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August 9, 2012 Issue

County considers raising millage
The right tracks
T-SPLOST passes in 3 regions

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County considers raising millage

By Carol McLeod
Staff Writer

During a work session this week, the Jefferson County Board of Commissioners voted to set a tentative millage rate of 14.50, an increase of 1.75 from last year’s.

The portion set for the county’s development authority, .75, is the same as before.


Whenever there is an increase to the millage rate, the law requires three public hearings before the millage rate can be set.

The first two hearings have been scheduled for Monday, Aug. 20, at the Jefferson County Board of Commission Office. The first at 8:30 a.m.; and, the second for 6:30 p.m. The third and final public hearing is scheduled for the commission office for Monday, Aug. 27, at 8:30 a.m.

The office is located at 217 East Broad St. in Louisville.

All interested citizens are encouraged to attend.

Adam Mestres, the county’s administrator, said in an interview Tuesday the millage rate is tentative at this time.

“It’s not official until the 27th,” he said. The commission is scheduled to adopt the millage rate after the final public hearing.

In a press release prepared by Jenny Gordy, the county’s tax commissioner stated, if the tentative millage rate is adopted the proposed tax increase for a home with a fair market value of $100,000 is approximately $66.50; and, the proposed tax increase for non-homestead property with a fair market value of $100,000 is approximately $70.

In an interview Tuesday, Gordy said if the tentative millage rate is adopted, it’s expected to generate $6,117,144.

“Some of that has already come in,” she said, adding people have been paying on taxes on their motor vehicles and mobile homes.

The 14.50 millage rate does not include the school board’s millage rate of 14.147, nor does it include the state’s portion.

Gordy said this is the first year the state’s portion is .20 of a mill.

“It’s always been a quarter of a mill in the past,” she said. “The state voted to lower it each year by .05 until it’s zero.”

The tax commissioner said she hopes to have the bills sent out on Sept. 20, which will allow property owners 90 days to pay their bills and have them due Dec. 20.

The right tracks

By Oraleethia L. Morgan

From a church solo in the children’s choir to the rest of the world, this Friday, Aug. 10, Bethany Kathleen Brown will take her music career to a new platform at the Columbia County Amateur Series.

Brown said she has always been interested in music. When she was about 5, she said she was given a solo at church and that moment was when her love for music blossomed.


Struck with the realization that there’s more to singing than just holding a tune in a bucket, Brown said she wanted to explore both singing and songwriting.

She began piano lessons around the age of 6 and continued learning off-and-on until age 11. At 13, she started lessons with Louisville United Methodist Church’s Dwain Little.

“And now I’ve been playing ever since,” she said.

Because her father played the guitar for as long as she could remember, Brown said she also wanted to learn how to play and has been playing for about four years.

Her first guitar was a light blue Fender.

Brown performed in a praise band with her family, and continues to lead worship for the youth at her church.

While her fingers worked her instruments, the piano keys and guitar strings, her mind started working on her own music and songs.

“Sometimes I’ll start playing something and think of words to put with it,” she said.

Brown said she is inspired by singer/songwriters Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood.

“Mainly the singers who make it big and live in small towns,” she said.

Brown said she did not know about the Columbia County Amateur Series initially.

“My parents told me about it and wanted me to try out,” said the songwriter. “But I wasn’t really sure about it because I didn’t think I was going to make it.”

Brown said despite her stage fright, her mom encouraged her and said it would be a good experience.

She said she was very nervous at the audition.

“After seeing everybody there I didn’t think I was good enough,” she said.

However, she said after she made the callbacks, she got a boost of energy.

“It was like a shock that I made it,” said Brown.

She said her family has played a vital role in her journey into the amateur series through encouragement and support.

She said one thing she’s learned through this entire experience is to never doubt herself; because, you may be better than what you give yourself credit for.

Brown will be performing original songs and songs from Lauren Alaina, The Wreckers and Colbie Caillat, just to name a few.

She said one of her original songs she will be performing, “Counterfeit Heart,” is one of her favorite original pieces.

The song is about a girl whose heart was broken by a guy, she said.

“My friend was telling me how this guy was a total jerk to her and I wanted to beat him up, but I didn’t. So instead I wrote a song and played it for her. She calls it her favorite song in the world,” said Brown with a smile.

To prepare for her performance, Brown said she goes over each song at least once a day. She said she will be performing at least nine songs and is working on remembering lyrics and everything that comes with performing.

“Well I always wanted to sing; and, I thought it would be cool to be a superstar,” said Brown with a smile.

Brown said there will be a vote taken the night of the show. In order to vote, one must be present.

Calie Cook, Administrative Coordinator with Columbia County Rental Facilities, said she and her boss Sandy Boner created the Amateur Series to showcase and promote local talent.

She said there are three ways to vote.

Votes may be cast by paper ballot at tables at the amphitheater; one may go home and vote online at ccamateurseries.com or via smart phone.

Cook said if one casts a vote online, once on the site, there will be an icon that says “vote.” Once there you may vote for your favorite performer. There is only one vote per person.

Voting will be open from 9 p.m. to midnight.

She said the third way winners are calculated is through a decibel reading.

“The more people you get to come, the more chance you get to go to the next level, the louder the fans the better,” said Cook.

She said the grand prize winner of the series will be featured in the series wrap-up on WAGT 26 and the CW Augusta and will receive a one-page spread in the Columbia County Magazine. The winner will receive a new webpage by Justin Cook, president and owner of Wing City Sites, and eight hours of recording time in a Psalmist Studio, or the chance to lay four tracks, a photography session with Phresh Photography, a $100 gift certificate from Pyramid Music and promotional advertisement with Knology and WBBQ.

She said the winner will also get a front-of-the-line audition to the nearest in-person audition for the television show, America’s Got Talent.

Brown and her family encourages everyone who can to support Bethany Kathleen Friday, Aug. 10, at 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Columbia County Amphitheater in Evans.

T-SPLOST passes in 3 regions

By Carol McLeod
Staff Writer

Even though three of the counties in our region, the Central Savannah River Area, did not pass the T-SPLOST (Transportation Special Projects Local Option Sales Tax), enough counties voted for it that it passed this region.

Andy Crosson, executive director for the CSRA Regional Commission, said Tuesday he was pleased with the results.


“I’ll be honest with you,” he said. “When I got up that morning, I was surprised that it passed.”

Crosson said the referendum for the tax did not pass in Glascock, Lincoln and Columbia counties.

“But they will still reap the benefits of the regional projects and the local discretionary money,” he said. The tax will still be assessed in those counties as well.

“It passed in our region,” he said. “It passed in the Heart of Georgia Altamaha Region, that doesn’t include Savannah or Statesboro.”

He said it also passed in the River Valley Region. Which is the region anchored in Columbus.

Crosson said there are 12 regions in Georgia, leaving nine regions that did not pass the referendum.

He said he was not surprised the tax did not do well throughout the state.

“I think there was a big push back against the tax in Atlanta,” he said.

“I certainly think that its passage is one of the most important things this region will do that will affect us over the next 20 years,” Crosson said.

“I’ve always said that for a long time the eastern part of Georgia has been largely left out of the state’s north-south transportation initiative. The exception of that being the Savannah River Parkway,” he said.

Crosson said he thinks the tax is important because as the expansion of the Port of Savannah is completed, the ability to move import goods into the country and the ability to get export goods to the Port are going to be effected by the transportation route.

“What we put in our plan in our area starts in the next 10 years to connect I-16 to I-20 to I-85,” he said. “What that will do is two things – it’ll open up growth opportunity along that corridor and it will help relieve traffic congestion in Atlanta by allowing transportation to move along in different north-south routes.”

He thinks this region passed the tax because local leaders recognized the importance of including regional projects that will benefit the entire area, he said.

“Our amount is $841 million,” Crosson said. The tax takes effect Jan. 1 and will bring current sales tax to a total of 8 cents on the dollar.

The local portion that will come back to the communities will be distributed in a similar way to those SPLOST funds already being collected, he said.

Crosson said he would expect that taxes collected in January would not be received locally until March.

“But what you will see is local projects will start pretty quickly,” he said. “Local communities will have total local control over the discretionary monies and most of those projects will be handled by the local road department.”

Despite voting against the referendum, all counties in the regions where it passed will both assess the taxes and reap the benefits, Crossen said.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if by late spring, early summer people didn’t see more work on their local road projects than they’ve ever seen in the past,” Crosson said.

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