Developer explains Utility Authority
Over the past few weeks, this newspaper has featured articles and reader responses about a bill introduced in the 2009 Georgia legislative session to create a Jefferson County Utilities Authority. This legislation, sponsored by the county commission and broadly supported by the county’s leadership, was approved by the state house of representatives but ultimately did not become law.
My purpose in writing is not to extend the controversy over the specifics of this legislation. Rather, I simply want to refocus attention on a larger issue. Namely, I want to remind your readers of the reason the bill was filed in the first place.
The legislation was proposed to address a very specific problem. While our county’s cities for the most part have created efficient means of serving their residents with utility services, no such solution exists for unincorporated areas. As a result, some 85 percent of the land mass and about 50 percent of our citizens have no designated provider of utility infrastructure.
In the unincorporated areas, companies, families and individuals are pretty much left to their own devices. Some folks may be able to find good options. Some may not. But companies competing in the global economy can’t tolerate such uncertainty. Employers thinking about locating in unincorporated areas will insist on reasonable access to reliable and affordable utility services. And since our economic wellbeing depends on attracting and retaining productive businesses, the question of how to serve companies in unincorporated areas demands an answer.
With this in mind, the county’s leadership considered several alternatives. Finally, after much debate and input from a number of parties, we concluded that creating a utilities authority looked like a promising solution.
I would remind your readers the search for an effective way to provide utility services throughout the county has been an ongoing effort. The problem is not a new one. In 2003, the county was asked by the state government to evaluate its future needs and to produce a “Joint Comprehensive Plan for 2004-2024.” The resulting several-hundred-page plan enumerated specific goals to strengthen Jefferson County’s efforts to attract new businesses. Among other things, the plan emphasized the need to “continue to expand and improve the water system” and to “examine the feasibility of developing a countywide water authority.” Moreover, the plan recommends that our county “develop a water/sewer system masterplan and coordinate expansion.”
In a similar vein, your readers may remember the “Community of Opportunities” initiative, which took place in 2007 and 2008. With the help of the Georgia Rural Development Council and the Fanning Institute, public meetings were held throughout the county to explore ways to increase our economic vitality. At the program’s conclusion, our county and city governments entered into a contract to pursue certain “improvement strategies.” Among them was a declared intention to search for mechanisms to smooth cooperation between the county’s several governments to deliver “water, sewer, natural gas” and “broadband” telecommunications services.
So the legislation proposing a countywide utilities authority was hardly a bolt out of the blue. It was an answer to a long-term, well-documented, and publically acknowledged question--how can we improve the utility infrastructure throughout the county?
Nowhere does this question present itself more dramatically than in the case of Kings Mill, the county’s industrial park just southeast of Wrens’ city limits. Jefferson County has made a significant investment in the future by funding the creation of this modern industrial park. Over 650 acres in size, Kings Mill will some day be a thriving center of economic activity, new jobs and wealth creation. But an essential requirement for its success is that prospective businesses must know for sure that they will have reasonable access to water, sewer, natural gas and advanced telecommunications services at competitive prices. This matter cannot be left to chance. If other providers could not or would not meet the needs of Kings Mill businesses, we intended for the utility authority to become the provider of last resort. Absent this solution, we put the dollars invested in Kings Mill at risk.
The utilities authority was also designed to address another urgent need. The Community of Opportunities initiative recognized that advanced telecommunications should be included in the list of essential utility services. Just like roads facilitate the movement of people and commerce, broadband serves as an electronic highway for information and ideas. The likelihood of an enlightened and prosperous future significantly improve with the availability of reliable, affordable, widely available broadband.
Its possible uses are limited only by the imagination. In areas with broadband access, institutions and individuals are using communications to enhance education, to improve and lower the cost of health care, to help public safety personnel do their jobs more effectively and to improve corporate competitiveness. Moreover, such services are indispensable to recruiting new business.
Unquestionably, Jefferson County needs better access to broadband. The current market is astonishingly uneven. If you live in downtown Louisville or Wrens, you can get excellent service at economical prices. If you live a few blocks off US 1, the quality diminishes and the price dramatically rises. That’s why the Development Authority has launched an effort to seek grant money from the Stimulus Bill to build a local broadband network designed to reach virtually all our citizens with high quality service at affordable rates.
Let me conclude where I began. Readers may disagree about the details of the proposed Jefferson County Utilities Authority. But the reason for the authority is compelling and beyond question. Our county stands in critical need of a way to efficiently extend vital utility services to unserved areas. No less than our citizens’ quality of life, the success of industrial recruitment and the availability of reasonably price broadband hang in the balance. The utilities authority was one way to solve the problem. If that mechanism proves not to be politically viable, another way must be found. But while we debate the particulars, the need isn’t going away. Our citizenry awaits and deserves an effective solution.
D’Antignac responds to letter
Mr. Clements, you’ve gone and disappointed me again. There’s nothing worst than someone changing one word for another. You are truly from the right. The real RNC -- Rush, Newt and Cheney are very good at that. But let me get to the point, and I’ll make it short. Please read from this point on, (real slow) so as you’ll get it right this time.
(1) I was not looking for your political blessing if and when I do move to Jefferson County, and decide to run for public office. Yours is only one vote, and if after meeting with, and finding what it is you want or don’t want to know about me, doesn’t get your vote, I’ll be disappointed, but not heart broken.
(2) Mr. C, if I’m not mistaken there’s a library in Louisville. if not it should be since Louisville is the county seat of Jefferson. If you have some spare time, visit it and check out for yourself, the difference between the words hater and anger. If you choose not to do that, DICTIONARY.COM lists them both with these meanings below.
(2a) Hater, One who hates.
(2b) Anger, The emotion of instant displeasure on account of something evil that presents itself to our view. In itself it is an original susceptibility of our nature, just as love is, and is not necessarily sinful.
Mr. C, the reason for the above definitions (the act of defining or making definite, distinct, or clear) are because of this quote from your 6-25-09 post: (He did rise up from his suffering long enough to accuse McDermott of being a hater which I know to be untrue.) Just in case you don’t have the word I used, and it wasn’t (hater), below is what I wrote about Mr. McDermott.
I will not trash Mr. McDermott, but I will give you my opinion on some of his writings and I’ve read a lot of them. There’s a lot of anger toward people of the Muslim faith and the Hispanic population in this country. I’ll repeat some of my past writings, that all Muslims are not militants and all Hispanics are not illegals. In other words, just because it’s a duck, but it doesn’t act or walk like a duck, doesn’t make it radical. Sorry, but with that kind of anger toward some races in this country, I personally couldn’t vote for him. I’m sure there are those, not only in Jefferson County, the state of Georgia, but also around the country, who would vote for him, but not me.
Mr. C, I hope I have cleared up your misunderstanding of hater and anger.
Future Resident of Wadley
Clements on reassessments
I keep hearing from multiple sources that Jefferson County’s darkest hour (2009 property tax related darkest hour) was more of the same “good ole boy” commissioners that, if true, is not surprising to me.
The “word on the street” is that an employee/former employee of The Georgia Revenue Department collaborated with above said commisioner/commissioners to arrange for his wife to do the reappraisal of Jefferson County properties and in return he would see that it made it through the State Revenue Department with flying colors. There apparently were other intimate details, including making this agenda look good to both sides.
My questions include 1) Why was the reappraisal not let for bids, 2) Why pay almost $400,000 for a new appraisal to avoid a $65,000.00 +/- fine and 3)Why was the contract awarded weeks prior to the appraisal company being formed?
Apparently little or no professionalism was involved in reappraisals because we ended up with more appeals than any previous reassessment. How can anyone see any professionalism or accuracy in an assessment where those appealing the assessments are arbitrarily asked, “What if we cut the increase in half?” A comparison of all the appeals results possibly would indicate that many, many thousands of dollars were “cut in half” making the most recent assessments appear to be excessive but in the appeal process, cutting off half would still leave the county with what it really wanted. All this seems to be pretty much common discussion “on the street.”
Those having contested their new assessments say that by appealing their new appraisals (Ref: Letter to The Editor 6-18-09) the board immediately offered to “cut the increase in half,” which definitely shows that somebody, either in the appraisal business or on the Jefferson County Board of Assessors simply has not done their job. When a parcel went from $10,000 to $100,000 during the reappraisals but the $90,000 increase was offered to be reduced by $45,000 by the Board of Assessors, somebody is ill informed or ill intentioned. I was told that this method was used during several other appeal processes. This, if true, simply means that our newest appraisals were just “ride-by” appraisals or the result of a gang of incompetents hired by “Spouse of Revenue/Former Revenue Department Employee Company” that was paid between $300,000 and $400,000 for their guesstimates on how much Jefferson County property is worth. If it is true that there is any relationship between an employee of the State Revenue Department and the company hired to do the assessments it would appear this would constitute a serious conflict of interest and at the very least be considered highly unethical. Also if the contract with the newly formed company to do the assessments was signed prior to the company being officially formed, this should, in my opinion, be a matter for the State Attorney’s office to review and the actual validity of the assessments questioned.
A good start would be for the current Grand Jury to investigate.
Edgehill Frolic organizers say thanks
We would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for their participation in the Edgehill Frolic. We realize that times are tough and money is tight, but thanks to each and every one of you, it was a great success.
During our busy time that day, we have come to realize that at the Womenless Beauty Pageant, there were some gift certificates given out to the winner and runners up of the pageant and we failed to thank these businesses.
The businesses that gave the certificates were the following: Down South Seafood, Milledgeville, Neal’s BBQ, Thomson, Lil Jake’s Wrens, Raley’s Resturant, Gibson, and Usry’s Diner, Gibson.
This was just an oversight, but we thank you very much for your donation and we are sure the winner and the runners-up will, when they enjoy their meals there.
Also we would like to let everyone know that we still have T-shirts for sale. The prices are as follows: youth and adult up to X-Large are $8 and 2XLs and 3XLs are $10.
If you need a T-shirt please call Nickie Kelley at706-598-2884.
Again thank you all for whatever part you had in making our Frolic a success.
The Edgehill Frolic Gang
The time is ripe for a third party
America is rapidly approaching critical mass. The country and the Congress are almost evenly split between the democrats and the republicans. Both parties are composed of career politicians. People used to vote for the better of the two, now they vote for the lesser of two evils, if they vote at all.
America needs a third party. An American party, that limits its members to two terms in office. Anyone elected to more than two terms is a career criminal. A third party would take majority control of the government away from either party and force them all to work together as the founders envisioned. It took America a long time to work its way down to a two party system. The government would be forced to represent the country instead of whichever party is in power.
Political service should be limited to prevent a career in crime. No one is qualified to spend a lifetime in Congress. Career politicians are a cancer that has infested the government at every level. The corrupt, garbage government we have is our own fault for re-electing these career thieves. America’s only chance for survival is to take control of the government away from the political mafia.