The five members of the Oconee County Board of Commissioners have come together to address the issues before the county, commissioners told a gathering of the Oconee County Republican Party late last month.
“We are working together as a team, and that’s what we are,” Commission Chair John Daniell told the group in what was billed as a State Of Oconee County report. Daniell assumed the Chair position only in January.
“It has been a pleasure,” Commissioner Chuck Horton said of working with the new Commission. Horton rejoined the Board in December after a four-year hiatus.
“We’re talking. We’re communicating,” said Commissioner Mark Saxon, who started his second term in January. “I think communication is extremely well right now.”
About 30 people attended the county Republican Party meeting, during which Sheriff Scott Berry also gave an overview on the work of the Sheriff’s Office.
Marcus Wiedower, Second Vice Chair of the Oconee County Republican Party, introduced Daniell and commissioners Horton, Saxon and Thomas.
Commissioner William “Bubber” Wilkes was unable to attend the meeting, which took place June 22 at the Chamber of Commerce in Watkinsville.
All of the Commission members are Republicans.
Daniell began his comments with a review of county priorities developed by the commissioners in a series of working sessions held soon after the first of the year.
Commission Chair Melvin Davis retired at the end of the year, as did Commissioner Jim Luke.
Daniell said the county is working on a comprehensive electronic filing system, a county-wide transportation study, and field expansion at Oconee Veterans Park.
He said the Board has not yet been able to decide how to solve space issues in the county, has not made a decision on what to do with the Animal Shelter, and is still weighing options on Civic Center expansion.
All four of the commissioners commented on the determination to work together to address these and other concerns.
“We face a lot of tough issues every month,” Daniell said. “And we can get in there and talk about them. And we can disagree. And we’re still fine to go to the next issue, and I really appreciate that.”
“I certainly appreciate the ability to work together with the group,” Thomas said. “I think when you come together as a group and you’re consistent with that, it is much better for the whole good of the organization.”
“There may be some disagreements, but it is straight up,” Horton said. “I think we are doing the work of the people and trying to make this county better than what we found it.”
“I think a lot of people thought that the changeover would slow us down a little bit,” Saxon said. “We wouldn’t move forward, but we are absolutely moving forward. Cans are not being kicked. We are dealing with each and every issue we’ve got.”
Daniells Bridge Road
Daniell took questions from the audience, and the first dealt with the proposed Daniells Bridge Road extension and flyover of SR Loop 10 to link with the stub of the Oconee Connector at Home Depot.
Daniell said that the project is being removed from the 2040 Long Range Transportation Plan of the regional transportation planning body MACORTS, but “One day that road is going to be there.”
The top priority for the county is a multi-grade intersection of the Oconee Connector and SR 316, Daniell said.
The questioner noted that there had been a lot of opposition to the project, but Daniell said “The way we’re going to approach it, those people will be for it at the end of the day.
“We’re going to design it in a way that helps their concerns,” he said. “Everybody will get to see what’s happening and participate in that.
“That road is going to happen one day,” he said. “We’re going to prioritize that based on the county needs. The whole county.”
Bishop And U.S. 441
In response to a question about the widening of U.S. 441 and the decision to use roundabouts rather than a bypass of Bishop, Daniell said “I like the roundabout, personally. I think is a neat thing. That can really kind of set that downtown off.”
Daniell said the Georgia Department of Transportation is still considering options.
“The process seems to be working,” he said.
Daniell called for citizen involvement in the county and emphasized the ongoing citizen work on the county’s update to its Comprehensive Plan.
“I can’t stress to you enough how important that is,” he said.
Sheriff Berry praised Daniell and the Board of Commissioners for raises for his staff included in the Fiscal Year 2018 Budget, which went into effect on July 1.
Berry said the county is on pace to have 500 more automobile infractions this year than last.
As a result, he said, his deputies, in collaboration with the state patrol, will be increasing enforcement of state law prohibiting texting and driving.
“If you do it, please stop,” he said
At the end of the June 22 meeting, Tammy Gilland, chair of the Oconee County Republican Party, announced that Georgia Commissioner of Agriculture Gary Black will be the guest speaker at the next meeting of the group on Aug. 24.
That session will be open to the public, she added.
The venue has not yet been finalized.
Some local farmers will be invited to speak as well, Gilland said.
Gilland presided at the June 22 meeting.
I attended a meeting of a Comprehensive Plan Stakeholders subcommittee that night, but Sarah Bell attended the Republican Party meeting and made a video, which is below.
The audio is weak at points, and a baby, jabbering throughout session, is a further distraction.
Sheriff Berry’s comments begin at 8:30 in the video.
The presentation by Daniell starts at 26:15.
Daniell began taking questions at 39:30.