Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Oconee Commissioners Appoint Three Newcomers To Animal Services Advisory Board

Town Hall Announced

Oconee County commissioners at their meeting on Tuesday night appointed three relative newcomers to issues facing the county’s Animal Shelter as members of the Animal Services Advisory Board.

In doing so, the commissioners turned down a request for reappointment by current Board member Claire Hamilton, who often has been outspoken in her criticism of the Shelter and its operation.

Commissioners also passed over Kimberly Keegan, long active as a volunteer at the Shelter, who had made her third application for appointment to the Advisory Board.

In appointing Mark Dawson, Audrey Ann Haynes and Walter Rhyne, the Commission could change radically the character of the five-member Advisory Board, as neither Chair Tom Beacorn no former Chair Susan Wells sought reappointment.

Commission Chair John Daniell announced at the beginning of the Board of Commissioners meeting that the Commission will hold a Town Hall meeting from 6 to 8 p.m. on April 13 at the Oconee County Civic Center on Hog Mountain Road.

Prior to the Commission meeting, the county held a public hearing on the procedures the county is following in revising its Comprehensive Plan.

Animal Services Advisory Board

Six citizens had applied for the three openings on the Animal Services Advisory Board, which provides guidance to the operation of the county’s Animal Services Department and the county Animal Shelter.

The relationship between the Board and the staff of the Animal Services Department has been rocky in the past, with disagreements over tethering of animals, the value of the adoption program, and the need for improvements to the Shelter.

Dawson, 3573 Colham Ferry Road, in the south of the county, did not attend the March 28 meeting of the Commission when applicants were interviewed, but he said in his application that he had “several positive experiences with Oconee County Animal Control” and is “interested in the future of the County animal shelter.”

Haynes, 1221 St. Andrews Drive, at Jennings Mill, told the Board she had never been at the Animal Shelter. In her application, she wrote that she wants to make sure the Shelter is “a safe, clean, compassionate” place for the animals housed there.

Rhyne, 1520 Crooked Creek Road, north of Watkinsville, told the commissioners that he had been at the shelter. In his application, he said he applied to be on the Board to “give back to the community.”

Craig Green, a veterinarian, was the sixth applicant.

The Commission makes its decisions on appointments to citizen committees in executive session and does not explain its decisions when it announces them.

Comprehensive Plan

Justin Crighton, from the Northeast Georgia Regional Commission and a consultant to the county on its Comprehensive Plan, outlined to the public the procedures to be followed in updating the county’s plan by the June 30, 2018, deadline.

Crighton repeated what he had said to the Stakeholders Committee working on the plan at that group’s last meeting on March 14.

The plan will consist of five components focusing on needs and opportunities, community goals, a community work or action program, land use, and transportation.

Crighton said a sixth component might deal with green space and parks, though those topics could be woven into the other five parts, he said.

The public hearing was required by the state, and it was not very well publicized.

Only three citizens not employed by the county were present when the meeting started at 6:30 p.m., and a fourth joined shortly after that time.

Other Action

The Commission awarded a $32,500 contract for the demolition of the Dickens’ homesite on Experiment Station Road at Bishop Farm Parkway as part of the work for the Experiment Station Road widening. The award went to EnviroMasters of Carrollton.

The Commission also awarded a contract for $39,900 for design services for road improvements for the planned new school in the far northwest of the county at Hog Mountain Road and Osborne Road.

ABE Consulting, owned by Land Use and Transportation Planning Committee Chair Abe Abouhamdan, was the recipient of the contract.

The Commission gave first reading to a new Door-To-Door Solicitation Ordinance and to revisions of the county’s Alcohol Beverages Ordinance.

The Solicitation Ordinance 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.

Final action on the two ordinances is expected to be on May 2.


The first video below is of the public hearing for the Comprehensive Plan.

The second video is of the Board of Commissioners meeting itself.

OCO: Comprehensive Plan Public Hearing 4 4 17 from Lee Becker on Vimeo.

OCO: BOC 4 4 2017 Complete from Lee Becker on Vimeo.


Mike Huff said...

Congrats to the board for bringing on Audrey. Couldn't have made a better decision.

Kim Keegan said...

This is so awesome!!! I think I'm done applying for a board position but it looks like it is going to be a positive board for Oconee County. One that won't be fighting every change or new idea. This is only but a great thing to happen to our county. Good things are about to happen. Thank you BOC for your choices.

LetsGoOconee said...

ABE Consulting, owned by Land Use and Transportation Planning Committee Chair Abe Abouhamdan, was the recipient of the contract.


Simply an unacceptable conflict of interest. John Daniell and Abe need to pick one: Abe does business with Oconee County or he chairs the Oconee County Land Use and Planning Committee.

Xardox said...

ABE gets another contract.
The coziness has been amusing.
It has now become unconscionable.

Zippity said...

I agree with you LetsGoOconee. Abe is a big conflict.

Anonymous said...

Ms. Keegan-
What a truly wonderful person you are.
Thank you to all the individuals that are part of the pet foster program.
-a grateful Oconee County resident.

Anonymous said...

Would you suggest the county pay 70,000 more for the work? Low bidder on an open RFP. Not sure the anti ABE argument holds water on this one.

Lee Becker said...

The County did not release information on the competing bids for either the demolition contract or the design contract at the BOC meeting. Yesterday I obtained from County Clerk Kathy Hayes the names and amounts submitted by the unsuccessful bidders.

EnviroMasters was the low bidder for the demolition contract. The only other bidder was Green Source Homes Inc. of Athens at $42,818.

Anonymous (8:19 p.m.) is correct in general terms regarding the two bids for the Design Services Contract for the new school. ABE Consulting's bid of $39,000 was much lower than the only other bid, by Precision Planning Inc. of Monroe. ABE bid $29,000 plus $10,000 for geotechnical subsurface exploration, if required. PPI bid $135,450. That is a difference of $96,450.

When Public Works Director Emil Beshara read the bid amount for ABE to the BOC, he used the figure of $39,900, but on second reference he said "not to exceed $39,000." No one asked him to clarify. I watched the video again to be certain of the amounts. The motion by the Board was for $39,900 for ABE Consulting, as I wrote in the story.

Lee (4/7/2017)

LetsGoOconee said...

Anon 9:51 pm,

There are many red flags for the design services for road improvements contract award.

First, it is incumbent of county staff to secure multiple bids. The rule of thumb is at least three bids for small contracts ($25k or less), and five or more bids for larger contracts.

There are a BUNCH of firms in Gwinnett, Fulton, Atlanta, that do such work; no excuse not to have more than two bids. Six firms attended the pre-bid meeting, but only two submitted proposals??? Red flag.

The big red flag is more important: When you receive one bid for $29k/potentially $39k, and a second bid is for $135k, alarms are screaming. That is 300% difference in amounts, and it is unheard of.

Sometimes firms will "low bid" and come back later with change orders to make up the difference. Sometimes firms will not fully be aware of all of the specifications and outcomes demanded. When there is a 300% difference, it is incumbent of staff to make sure the winning firm is aware of all of the demands and is capable of performing such work for that cost without change orders.

Emil Beshara was specific; Abe can't exceed $39,900. Any change orders are on him. We all need to watch this closely for future change orders.

Anon 9:51, you must have some inside info., because Emil never mentioned the amount of the second bid; Lee had to go obtain that from the county clerk after your post.

Sorry, this one smells even worse when you consider the winning bid goes to the chair of the county's Land Use & Planning Committee.

Lee Becker said...


I requested the information on the bids after returning home from the BOC meeting on April 4. Little information about the bids had been provided at the meeting. I received the response from the county about 1 p.m. on 4/6 and used that information to respond to the comment above.