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December 6, 2012 Issue

Rhodes retires, Sapp begins
County to vote on excise tax
DAJC reports progress

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Rhodes retires, Sapp begins

By Faye Ellison
Staff Writer

As the year comes to a close, so does Louisville City Administrator Don Rhodes’ time working for the city. After 25 years of service, Rhodes will exit the office on Dec. 18, with his official retirement day on Dec. 31. He was honored by city employees on Thursday, Nov. 29.

The Louisville City Council has already voted to hire former mayor and councilman Ricky Sapp to take Rhodes’ place at the time of his departure. Sapp began working with Rhodes on Monday, Nov. 26.


“The mayor appointed a search committee and we advertised for a new city administrator,” Rhodes explained. “We received applications and then the search committee reviewed them. We interviewed four potential administrators. The search committee’s recommendation to council was to hire Ricky Sapp. The board vote was a unanimous decision.”

Rhodes said he was confident in Sapp taking his position, commenting on the difference when other cities or local government hire someone from outside the area.

“I think hiring someone local is very important,” he said. “I’ve seen bad things happen a lot across the state when someone who is not local is hired. I think this was the best decision a city can make to hire someone local.”

Sapp was the mayor of Louisville for seven months after the death of the late Byron Burt. He was on the Louisville City Council for 14 years.

The former councilman said he applied for the position, wanting another way to serve his community.

“I have 30 years of management experience,” Sapp said. “I thought my experience with the government and management gave me a lot to offer the city.”

Sapp said the news of his hiring left him feeling very honored and humbled.

“I think this is a great way to have this opportunity to still serve Louisville,” he said. “This was a very humbling experience, no doubt. It is a great responsibility and I am very thankful to the council for giving me this chance. I am extremely excited and ready to work.”

As a city administrator or manager, Sapp said he knows he will deal with a wide range of issues.

“I know with my previous job as a manager, you don’t do the same thing every day,” he said. “Right now, it is basically a learning process. I am learning how everything is done.”

Currently, Sapp said his first goal is to get the TE Project in downtown Louisville finished as soon as possible. He met with workers last week to see if the project’s pace could be increased.

Sapp thanked Rhodes for his time and dedication to the city.

“Don Rhodes has meant so much to the city and a lot to me on the council and my time as mayor,” he said of the departing administrator. “I saw how he put his heart and soul into the city and I want to do the same. He is a legend here, and to follow him won’t be easy, but I am really looking forward to it. I am honored to work for my hometown.”

While in office, Rhodes helped complete projects including sidewalk and drainage improvements, streetscaping, community development housing, Helen Clark Memorial Park, a new city hall, a new fire station, and several airport projects with lengthening of the runway to 1,500 feet, installation of a parallel taxiway, addition of a new fuel depot and fencing the entire airport property.

“I wish to thank each of the city employees I have been fortunate enough to have worked with over the past 25 years,” Rhodes commented. “The accomplishments the city has made over the years are due to the employees persevering and diligent work each day. I wish to especially thank the girls in the office for their dedicated work. They are the best.

“I have been blessed to have served with highly supportive council members and mayors. I very much appreciate their devotion in molding Louisville into a splendid community.

“I wish also to thank you, the citizens, who have always been supportive of me even though some of our projects were an inconvenience to you. Louisville has a lot of positive traits and the greatest of all is that Louisville is a community of caring and friendly people.”

County to vote on excise tax

By Carol McLeod
Staff Writer

Jefferson County commissioners face a tough decision Tuesday, Dec. 11.

During a work session this week, the commissioners discussed whether to impose an excise tax on energy used in manufacturing.


The state legislature passed a bill, HB 386, which among other things seeks to end the tax currently paid on this energy.

The bill takes effect Jan. 1 but allows local governments to impose the excise tax in order to continue to collect the revenue. Taxes on this energy are paid via local sales tax collections.

This bill also changes the way Georgia taxes automobiles, a factor in revenue for the county that is still unknown.

“We’re about to the point where we have to make a decision,” said Jefferson County Administrator Adam Mestres.

He said companies in Jefferson County pay about $20 million a year in taxes on the energy used in manufacturing.

“Two percent of that is $400,000,” he said referring to the 2 percent the county will lose if it does not impose an excise tax.

The tax is set to end over four years at increments of one-quarter of the tax.

Mestres said this would mean approximately $100,000 the first year, a total of $200,000 for the second year, $300,000 for the third year and $400,000 for the fourth year and each year after that.

Commissioner Wayne Davis pointed out that as the county is already halfway through its fiscal year, this budget year will lose about $50,000.

“How can we make it up?” he said.

After some discussion, the commissioner said he did not see how the commission could not implement the excise tax.

Mestres pointed out the industries will still stop paying 4 percent of the tax to the state.

The administrator also said $100,000 is about three county jobs.

An employee earning $9 an hour costs the county $30,000 annually, as that includes benefits.

“The Senior Center is $100,000,” he said.

“I have really been thinking about this thing,” said Commissioner Tommy New.

He said a consideration has been the impact to the county if the excise tax is implemented and other counties in the area do not.

“We have just started getting people to look at us,” he said. “I see his point,” he said, referring to Wayne Davis’ comments.

“I see both sides of it,” New said.

Commission Chairman William Rabun asked, “Can we afford to not look down the road?”

“The main thing we need to look at, we want industry to come,” Commissioner Gonice Davis said.

“If you don’t have industry, you don’t have a tax base,” Rabun said.

“It’s a decision we’ve got to make,” New said.

Mestres said the excise tax can be added at any time and rescinded at any time.

“Let’s let our attorney really check into it,” New said.

Commissioner Johnny Davis said, “This is serious. We want to make a good decision.”

The commissioners decided to table the issue until their regular meeting Tuesday, Dec. 4, and let County Attorney Mickey Moses bring forward any information he has at that time.

Mestres said, “There’s going to be negative impact either way,” Mestres said in an interview Tuesday.

“If the county imposes the tax, the cities have the right through approval and what would be an intergovernmental agreement to opt in with the county. That would allow the cities to be able to collect a portion of the tax,” he said.

It would not matter if the industry is located within the city limits or not.

“The reason why is because it’s based off of the local option sales tax negotiations. So the percentages of the cities that choose to opt in would receive the revenue based on the preset guidelines. This is how it was being distributed previously. If the city does not opt in, it makes a larger pot. The county has to implement the tax. The city is basically a rider if they so choose,” Mestres said.

The administrator said if the commission does not make a decision by the end of the year, the state will automatically assume by default the county decided to not implement the tax.

He said if the county does not implement the excise tax that will affect the entire county as well as the cities.

“Each jurisdiction in the county will feel the impact,” he said.

“Not imposing the tax will cause a reduction in revenues. That reduction has to be satisfied in some way. There are two ways to satisfy that reduction: cut the budget, which could entail reducing services or reducing staff. The second way would be to increase taxes. That’s it. There’s no other way,” Mestres said.

The negative of having the excise tax is the potential for industry to not locate in Jefferson County, he said.

“As well as keeping the 2 percent burden on existing industry in Jefferson County. There’s a negative effect either way. It’s a very difficult decision for the commission. It is our goal to make the best decision for the people of Jefferson County,” he said.

The next commission meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Dec. 11, at 7 p.m. at the commission office at 217 East Broad St. in Louisville. The meeting is open to the public.

DAJC reports progress

By Carol McLeod
Staff Writer

All the years of hard work laying the foundation for growth is starting to pay off, that was the sentiment shared during the Development Authority of Jefferson County’s most recent meeting.

“I’ve been on this authority for a lot of years; and, we’ve kissed a lot of pigs,” said authority member Rita Culvern. “This is a busy authority. Congratulations. It’s so satisfying.”


Later she added, “Just to have seen the layers of work that have had to be put down before you could come to the fruition of the successes we’ve been having....To see that now we are at the crossroads of all that coming together, all that work, but to see things like Battle and local companies be rejuvenated. Everywhere we look there’s something happening.”

In its called meeting Nov. 29, the Authority discussed several of its current projects, recent accoplishments, as well as some potential projects that could develop in the coming year.

“We’re starting to see the jobs actually come,” Culvern said. “But to be able to see it all finally start to fall into place is so satisfying. I just see 2013 as the year when all those jobs start coming to the county.”

Tom Jordan, the authority’s executive director, discussed the progress seen at the Kings Mill Industrial Park and the second company there, Arcilla Mining, PyraMax being the first.

The mining company has been renting the authority’s spec building at Kings Mill with a lease to purchase agreement. Currently they are using the building as an area to maintain their trucks and as office space. Arcilla is a mining and hauling company for kaolin and came to the industrial park because of PyraMax.

The authority discussed an Employment Incentive Program (EIP) grant of $500,000 from the Georgia Department of Community Affairs that funded the water and sewer infrastructure at the Kings Mill Industrial Park.

“We’re right at the end of that grant,” said Lil Easterlin, the executive director of the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce.

An Economic Development Administration (EDA) grant for $1 million will be used for the Commerce Connector, a road at the same park. Easterlin said this will be used for the road only.

The EDA is a part of the U.S. Department of Commerce. Funds from a One GA Equity Grant is about half of a million dollars for a total cost of $1.525 million.

“Our cash match is going to be $62,000,” she said.

During the meeting, the authority discussed establishing water rates for companies inside the industrial park in Wrens and for the one in the industrial park between Wadley and Bartow.

The main consideration is for the rates to cover the authority’s costs as well as the upgrades needed to the water system in Wadley.

The city of Wadley is borrowing funds to pay for upgrades to its water system that are needed not only by the industry potentially building there, North Star’s woody biomass power plant, but also needed to satisfy requirements by the EPD.

The water rates were discussed and the authority voted to allow Jordan to present rates to PyraMax and to allow Jordan and Kenny Green with GBT Engineers to finish developing a full schedule of rates for Kings Mill based on water usage.

“We want to keep those rates as competitive as we can,” Jordan said.

Jordan was asked if the authority will be billing for the water at King’s Mill.

“No. The city of Wrens will bill for us at $50 per account,” Jordan said.

Rates for North Star were approved, subject to approval of a loan to the city of Wadley for its water system upgrades.

Easterlin said the authority will be applying for an equity grant of $500,000 on behalf of the industrial park in the Bartow-Wadley area. The grant will be for $500,000; and, the authority will pay a matching amount of $34,000.

Jordan also told the authority about a potential new addition to the Kings Mill park, a company that is looking at 100 acres there.

“It’s a good-looking prospect,” he said, adding the company said they are going to build two plants, one of which will be elsewhere.

As the company has not made an official agreement to locate in Jefferson County, the authority is not releasing its name at this time.

Regarding the expansion project at Battle Lumber in Wadley, Jordan said the company is still moving forward with a new saw mill and a rail spur, but, will not take any action until after the first of the year.

He said they are applying for a grant that will cover about 90 percent of the cost of building the rail spur.

Jordan also told the group about a new company named MACWorks, a wireless internet provider that covers Jefferson County.

“Fifty customers is their limit,” he said, adding the internet service is faster than DSL.

After the meeting, Culvern said, “It makes my heart feel so good. This brings jobs to the county and opportunities...I want to congratulate specifically Tom (Jordan), Lil (Easterlin) and (Chairman) Bill (Easterlin) for all the hard work they’ve done. All the committee works; but those three especially.”

Culvern also pointed out the part the Work Ready program has played in making the county more competitive as industries consider the work force available in a community when looking for a place to locate a plant or business.

She said Sandersville Technical College has also played its role in devising courses that train people to work.

“It’s getting back to the layers of work this has taken for us to come to this point,” she said. “It’s everybody doing his or her part and working together.”

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