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April 1, 2010 Issue

Most of 964 tax appeals heard
Development Authority markets spec building
Census workers to blitz previous low count areas
Stapleton hires Jon Hills as police chief

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Most of 964 tax appeals heard

By Carol McLeod
Staff Writer

Out of 11,688 Jefferson County tax bills sent out last year, appeals had been filed in 964 cases, Katherine Perry, the county’s chief tax assessor, said this week.

“That’s 8.25 percent of the parcels,” she said, adding that does not represent 964 property owners as some taxpayers own more than one parcel.

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“Less than 2 percent of the value was in dispute,” she said. “Because this was less than 5 percent, it was possible to take the digest to Atlanta.”

Perry said the consolidation was done on Aug. 12 and the digest went to Atlanta shortly after that.

“So it was last August that it went,” she said.

“Out of the 964, we have only 83 left that are still pending appeals,” Perry said.

Perry said some values increased some stayed the same.

“Quite a few decreased,” she said.

Perrry said that of those appealed, the overall average was an 11 percent reduction.

“There was huge variation in difference (among appelates),” she said

At one end of the spectrum was a reduction of $69,200 in value of the property, an 87-percent reduction, Perry said.

“It was vacant land,” she said. “The adjustment was made due to topography. It’s an area where it floods real bad.”

The adjustment down was based on the undesirability of the land, Perry said.

One appeal that resulted in a sharp increase added $19,227, or 61 percent, to the value. Perry said in that case, the property owners knew the value was too low but did not expect that much of an increase.

Perry said the main reason for appeals was for value.

Of the appeals that have been finalized, 45 ended in an increase, 195 stayed the same and 536 decreased. One property owner has subsequently filed an appeal in Superior Court.

The other appeals have been through the appeal process with the board of equalization and still have time left to file an appeal in Superior Court, should the property owner choose to do so, she said.






Development Authority markets spec building

By Carol McLeod
Staff writer

The Development Authority of Jefferson County has been marketing its newest speculative building.

Located in Kings Mill Commerce Park just outside Wrens, this 20,000-square-foot building is designed to be easily expandable to 40,000. The only thing lacking before serious marketing begins is the required infrastructure, such as water and sewer. And, according to Tom Jordan, the Authority’s executive director, they have an active plan for that.

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Jordan said Georgia’s State Department of Economic Development has a searchable database, known as the Georgia Facts, which helps companies searching for available industrial sites and buildings.

Approximately 80 percent of companies with large projects use this site as a beginning point, he said.

Without the infrastructure, the Wrens area site will not be considered “market ready.”

“We’re just not close enough to the port and we don’t have an interstate,” Jordan said. “So we have to be realistic as to the types of projects we could accommodate. And we have to distinguish ourselves in other ways such as rail, competitive utilities, speculative buildings and pad ready sites.”

In order to be as attractive as possible, the authority is developing the Kings Mill site as a fairly large industrial park with rail access and other utilities. Not only is natural gas available in Wrens, but a major pipeline is nearby. This information will be part of Jefferson County’s profile on the Georgia Facts database.

Companies could also approach a community more directly.

“We all know that there are other opportunities out there as industries look toward expansions—either in land or buildings or both,” Jordan said. “These projects might come directly to us and we have to be ready to respond as quickly as possible.”

Another possibility is the relocating of a cluster vendor—a smaller business that needs to be near a large industry. Spec buildings are ideal for this type of company, Jordan said.

With 650 acres, the Kings Mill site can accommodate a substantial project as well as subsidiary businesses. But, according to Jordan, that could be slow to happen until the roads, water, sewer and natural gas are available on site.

“Even though we own the property, it’s still basically farm land until we get the infrastructure on site,” he said. “That’s why we’re working hard every day to address these issues.”

G Ben Turnipseed Engineering has been hired to adress the water and sewer needs for the park.

“The design is working toward a plan that will benefit both the county and the city of Wrens,” Jordan said. “Wrens needs additional well capacity and was considering a treatment plant or an additional well. The test well in Kings Mill Commerce Park shows the potential to provide the most economical solution for both. The development authority is working closely with the city of Wrens to forge a partnership that meets everyone’s needs.”

The OneGeorgia Authority recently awarded the development authority a $500,000 grant to begin the necessary infrastructure improvements.

With plans for the site still in progress, Jordan spends much of his time tracking down prospects, companies that might be interested in locating their business or a part of their business in Jefferson County.

Even with the park half finished, he said he often responds to requests for onsite visits.

Last year, Jordan worked with about 10 projects, all of whom were shown the property, he said.

He said they put letters of interests together, representatives of the companies visited the site and about five have potential to become real projects.

However, all 10 companies cited a lack of infrastructure at the site as the number one reason for not pursuing it.

“I think the biggest thing for our park is the fact that we don’t have the infrastructure on site, yet,” Jordan said. “They really like the site but if they compare us to other counties in Georgia, if they have the infrastructure, they will choose them over us every time.”



Census workers to blitz previous low count areas

Jared Stepp
Apprentice

On Saturday, April 10, citizens are encouraged to March to the Mailbox, in an effort to improve participation in the 2010 Census.

Complete Count Committee Representative Judy Jones said the program will target the Bartow and Wrens communities because they are the concentrated areas where there was not enough participation in the 2000 census.

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The city of Bartow will have volunteers from the Complete Count Committees go door-to-door to give out information and make sure everyone knows about the census.

Arty Thrift said Wrens will host a fishing rodeo called Fish to be Counted for the Blitz program. The rodeo will be on April 10 from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. The rodeo will take place at Johnson’s lake on Thomson highway next to the Wrens Elementary School.

“We hope everybody comes out and supports the census and how important it is to our community,” Thrift said. Thrift said the event will target local churches and city organizations.

There will be refreshments. Citizens should bring their own fishing supplies. For more information about the rodeo, contact Thrift at 706-547-3000.

“There seems to be a lot of confusion with people with Post Office boxes not receiving their census forms,” Jones said. “If they do not get the forms by the end of March, we are suggesting they go to one of the sites.”

Jones said each town has a site where a person can pick up a ballot and fill it out and mail it.

“People need to understand the census is linked to money,” Jones said, “especially with disaster funds.” She said a city would only receive disaster relief for the amount of people represented in the census.

Jones explained an example she heard about the lack of census participation consequences.

“People need to understand the census is linked to money,” Jones said, “especially with disaster funds.” She said a city would only receive disaster relief for the amount of people represented in the census.

Jones explained an example she heard about the lack of census participation consequences.

She said there was a lack of participation in the city of Matthews for the census, resulting in a very small population count on paper. Last year when tornadoes tore through the city, funding for disaster relief was only represented for the number of people who were counted in the census. Matthews did not receive the funding they could have, had they had a stronger participation in the census.

“There was not an accurate account in Matthews so there was not funding for the disaster as it could have been had we an accurate count,” Jones said. “When the tornado came through, they didn’t have many people located there, even though there were. They (Matthews) were so leery of federal government that they opted to do without.

“Our federal funds are based on our census count for disaster,” Jones said.

For more information on how you can be counted, visit your local census site.

JEFFERSON COUNTY
QAC Question Asst. Centers and Be Counted Sites

Moore and Moore Barbershop (Be Counted Site), Wadley
Jefferson County Tax and Tag Office (Be Counted Site), Louisville
McCollum Public Library (QAC Site),Wrens
City of Wadley (QAC Site) Wadley
Stapleton City Hall (QAC Site), Stapleton
Kingdom Life Fellowship Ministries (QAC), Wadley
City of Avera (QAC site), Avera
City of Wrens (QAC Site),Wrens
Wadley Public Library (QAC Site), Wadley
Jefferson County Commissioners Office (QAC Site), Louisville
Alpha and Omega Hair Salon (QAC Site), Louisville
Jefferson County DFACS (QAC Site), Louisville
Bartow City Hall (QAC Site), Bartow,
Jefferson county Library (QAC Site), Louisville
Glascock county DFACS (Be Counted Site), Gibson
Glascock County Libray (Be Counted Site), Gibson
Mitchell City Hall/Fire (QAC Site), Mitchell
Glascock Board of Commissioners (QAC Site), Gibson




Stapleton hires Jon Hills as police chief

Carol McLeod
Staff Writer

After almost an hour in executive session with Stapleton City Council, Stapleton Mayor June Rooks announced she was hiring Jon Hills as a part-time police chief for the city, along with four other officers during a called meeting Thursday, March 25, at city hall.

The officers, who will be part-time, are Barrow Walden, Grant Matherly, Joshua McGahee and Dewayne Cowart.

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Rooks said the chief will be paid $12 an hour and each of the officers will be paid $11 an hour.

A citizen who was present asked the mayor if the officers would have a job description. Rooks said that was being developed.

After her announcement, the city council ratified the mayor’s decision.

The mayor said last week she had not known the previous police chief, Tim Taylor, was going to be terminated until the city’s regular council meeting Thursday, March 11. That decision was reached after an executive session during the meeting.

Hills said the officers will work within a combined 50 hours per week during an interview this week.

He said he started working for Stapleton Friday, March 12. He was not offered the chief’s position at first, he said.

“The other officers were hired the following week,” he said.

Hills and the other officers are already POST certified and work or have recently worked for other law enforcement agencies, he said.

Hills himself is a full time deputy with the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office and was the police chief for Stapleton from 2001 to 2004, he said.

Hills said he will be in charge of the officers’ schedules and said the city will not have to buy additional vehicles.

“We’re fine with vehicles,” he said. The city has two police cars. For now, with the limitation on hours, there will not be an officer on duty at all times, he said. Citizens should still call 9-1-1 for all police and medical emergencies.

Hills said he and the other officers will provide the city with the most coverage possible, adding he plans to increase patrols.

“With more officers, you can just get more coverage,” he said.

Hills has been married to the former Laura Lynam for 19 years. They have two daughters, a 17-year-old who attends Jefferson County High School and an 11-year-old who attends Wrens Middle School. The family is originally from New Jersey and has lived in this area for about 13 years. Mrs. Hills works at Atwell Pecan Company in Wrens.




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