.

Davis and Watson are the two Oconee County voting members of the MACORTS Policy Committee. According to Moore, Wayne Provost, director of Strategic and Land Range Planning for Oconee County, also attended. Provost is a nonvoting member of the Policy Committee.

Moore said Watkinsville Mayor Jim Luken also was at the meeting. The Watkinsville Council voted unanimously on Aug. 12 to oppose the widening of Simonton Bridge road.

The first priority for Oconee County funding listed in the MACORTS document is the first phase of the Mars Hill road widening from SR316 to Hog Mountain road. The county is seeking $12.3 million in right of way funds for the project, which ultimately is expected to cost $53 million.

Earlier this year the state authorized the county to begin right of way acquisition for the project and promised to reimburse the county $9.8 million for property purchased.

The county is not seeking any money for the second or third phase of the Mars Hill road project in the MACORTS document, though their inclusion is a statement of county priorities.

Phase two would widen Experiment Station road from Hog Mountain road in Butler’s Crossing to US 441. The third phase would continue the widening to SR 15 in Watkinsville. Mars Hill road turns into Experiment Station road at Butler’s Crossing.

The estimated cost of phase two of the project is $9 million, while the estimated cost of phase three is $4.5 million.

The widening of Simonton Bridge road from downtown Watkinsville to the Clarke County line, a distance of 2.5 miles, is estimated to cost $4 million, but no money is sought through fiscal year 2015. Construction is labeled in the MACORTS document as "long-range."

The Daniells Bridge Road Extension is 0.7 miles in length and expected to cost $4.1 million. The county is seeking $50,000 in preliminary engineering funding for fiscal year 2015 and to begin construction in fiscal year 2017.

In December of 2008 the county promised that it would widen Daniells Bridge road from the Oconee Connector to just east of the blind curve when it approved a rezone for a commercial property at the curve. Though it said at the time the work would be completed this past summer, it has not done any work on the roadway.

Residents opposed that rezone, saying it would bring additional commercial traffic into what is now a residential neighborhood.

Following the MACORTS meeting on Oct. 13, the county’s Citizen Advisory Committee on Land Use and Transportation Planning will meet in the same room to discuss plans for a new county courthouse.

County Administrator Alan Theriault is scheduled to address the citizen committee on needs of the administrative offices of the county for additional space.

Watson, who is the citizen representative to the MACORTS Policy Committee, is a member of the Land Use and Transportation committee.

Persons who cannot attend the meeting on Oct. 13 but wish to make comment on the plan can do so at the MACORTS web site.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Letters to Oconee Editor, Blogger End Up in Trash

Feeling Rejected

Meridee Williams, general manager of The Oconee Enterprise, and Johnathan McGinty, blogger and Athens Banner-Herald columnist, have this in common.

Both recently rejected my efforts to gain access to their readers.

In doing so, they underscored a key characteristic of journalism, in the old media world and in the new one.

The power of the journalists comes from their audiences.

And the journalists set the rules for access to those audiences.

On Aug. 24 Williams rejected a letter I had submitted to the Enterprise electronically on Aug. 22.

My letter criticized the editorial in the Aug. 20 edition of the paper. That editorial said the discussion by four members of the Board of Commissioners that led to a change in the reporting lines for key officials in the county was an "embarrassment" and that the passage of the ordinance changing the reporting lines by the board was "arrogant."

In my submitted letter, I referred readers to the Aug. 19 posting on this blog for a "detailed but straightforward report on the Aug. 4 Board of Commissioners meeting" at which the ordinance was passed.

Williams rejected the letter in her Aug. 24 email message to me saying "We do not provide free advertising for blogs."

Three weeks earlier, on Aug. 3, I sent an email message to McGinty, criticizing his column in the Banner-Herald on Aug. 2 and his posting on his blog, Beyond the Trestle, on Aug. 3.

In that Aug. 2 column, McGinty had said "I can only hope the Oconee County Commission shows ... good judgment by dropping its efforts to overhaul the structure of the local government in a puzzling attempt to improve communication."

On his Aug. 3 blog, McGinty wrote in response to criticism he was receiving about that column that "it's hardly fair to advance one argument up until the final minute and then, at the last second, revert to what it should have been all along and then blame me for being uninformed."

"It is fair to blame you for being uninformed," I wrote to McGinty. "You were. You were publicly. And it makes a difference. The Sunday Banner-Herald is quite a soapbox. I think you did the readers a disservice by not investing enough time to really understand the issue."

I told him to put my response on his blog.

McGinty did not put it on his blog. What he ran instead were two postings on Aug. 4. In one, he said "Judging by the five emails I've received from him in the past 24 hours, I'm obviously not on Lee Becker's good side regarding my views on Oconee County's proposed governmental restructuring."

He added that some of his critics--though he did not name me--said he was "uninformed."

An hour and a half later, McGinty posted again, adding a new comment from a reader he identified as "JW, an Oconee County resident, with an entertaining take."

"Now, I don't agree with you one bit on changing the Oconee County government," McGinty quoted the reader as saying, "but I will say this, if Lee Becker thinks you are ‘uninformed’ that probably means you're the smartest guy in the world, so congratulations!"

According to my outbox, I sent McGinty four messages from Aug. 1 to 3, and one of them was a message from another person that I forwarded.

Williams at the Enterprise, in rejecting my letter to the editor, said she would run it as an advertisement in the Aug. 27 edition of the paper–the edition I had hoped would contain my letter to the editor in the regular letters section.

In response to my request, she created a 2 column x 2.875 inch advertisement and sent it to me for my approval.

In the end, I decided it was not worth the $57.28 she said I would have had to pay to have my letter to the editor published in the paper.

McGinty stated his policy on comments in a posting he did on July 29.

He said he did not permit readers of his blog to provide comments because they take too much time to moderate. "I just don't have the time or patience," he said. People can send him email messages, he said, and he would "regularly" use them in his blog.

The Enterprise has an unaudited circulation of 4,000. McGinty told me during one of two brief personal conversations I’ve had with him that he gets about 150 visitors to his blog each day.

I would have had to pay $57.28 to have a chance to reach the 4,000 subscribers to the Enterprise, and I had no way to reach the 150 readers of McGinty’s blog unless he chose to allow it, which he did not. (McGinty recently started using Google ads, so that option does now exist.)

I have fewer visitors to this blog than McGinty has to his, and moderating the comments has not been a problem. I’ve had only a small number, and those I have received have been very civil.

Twice I’ve been criticized for mistakes I made. I thanked the critic–who was pretty direct–and corrected the errors.

I do get feedback via email. On a few occasions, I’ve encouraged those who wrote to post those comments to the blog. Some have done so.

I have set the comments option on this blog in a way that allows me to decide whether to publish them. I’ve used all sent so far, but I would not use one that contained what I viewed as a personal attack on anyone other than me.

I do not allow access to my listserv, which contains 121 names as of tonight. I send an email message to people on that list when I post to the blog, and I protect those on the list from unwanted messages. I view the list as something I’ve assembled and maintained–that is, as my list.

This blog has no advertising. I don’t pay Google for hosting it. If Google were to change the policy, however, and required me to pay, I would have to consider accepting ads. Under that circumstance, I would be competing with the Enterprise and McGinty’s Beyond the Trestle blog.

This potential competition does provide some justification for the Enterprise's decision not to allow me to reference my blog in a letter to the editor and to McGinty for not allowing me to claim he didn’t do his homework.

I also sent a letter to the editor of the Banner-Herald that suggested readers could go to my blog for additional information about the upcoming vote on the reorganization ordinance. The paper published the letter on Aug. 3.

The editors left in the reference to my blog, and even created a link to it in the online edition.

Beneath the letter, the paper used this note:

"EDITOR’S NOTE: In the interest of steering readers to varied sources of information and commentary, information about accessing blogs will be published occasionally on the Banner-Herald’s editorial page. Publishing that information does not constitute the newspapers endorsement of the content of any referenced blogs."

The Banner-Herald also has a very liberal policy on feedback. To leave a comment, readers must register, but the comments are not moderated. The tenor of those comments is quite varied. (I commented on McGinty's Aug. 2 column.)

The Enterprise web site allows readers to submit comments to the relatively few articles posted there. The comments are reviewed before they are posted.

The Oconee Leader requires reader to register before commenting on the small number of articles it posts on its web site. It also moderates comments before they are published.

Brian Brodrick moderates comments on Voice of Moderation.

Wendell Dawson does not have a comment function on his Another Voice from Oconee County, but he recommends people contact him with feedback and provides his email address.

Kate McDaniel’s A Positive Vision for Oconee County does not have a comment function, but she provides her email address and asks people to send comments.

Dan Matthews moderates comments in his Oconee County, GA Politics.

Steve Holzman moderates the comments on his Small Town Politics–North High Shoals. He has recently announced that he will not publish anonymous comments.

So while the technology has made it easier for all of us to send messages, it has not really made it any easier for someone who wants to respond to what we say to be able to do so.

That remains under the control of the organization or person who has attracted the audience in the first place. Increasingly, as journalists operate independently of media organizations, the journalists control the audiences.

The late A.J. Liebling, journalist and media critic, is famous for his observation: "Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one."

That is less true today than in the past.

What hasn’t changed is that the right of reply is guaranteed to no one.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Oconee Land Use Committee Hears Finance Options for Courthouse

Er, Make that Judicial/Administrative Facilities

County Finance Director Jeff Benko outlined to the Citizen Advisory Committee on Land Use and Transportation Planning tonight five ways the county could finance new judicial and administrative facilities.

Benko said he’d expect to recommend combining several of these to complete the project.

At the request of the Board of Commissioners, the Committee is looking into ways to expand and improve the facilities currently housed at the courthouse in Watkinsville.

Committee Chairman Abe Abouhamdan said at the end of the hour-long meeting at the Community Center at Oconee Veterans Park that he thought the committee was four to five months away from being able to report back to the board.

Benko said the county could pay as it built new facilities or, as is more often the case with such projects, borrow money to finance it and build it all at once.

He said financing could be through the sale of general obligation bonds or revenue bonds. The county also could finance the project through a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SLOST), through a lease agreement, or through grants.

Voters would have to approve a general obligation bond, as they did in 2003 to build the Veterans Park. The county can use any of its revenue sources to pay off general obligation bonds.

Revenue bonds are retired by revenues from the project. Since county court and administrative facilities are not revenue generating, this is an unlikely avenue for the project, Benko acknowledged.

The 2004 SPLOST, set to retire this month, included $4.6 million for county facilities. Benko said about $4 million of that is available for the new court and administrative facilities.

The SPLOST approved in March does not have any money designated for county facilities, however, and the next new SPLOST won’t begin until 2015.

Benko said the county could ask the Association County Commissioners of Georgia to build and own new facilities. The County could lease these facilities for its use. The county has exactly this arrangement for the new jail.

Various grants are available to counties, Benko said, but he doubted the county would have much success in landing a grant for this type of project.

Benko would be the person who would advise the Board of Commissioners on financing.

“Given what I know today,” Benko said, “I’d compile various sources and combine various sources to complete this project.”

Strategic and Long-Range Planning Director Wayne Provost recommended to the Board on March 31 that it seek proposals from qualified planning firms to assist with a long-range planning study of county judicial and administrative needs.

The board decided that a request for proposals was premature and that the public should be involved in the planning process. It asked the Land Use and Transportation Planning Committee to initiate a public study on future facility needs and issue a recommendation.

Provost prodded the committed repeatedly tonight to recommend that the county get expert help.

"We’ll have to bring in a consultant,” he said at one of those times.

Board member Bob Isaac said it was important to him that the county continue to make use of the existing courthouse in at least some way.

Benko told the board that the court functions have to remain in Watkinsville, the county seat, but administrative facilities can be elsewhere in the county.

Provost emphasized at the August meeting of the Land Use and Transportation Committee that it should think separately about judicial and administrative facilities.

County Administrative Officer Alan Theriault is scheduled to attend the October meeting of the Land Use and Transportation Committee to outline the administrative needs of the county.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Design for Mars Hill Road Includes Sidewalks and Bike Lanes

Walk or Bike to Movie, Restaurant

When the Mars Hill Road widening project is completed sometime in the future, a bicyclist should be able to ride from downtown Watkinsville to the planned Epps Bridge Centre on Epps Bridge Parkway entirely within a bike lane.

And a determined walker or runner could cover the six plus miles entirely on sidewalks.

Both bike lanes and sidewalks are part of the design for the roadway prepared by Moreland Altobelli Associates Inc. of Norcross under a design contract with the county signed more than 10 years ago.

The county approved a change order to that contract at the Board of Commissioners meeting on Sept. 1, awarding up to $142,666 for changes that will need to be made in the design.

Moreland Altobelli will be asked to update the existing plans to reflect recent property splits and mergers, new developments, and design modifications to the Mars Hill Road intersection with Daniells Bridge Road.

The firm also will have to split the project into three segments, since the county has received money only for right of way acquisition from SR 316 to Hog Mountain Road. The state has not said when it will release money for right of way acquisition for the second phase from Hog Mountain road to US 441, or the third phase from US 441 to SR 15 in Watkinsville.

The BOC on Sept. 1 also voted to issue a request for proposals for right of way acquisition services for the first phase of the project.

None of the changes that Moreland Altobelli will be asked to make will alter the basic design of the road. The new Mars Hill Road will be four lanes wide and include turn lanes and acceleration and deceleration lanes.

It also includes sidewalks and bike lanes on both sides of the road.

Dan Wilson, assistant county engineer, told me on Friday that former Public Works Director Mike Leonas was determined that sidewalks and bike lanes be part of the project. Leonas left the public works department in the summer of 2007.

The Oconee Connector Extension, which will form a loop from SR 316 at the existing Oconee Connector back to Epps Bridge Parkway at Lowe’s, will include bike lanes and sidewalks as well.

Though the developers of the proposed Epps Bridge Centre did not incorporate bike lanes into the design, they can still do so. That shopping center is expected to include an entertainment complex consisting of restaurants and a 16-screen movie theater.

Epps Bridge Parkway east of where the connector loop will intersect with it also has sidewalks and bike lanes.

The Athens Banner-Herald reported on the BOC action on Mars Hill in its Sept. 4 edition, but it incorrectly said the board had accepted a proposal from Moreland Altobelli for design of the project. The board only approved a change order in the existing contract to add the modifications needed.

The Oconee Enterprise did not mention the change order and made only passing reference to the request for proposals for right of way acquisition in its story in the Sept. 3 edition about the most recent BOC meeting.

At the Aug. 25 agenda setting meeting of the board, Emil Beshara, current public works director, outlined the board action being requested and also invited citizens to drop by the Public Works office to review the designs.

I visited the office on Friday and reviewed the Moreland Altobelli documents with Wilson.

Wilson indicated that the roadway will be built to state standards, though the section from Hog Moutain Road to SR 316 will remain a county, rather than state, roadway.

He indicated that the bike lanes will be adjacent to the regular auto lanes, rather than separated from them, meaning bikers will be competing with fast-moving automobile traffic.

The median will be grass in places and raised concrete in others, he said.

The right of way work for the three mile of roadway covered by phase one is expected to begin in five months and take about two years.

The Mars Hill widening is designed to ease traffic flow but also to open up more land for commercial development.

So far, the state has not found the $19 million for actual construction of the first phase of the road.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Oconee County Citizen Committee to Discuss Courthouse

Judicial Slash Administrative

Tucked between two meetings next week that have attracted quite a bit of attention–by U.S. Rep. Paul Broun and by the Oconee County Board of Education–is a meeting of the Land Use and Transportation Planning Committee that could shed light on the county’s future plans for the Watkinsville courthouse.

County Finance Director Jeff Benko is scheduled to appear before the citizen advisory committee to discuss how any changes in county administrative and court facilities can be financed.

The meeting will start at 7 p.m. in the Community Center at Oconee Veterans Park on Hog Mountain Road.

Wayne Provost, director of strategic and long range planning for the county, asked the committee at its Aug. 11 meeting to change the way it discussed the facility under consideration.

“The nomenclature we use for this is courthouse planning,” he said. “I’d like to suggest we start referring to this as judicial slash administrative facilities, because it not necessarily just the court functions that we’re talking about. Right now there is a great deal of administrative stuff in the courthouse.”

Provost indicated the judicial and administrative requirements need to be considered separately.

On June 9, the committee heard from Superior Court Judge Steve Jones, Probate Court Judge David Anglin, Superior Court Clerk Angela Watson, Sheriff Scott Berry, and Tax Commissioner Harriette Browning about their needs for the courthouse.

According to the minutes of the meeting, the discussion focused on new space demands as judicial activities increase, on security requirements associated with the functioning of the courts, and on parking.

The county is sitting on $4.25 million in unspent funds from the 2004 Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) that are earmarked for "county facilities." The tax should end in November of this year.

No money for a courthouse–or judicial/administrative facilities--was allocated in the SPLOST approved in March of this year. That tax that will take effect as soon as the current SPLOST ends. That new tax–also one cent on the dollar–will run for six years.

No one has an estimate on how much money the county will need for new facilities, since no one has much of an idea what those facilities might be.

At present, “space is at a premium,” Administrative Officer Alan Theriault told the committee, and he said professional assistance is needed to help project future needs and determine how much adaptation the current courthouse can handle.

Theriault will speak to the Land Use and Transportation Committee at its Oct. 13 meeting more specifically on space needs of the administrative offices of the county.

The BOC referred the issue of the courthouse to the Land Use and Transportation Committee on March 31. The Board asked that the committee initiate a public study on future facility needs and issue a recommendation.

It is a safe bet that each of the other two meetings scheduled in the county next week will outdraw the Tuesday night meeting of the Land Use and Transportation Committee.

Earlier in the day, U.S. Rep. Paul Broun, R-Athens, will host a health care town hall meeting at 10 a.m. in the Oconee County Civic Center, 2661 Hog Mountain Road. The meeting starts at 10 a.m., according to the congressman’s web site, but the site does not indicate how long the meeting will last.

At noon on Friday, the Oconee County Board of Education has scheduled an administrative hearing at the Central Office Meeting Room of the administrative building, 34 School Street in Watkinsville.

Superintendent John Jackson has recommended that the Board fire North Oconee High School Principal John Osborne after Osborne spoke out about disparities between the sports facilities of the county’s two high schools.

The Board is scheduled to go into executive session to make its decision.