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County OK’s slight reduction in tax millage rate

Lori Buchanan

The regular monthly Brantley County Board of Commissioners meeting began Thursday with a called meeting to reconsider the 2014 budget and proposed millage rate, followed by a public hearing for the amendment of an ordinance to include the incorporated area of the county in the Brantley County special public safety user fee, followed by another public hearing to obtain public input on an EIP grant.

The board approved a slight reduction in the millage rate — down to 15.27 from15.49 in the unincorporated area and from 17.98 to 17.97 — and county manager Carl Rowland said the cut might have been more except for uncertainties in tax collection procedures brought about by changes such as that to the ad valorem tax.

The commissioners unanimously approved an amendment to the newly named Brantley County Emergency Medical Service Operation and Maintenance Special District fee which will now include the incorporated ares of Hoboken and Nahunta, bringing the cities into the plan which was previously paid by residents of the county only.

In the past year county residents began paying a $20.53 tax per parcel, excluding cemeteries, and an additional $75.70 for any residential or commercial structure on the property. Properties of 20 acres or more with no structures on them would also be charged the $75.70 rate.

Nahunta Mayor Jeffrey Lee, city manager Tom Wirth and city council member Crystal Johns were in attendance at the public hearing to voice their concerns and ask questions of the commission.

The EMS has previously been operated by using general funds from the county and collected user fees. Commissioners began reviewing the public safety user fee last year after being advised by ACCG that the commission should take a look at the fee which was appropriate for all property owners to share and to be fair. A state comprehensive plan was adopted in 1999 for applying fees to all properties, according to commissioner Mike Edgy.

“The cities are not paying any more. They are paying the same as everyone.  Most all property owners will see a break in taxes with the millage rate reduction and because of the millage decrease it should balance out and save some money,” Edgy said.

The new operation and special district fee should generate roughly $58,000, according to county manager Carl Rowland.

Another agenda item, the Special Event Ordinance, became a topic of interest after commissioners began receiving phone calls from residents complaining about the noise produced at an event held earlier in the year attend by approximately 7,000 people.

The county’s noise control ordinance and special event ordinances were amended and approved consecutively since special event times for open and close should coordinate with noise control ordinances. The board limited event times to 7 a.m. to 12 a.m. and the limitations will include all events held in the county.

“We’re protecting people every weekend not just during special event weekends,” commissioner Brian Hendrix said.

In other special event discussion commissioners approved for the county manager, the county clerk and the sheriff to work out a fee structure for special events with a minimum fee of $100 taking into consideration the estimated attendance and the type of event.

This also comes as a result of an event recently held that tied up county resources with EMS and law enforcement having to respond to the event.

“A pre-application meeting would give rough estimates of what was needed and will help develop internally some scale,” said county manager Carl Rowland

Commissioners agreed that a pre-application process would determine how much security, crowd maintenance, deputies and EMS would be needed.

After months of stalling, county commissioners unanimously approved the airport relocation of power lines. One word in the contract with the EMC was holding up the progression and the contract was reworded with commissioners agreeing to guarantee that Brantley County will pay for total costs of converting overhead lines to underground lines not to exceed $588,746 should a dispute arise. The bulk of the funds to pay the EMC are being provided by GA DOT and Federal Aviation, according to commissioners.

The only contentious discussion resulted in a split vote with chairman Charlie Summerlin breaking a tie, voting not to reimburse the Development Authority expenses for land clearing at the industrial park.

Development authority executive director Richard Thornton was put on the spot when questioned about the authority’s assets. Thornton estimated that the Development Authority had about $175,000 in assets  Discussion ensued about whether the reimbursement was taking resources from the road department and county. Thornton explained that only about $17,000 of that was operational funds that were usable.

“That $175,000 should be taken and a spec building put on that property, ” said Summerlin.

Edgy disagreed reminding the commission that the Development Authority had just recently started receiving part of the millage and the money should continue to be banked to build up money to help fund a future possible natural gas line location, a railroad spur or large industry.

” (Atlanta’s) saying we need something more than $175,000,” said Edgy.

Edgy pointed out that Brantley had lost two large industries including a food packing plant because  to not having natural gas.

“We need to hunt the little businesses before the big guys come along. We need to help the little people,” said Summerlin.

“I understand that but we’ve had that for years and look what we got. I am a small business and I appreciate that,” said Edgy.

“Big business employs people and helps with the millage and we have cut about as much as we can,” said Edgy.

The vote was 3-2 with commissioners opting for the development authority to reimburse the county for expenses. Commissioners Mike Edgy and Brian Hendrix voted for the county to cover Development Authority land clearing expenses  and Skipper Harris and James Spradley voted to have the DA repay the expenses with Summerlin breaking the tie.

The 2012 audit was approved.

In other business, commissioners:

* Appointed Lori Logan to the Recreation Advisory Committee, Lois Vassilion to the animal control board,

* Listended to Barry Rowell of the Forestry Commission give his annual report.

* Hired Alton Cribb as the dog control officer.

* Tabled action on changes to the hazardous mitigation plan resolution  Suggestions included changing the resolution to include the words flood plain instead of flood prone in the document. The county attorney will take under review.

*Authorized the chairman to execute the CDBG-EIP grant application for Southern Ionics, and approved a resolution authorizing preparation and submittal of the CDBG-EIP grant application for Georgia Metals. Bids were also approved for roadway construction to begin at the Southern Ionics location since the six-week roadway project was set to start Wednesday.

*Approved the purchase of a lawn mower from Dixie Chopper to mow county properties including the airport.

*Added Fort Mudge to the paving priority list. The list consists of the completed portion of Waynesville Road East, the completed portion Buster Walker Road, partially completed Boots Harrison Road, Raybon Road East, Baker Creek Road, Saddle Club Road, Knox Road South End, Britt Still Road, Albert Gibson Road and Williams Road

*Approved the annual contract with Traylor Business Services to continue performing personal property audits. The contract was up for renewal Sept. 5

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