Back to class...
Amongst tears and laughter last week students in Jefferson and Glascock counties went back to school after their summer vacations. Pre-kindergarteners met their teachers and classmates for the first time and began their 14-year trip towards graduation.
Positions will be filled in primary
By Ben Nelms
Jefferson and Glascock county voters will hit the polls Tuesday in the primaries that will determine who will hold most local positions.
Local elections will include the Democratic primary deciding county commission seats in Districts 1 and 3, the 103rd Representative District, the 23rd Senate District and the U.S. Representative for the new 12th Congressional District. The Republican primary includes only the race for the new 12th District. The Non-partisan primary includes Jefferson County School Board races for Chairman at-large, District 1 and District 3 and the race for Superior Court Judge of the Middle Judicial Circuit.
Candidates in the Democratic primary race for county commissioner in District 1 include Gonice C. Davis and incumbent Wynder C. Smith. The race for District 3 commissioner includes incumbent Paul Boulineau and challengers David Hastings, Mary Will Mahoney and Sidney W. Norton. The race for state representative will feature challenger Olin "Ronald" Jackson and incumbent Jimmy Lord. State Senator Don Cheeks is running unopposed in the 23rd Senatorial District race. Voters will find seven candidates vying for the new U.S. 12th Congressional District seat. These include Ben Allen, Tony Center, Robert D. Finch, Denise Freeman, Chuck Pardue, Merwyn Scott and Charles "Champ" Walker Jr.
The only race to be decided in the Republican primary will be for the new U.S. 12th Congressional District. Candidates include Max Burns and Barbara Dooley.
Candidates in the Non-partisan primary include Phillip Michael Broomfield and incumbent Jimmy Fleming for school board Chairman, incumbent Moses J. Cheatham, Donald Hatcher and Larry "Bubba" McGraw in the District 1 school board race. Incumbent Steve Norton is running unopposed in the District 3 school board race. The race for Superior Court Judge in the Middle Judicial Circuit will feature incumbent Walter C. McMillan and challenger Malcolm "Macky" F. Bryant, Jr.
Probate Judge Quillian Bryant said voters must declare a party in order to vote in the primary election. Votes in the non-partisan primary can be cast regardless which party is declared by voters.
A new electronic voting machine will be on display at each of the eight polling places Aug. 20 in both Jefferson and Glascock counties. An attendant will be present to demonstrate the use of the new machines.
•Meet the candidates: See profiles on candidates in the local elections in this week's issue on pages 8A-10A.
State forces Glascock County to revalue property
• Commission has until 2004 to get property values in line with fair market value
By Ben Nelms
Property owners usually cringe when the value of their property is assessed at a higher rate. Cringing from a different direction is the state when it does not get its due.
A review of Glascock County's 2001 tax digest by Georgia Department of Revenue (DOR) led to an Aug. 1 letter ordering the county to revalue property before 2004 and pay a one-quarter mill penalty to offset the difference that should have gone to the state. County commissioners at the Aug. 6 meeting approved the expenditure of funds necessary to bring the county into compliance.
State law requires that property taxes be levied on 40 percent of the fair market value of a piece of property. State Revenue Commissioner T. Jerry Jackson said the county was deficient in its 2001 assessment of residential, agricultural, commercial and industrial properties. In each category the county's average assessment stood at 32.93 percent of fair market value, the letter said. Public utility property in 2001 was assessed at 32.52 percent of fair market value rather than the required 40 percent. Those findings, said Jackson, determine that the county's percentages are not uniform and equalized as required by the Georgia Constitution.
The result of the DOR findings places the county's 2001 tax digest, submitted Oct. 3, 2001, in a status of being conditionally approved. The conditional approval allows the county to collect taxes in 2002 "only on the condition that the cited deficiencies be corrected on the 2004 digest and that the additional quarter mill assessment be timely paid," said Jackson.
The letter cited three conditions that led to the order to revalue. Property values have risen considerably since the 1998 revaluation and can no longer be reasonably predicted by the 1998 figures.
Secondly, the latest aerial photos, taken in 1990, are obsolete and may potentially hinder proper appraisals.
Jackson also said the methods used for the discovery of unreturned personal property and the number of audits of personal property returns appears to be less than should be necessary to reasonably reflect the fair market value of the property.
Commissioners approved measures such as additional staff hours and the purchase of a digital camera to perform the revaluation.
Tax Assessor Debbie Williford said her office will begin after Labor Day.
Though unlikely to occur after receiving an order, the state is capable of exerting pressure on counties to insure revaluation compliance by cutting access to state grant funds, fining the commission $2 for every $1 collected from the tax digest and prohibiting the use of the tax digest to make collections, according to DOR Information Officer Charles Willy.
Citizens may also bring suit against a county that defies an ordered revaluation because the state constitution requires that governing bodies maintain a 40 percent assessment ratio.
Future of county landfill discussed
By Ben Nelms
A vocal group of Jefferson County residents learned July 30 about the ongoing concerns and the recent monetary revelations involved with maintaining the new county landfill on Mennonite Church Road.
A group of more than 20 people, including county residents, out-of-county property owners, state Department of Community Affairs (DCA) representatives, a former county commissioner and two members of the county commission-appointed landfill committee exchanged information and ideas related to the increasing costs associated with operating the Subtitle D facility. Committee members and DCA staff used the meeting time to answer the numerous questions posed by the room full of residents. No direction or assignments resulted because three of five committee members were not present at the meeting.
The new landfill has required increasing subsidy from taxpayers each year since it opened in January 1999. The facility was budgeted at $504,038 for FY 2001-2002. The tentative FY 2002-2003 county budget adopted June 26 sets expenses at the new landfill at $653,762. Those figures, however, do not include cost estimates totaling a maximum of $497,000 to open cells 4 and 5 in Area 1 in early 2003. A report from consulting engineers Chasman & Associates July 24 informed commissioners that the current cells will be full within six months and advised commissioners to begin deliberations on what their plans for the facility would entail.
When plans for the landfill were originally being developed in the mid-1990s, commissioners were told by the former engineering firm and by Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) that the current cells would last for 14 years, according to Commissioner Tommy New. The lifetime of the cells had been adjusted recently by Chasman to four and one-half years due to compaction methods used and the amount of trash brought in, but was re-adjusted to a lifetime of four years, ending sometime in early 2003, due to EPD-required modifications to the outer edges of the cells.
A landfill committee meeting had been scheduled for mid-July but had been cancelled by DCA landfill expert Randy Hartmann because Chasman representatives could not be present. The meeting was rescheduled for August 21. Heilig told the group that he believed that the committee could not wait nearly one month to reconvene given the recent time constraints put on commissioners with the current cells being filled in the next six months.
The July 30 landfill meeting was scheduled by Heilig on the instruction of Commissioner Wynder Smith after hearing concerns that committee meetings had been cancelled by Hartman and that the next meeting was scheduled for Aug. 21.
"With what we're finding out now about the money it's going to cost at the landfill and with the commission and Dr. Hobbs telling the committee we need their recommendations as soon as we can get them, it doesn't make any sense to wait until the end of August to have the next meeting," said Smith.
Responding to questions about the cancelled meetings, Hartmann said July 23 the committee had asked him to hold off on the meetings. Hartmann was appointed by the commission to chair the committee and has been responsible for scheduling meetings. The next scheduled landfill committee meeting will be held Aug. 21 at 4 p.m. in the grand jury room upstairs in the courthouse and is open to the public.