Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Oconee County Board Of Commissioners Confronts Long List Of Issues Needing Resolution

Three More To Come

The Oconee County Board of Commissioners spent 90 minutes last night reviewing a long list of issues facing the county with the goal of winnowing and prioritizing, but it had only limited success with the task at hand.

Jim Dove, executive director of the Northeast Georgia Regional Commission (NEGRC), began the Monday session by presenting a nine-page, single-space list of issues raised in the two-day planning meeting the Board held in January.

The list dealing with the Planning Department alone contained 10 items, and the BOC said last night that nine of them were important. Most of the nine require rather quick action, it said.

Flip Chart Sheet From Meeting

The issue of an increase in property taxes came up again, with Commissioner Jim Luke saying he felt the tax increase should be discussed in the context of specific capital needs of the county.

Commission Chairman Melvin Davis said the county should consider a range of road improvements, but he failed to mention the two Daniells Bridge Road projects that have dominated the two most recent BOC meetings. Davis is a proponent of both of them.

Grand Jury Room

The commissioners assembled at 5 p.m. around a table in the Grand Jury Room of the courthouse in the first of four scheduled work sessions as a sequel to the meetings on Jan. 22 and Jan. 23 at the Athens offices of NEGRC.

The first session was billed as an overview session. It will be followed by another meeting at the same time tomorrow night to focus on space needs and the limitations of the Courthouse.

A third session on Feb. 23 is to focus on roadway infrastructure, and the fourth session on Feb. 26 is to revisit the whole gamut of issues before the county.

The remaining three meetings also are to start at 5 p.m. and be held in the Grand Jury Room.

The room is small, with limited space for citizens, who are only there to observe.

Finance First

Dove began the session with 23 items he had taken from the presentation of Finance Director Wes Geddings on Jan. 22.

Many of those were simply observations, rather than action items, but the commissioners said they wanted to get additional information on revenue from the upcoming Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, on comparative assessments of health care programs, and on debt service options.

It was during this discussion that Luke raised the possibility of a millage rate increase.

“I hate to be the only one to carry the line item of the millage rate particularly,” he said. Luke said he wants to consider linking any increase to capital projects “if others decided we ought to look at that during the budget process.”

Road Projects

During the discussion last night of road and related projects provided to the Board in January by Public Works Director Emil Beshara, Davis said he would like to see a cost analysis presented.

He asked for someone to “come back to the Board with some thoughts” on the Parkway Boulevard behind Kohl’s, Bishop Farms Parkway at the University of North Georgia, as well as improvements to a number of intersections.

“And there may be several others,” Davis said, without naming any of them.

OCO: Davis On Roads BOC PLan 2 16 15 Davis on Roads from Lee Becker on Vimeo

Davis did name two others in his column in The Oconee Enterprise last week. That column also appears on the county web site.

In the column, Davis argues for the widening of Daniells Bridge Road and the construction of the Daniells Brige Road extension and flyover as a “way to alleviate some of our traffic issues.”

Davis pushed both projects at the BOC meetings on Jan. 27 and Feb. 3, but the four voting commissioners did not go along with him, instead postponing action on the projects until April.

Planning Priorities

The commissioners said that they felt a need for rather quick action on a policy for how to deal with properties rezoned earlier for development but that are now dormant.

But they also said they wanted to move quickly on an overlay district for the Mars Hill Road corridor so that it would be ready for development when the widening is completed in three years.

They also said they wanted quick action on a revision to the sign ordinance.

And they want updates to the Unified Development Code and to deal specifically with properties that hold categories from when zoning was put into place in the county nearly 50 years ago.

Barber Creek Station

The Board expressed a desire to move forward with the relocation of the Barber Creek Fire Station, which, at present, is on the Oconee Connector near SR Loop 316. That section of roadway is being upgraded as part of the Mars Hill Road widening project.

Commissoners Davis and Bubber Wilkes said they wanted to consider obtaining more land for county parks, but Commissioners Luke and Mark Saxon said it was important to focus on the existing parks at present.

The commissioners also talked about ways to standardize information technology and communication technology across the county.

The Board also discussed, but made no commitments to, a variety of water and sewer projects in the county.

Full Session Online

The county did not video record the meeting last night, but Russ Page did. (I also shot a video of the first hour of discussions.)

The video that Page shot is below.

OCO: Work Session 2 16 15 from Lee Becker on Vimeo

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