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December 4, 2008 Issue

Give back this year
County considers utility authority

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Give back this year

By Leila Borders
Staff Writer

Tired of sifting through sale items for the perfect gift? Looking for a better family outing than a trip to the mall? Want to get a tax break and support your local community at the same time? This Christmas local charities are making it easier than ever to accomplish all those and more.

Jefferson and Glascock County DFACS are teaming up for two projects helping children this holiday season. Santa’s Toy Box provides area needy families with a present-filled Christmas morning. Families submit an application to DFACS, and through monetary and toy donations DFACS assists those families with creating a fun-filled Christmas morning for their children. Monetary and new-toy donations will be accepted at the DFACS offices in Jefferson and Glascock counties through Dec. 12.

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The DFACS offices also are sponsoring a Secret Santa program for area foster children. Paper ornaments with toy requests from foster children are available at area banks and the DFACS offices. Pick up an ornament and bring the toy to the bank or the DFACS office by Dec. 17. The ornaments are available at both DFACS offices, Queensborough Bank and Trust in Louisville, Wrens and Wadley, First State Bank in Louisville and Wrens and the Regions Bank in Wrens.

Jefferson Hospital also offers an opportunity to serve the community this Christmas. Its annual Love Lite tree fundraiser is in full swing through the holiday season. The fundraiser benefits the Stephen J. Yonchak Scholarship Fund which supports students in the medical field. In return for the scholarship’s support, the students return to serve in Jefferson County for two years upon completion of their education. In its 28th year, the fund currently is sponsoring four students. The Love Lite tree, lit with only red and white lights in memory of Yonchak, is on display in the lobby of the hospital and donors’ names are posted on a scroll in the hospital lobby. Monetary donations may be made at the hospital or mailed in to Jefferson Hospital at 1067 Peachtree St., Louisville 30434. All donations are tax-deductible.

Another way to give this holiday season is by donating food to the area food pantries. Both Wrens and Louisville’s food pantries are still in dire need. The pantries accept any type of food, including perishables. However, alcohol donations are not accepted. Both pantries encourage hunters to bring their excess venison or other game. Louisville’s pantry tries to provide families with turkeys and hams for Thanksgiving, but this year found their shelves short. Donations of hams and turkeys for Christmas will be greatly appreciated. Also, monetary donations allow the pantries to buy food at reduced prices from the Golden Harvest Food Bank.

For food donations, both pantries encourage donors to drop off their goods during the regular business hours. The Wrens Food Pantry, located on Barton Street in Wrens, is open the third Tuesday of the month from 8 a.m.-11 a.m. They also accept food donations at the Wrens Church of God located at 102 Phillips St. in Wrens. The Louisville Food Pantry, located at 718 Nelms St., is open every Tuesday and Thursday from 9 a.m.-11 a.m.

Monetary donations for the Wrens pantry may be mailed to the Wrens Church of God c/o Bennett Boulineau, 102 Phillips St., Wrens 30833. For the Louisville pantry, monetary donations may be mailed to 718 Nelms St., Louisville 30434 or given to Mary Caran, a pink lady at Jefferson Hospital.

From Thanksgiving to Christmas to Hanukkah, the holiday season universally revolves around giving. With charities like those in our little communities, giving has never been easier, and with the current economic situation, has never meant more.



County considers utility authority

By Carol McLeod
Staff writer

During a work session Monday, Dec. 1, the Jefferson County Board of Commissioners listened to a presentation regarding the establishment of a utility authority for the county.

A.J. “Buddy” Welch Jr., an attorney from McDonough, had prepared a draft of a bill for the commissioners to review to create the authority, if the commissioners decide to do so.

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Jefferson County Administrator Paul Bryan said there has been discussion about development within the industrial park on Kings Mill Road.

“The best way to do that is to provide utilities for the park and the surrounding areas. The commission is trying to decide if a utility authority is the best way to handle this,” he said. Welch was recommended to Bryan by Tom Jordan, the executive director of the Development Authority of Jefferson County.

Welch’s 27-page document outlines what services such an authority might manage, such as sources of the county’s water supply, natural gas and electricity.

The authority, if established, could also oversee other utilities such as broadband or wireless service.

The authority would be authorized to acquire, construct, equip, operate, maintain, own and improve self-liquidating projects.

“It cannot levy any property taxes,” Welch said of the authority, adding it could only set fees.

Welch said the commission should determine if it’s in the public’s best interest to create a utility authority and, if so, to give the county’s state delegation an act for review. The delegation would then draft a bill to present to the senate and the house.

The board of commissioners would have to provide seed money, according to Welch, but then Jefferson County can qualify for zero- or low-interest loans and grants.

Welch said an engineering firm could provide evaluations and reports to the commission to help them determine the benefit to the public.

Such reports would also help provide information required for the authority, if established, to apply for loans and grants.

“Without the documents being written and without the plans being laid out, you’re just going to be in line with everybody else saying, ‘Give me a piece of money,’” Welch said.

Bryan asked Welch for the names of some of his clients who could speak about the process of developing a utility authority. Welch provided several, including a former commissioner in Henry County who is now a judge.

“He can tell you about our board of commissioners, that authority and how that process worked,” Welch said.

Bryan asked if applications for grants or loans by the county would be impacted by similar requests from cities within the county. Welch said no.

Commission Chairman William Rabun asked if the county would have to guarantee these loans. Welch said yes.

Rabun said a utility authority will work just like the hospital authority.

“We just appoint the board,” he said. “Before they can get a bond issued or a loan, they have to show the ability to repay that loan.”

Rabun said the commission may have to provide funding for the initial start up and some SPLOST money voted for economic development may be available.

“We may be able to use SPLOST money in accordance with what was on the ballot to give us some idea what it will cost us to get it started. I don’t know if we’ll have to get it ready for the general assembly or not. They have to approve it,” he said. “The problem we’ve got right now, we don’t have anything to start up an authority. We’re at ground zero.”

One item being considered by economic development is digging a well and putting a water tower in the industrial park on Kings Mill Road, he said.

Without a private industry or a utility authority to put in that system, the county would have to do so. Most of the commissioners agree the county does not have the funds. The development authority cannot put in a water system.

The same holds true for natural gas, electricity, broadband or other similar services.

“My biggest concern is we don’t know exactly how much it’s going to cost us – what we’re going to have and how much it’s going to cost and how we’re going to do it,” Rabun said. “As far as the bill, we need to go ahead and do that whether we appoint a board or not.”

Commissioner Johnny Davis asked what responsibility and oversight would the board of commissioners have.

“The commission can only appoint members?” he asked.

“Yes,” Welch said. “You don’t want them out there creating liability for the county.”

Welch said the commission could shorten the term of the authority members or decide to have a commissioner as a member on the authority or both.

“I want to make sure that this is not a group that can be out there and do whatever they want to do without having to be accountable to somebody,” Davis said. “Once they’re there, they’re there.”

Davis said he has been talking to officials in other counties who have been through this process in order to give him more insight.

“I’d like to make sure that all the i’s are dotted and all the t’s are crossed and this is for the betterment for the entire community,” he said. “It’s about Jefferson County. Everybody’s hurting now. The way things are going, jobs are being outsourced. I understand there are some things that are going to have to be done.

“There’s no way to get the services there without a private industry to do it or a utility authority,” he said. “The county doesn’t have the money.”

Welch said if the seed money to start the authority comes from a USDA loan, the authority would pay that back.

Bryan said the process may take about nine months to complete.

Davis asked Welch if he had an idea how many jobs might be created by establishing a utility authority.

“I think you’ve asked a good question,” Welch said, adding that when Bryan calls for references, he should ask about the jobs created in those cities.

Welch also said in one of the counties where he helped establish the utility authority, they have about 200 employees.

“You won’t see a lot of new jobs in the beginning,” he said. “You need to look at 10 years, 20 years, 30 years. But if we stay here, we’re still going to be here.”

Bryan said this issue will be on the agenda for the commission’s next regular meeting, which is scheduled for Tuesday, Dec. 9, at 7 p.m. at the commission office. It was unclear at press time Tuesday night if the commission will vote on the issue or continue to discuss it.

In other news, the board heard a request from a citizen regarding assistance from the county for a clean up effort in Wrens Quarters.

The citizen said the residents need to know the amount of trash they could put out, the type of trash and a date for the pick up.

The citizen also asked if anything could be done about abandoned junk cars and overgrown properties.

The board tabled the item and requested it be placed on the agenda for the board’s next regular meeting.

Additionally, the board asked for an item to be on the agenda regarding establishing a neighborhood watch in Wrens Quarters. The citizen who was to speak during the work session was not present.

Acceptance of a bid for workers compensation from the Association County Commissioners of Georgia was placed on meeting’s consent agenda.

ACCG’s bid is for $93,121. The bid does not include an expected dividend that will offset that rate.




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Last modified: November 26, 2008