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July 18, 2013 Issue

Assessment notices mailed
Mural shared
Wadley works on sewer issues
Hospital goes back to county for funds

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Assessment notices mailed

By Carol McLeod
Staff Writer

Jefferson County Chief Appraiser Katherine Perry said last week property assessments have been sent to county property owners.

“The board of assessors approved the 2013 property tax digest for Jefferson County during the board’s last regular meeting,” she said Thursday, July 11.


“The notices went in the mail July 9 to the property owners,” Perry said.

She stressed these are assessment notices.

“The appeal deadline to those notices is Friday, Aug. 23,” she said.

Perry said appeals can have a USPS postmark of Aug. 23.

“That’s acceptable,” she said. “Any other type of postmark, such as a metered one, is not acceptable after the deadline.

“At this stage, people who choose to appeal their assessment notice should just follow the directions for an appeal that is on their notice. If they have any questions, they can contact us as instructed on the notice.”

Perry said the appeal process is a 45-day period.

“A total of 11,164 notices went out in the mail this year. We used to mail to only those property owners with changes. However, we are now required to mail to all property owners of real property. Those with personal property still will receive an assessment notice only when there are changes. We have been doing this for a few years now,” she said.

“Also, for the past few years, we are now required to include an estimate of the taxes based on current year value and last year’s mill rate. We have to show all the taxes, including city taxes if applicable,” Perry said.

The assessments are required to show all the estimated taxes expected for that property, she said, adding, “We also show exemptions.”

Perry said her office provided the county commissioners and the board of education with preliminary totals.

“We are in the process of finalizing the digest for submission to Atlanta,” she said.

Perry said overall, assessments were down.

“There was about a $3.5 million drop in the county digest,” she said. “That’s net digest. That’s after exemptions. Some residential land changed, not all.”

Perry said she and her staff review the market by reviewing sales.

“For the 2013 digest, we are mainly looking at the 2012 sales but we also look at the past few years to see what the trend is,” she said.

Perry said the property tax digest is the basis for property taxes.

“The value of a property determines the property owner’s share of the overall tax burden to pay for county services,” she said. “We also provide the cities with their digest.”

The county administrator, Adam Mestres, said the net digest was $410,185,304.

“That’s based off data given to me,” he said.

“Where we were last year was $413,677,021. So that’s the loss, the net loss, from last year over this year. The cost of services provided continues to increase. And the trend has been to increase every year,” Mestres said.

Mural shared

More than 200 people gathered Saturday morning for the dedication of the mural in Wrens’ downtown Veterans Memorial Park. The painting, produced by McTier Art, was commissioned by Wrens Better Hometown. Saturday Lucy McTier, pictured at left, discussed her inspiration for the project’s design and what each individual image evoked.


Wadley works on sewer issues

By Carol McLeod
Staff Writer

Residents on Sanford Street in Wadley have been among citizens complaining about sewerage problems for years.

This week, workers with Shockley Plumbing Inc. in Perkins were on Sanford Street digging into the road and checking the sewer lines. One of the workers, Jeff Prisk, said they had found a blockage and had cleared it.


Part of the crew was one street over on Lamb Street. Prisk said they would be checking the line from the manhole there back to Sanford Street.

Wadley Councilman John Maye said city workers had gone to Sanford Street in response to a recent complaint from area residents.

“We did what we could at the time with the equipment we had,” Maye said. “The city workers, EZ Carter and Felton Fann, went out there to try to give the people some relief. We went there immediately after the residents said they needed some relief.”

Maye, who is a member of the city council’s water and sewer committee, said he went out there as well.

“When I got there, the city workers were already there,” he said. “They tried to find out what the problem was so it could be corrected, to see what the blockage was or see if there was another line involved.”

“I had some problems years ago and they fixed mine,” said Sharon Kitchens, an area resident.

“It’s just old pipes and the same old thing we’ve had for years. I said to Felton and EZ, ‘You have done all you can do,’ when I saw them run that line not one time but three times. And they couldn’t unstop it, it was beyond what they could do.”

Kitchens said she stood there and watched the city workers run the line in the sewer three times.

“And it still didn’t unstop it,” she said.

Wadley Mayor Herman Baker said Monday workers from Shockley started last week.

“It’s going to be quite a task,” he said.

Hospital goes back to county for funds

By Parish Howard

Despite a reorganization that cut several positions and reduced salary costs up to $600,000 a year, Jefferson Hospital’s future remains hopeful, but uncertain.

Hospital Authority member Bill Easterlin appeared before the county commission Tuesday, July 9, to attempt to expedite the signing of an agreement voted on in April in which the county would provide the hospital $1 million over the next five years.


“We’re not going to have a long term chance without a cash infusion,” Easterlin told the commissioners. “That’s what we’ve asked for, a short term opportunity to have a long term chance.”

Easterlin explained that since April the authority has hired Pioneer Health Services to manage the hospital. Steps have already been taken to reduce hospital expenses, renegotiate contracts and reorganize services to make them both more affordable and more efficient. This however, does not mean that they no longer need the money they asked for earlier this year.

“That $200,000 a year is critical for us,” Easterlin said. “We know we are hitting a cash crunch here at the end of the month. We can predict with three payrolls this month, at the end of July we will likely be out of money and will not be able to make payroll without an infusion of cash.”

Easterlin explained that the authority could use a contract with the county promising these funds to secure a loan from a local lending agency. The borrowed money would give the hospital enough operating capital to meet payroll until it receives an expected $1.1 million revenue in November from the federal government through an Electronic Medical Records Use Project.

“Without this we don’t think we can continue,” Easterlin said. “Without some infusion of cash we don’t think we can continue as a hospital.”

There was some discussion over wording in the agreement that would allow the county to drop its funding at any time. Easterlin explained that one sentence negated the county’s obligation.

Commissioners asked what assurances they had that the hospital would remain open and what obligation they would have if the hospital or its clinics in Wrens and Wadley closed.

“We can’t get to November without this help,” Easterlin said. “But will this solve the healthcare problem in this county? I don’t know. I can say that $200,000 is not going to be the (big) answer. The long term answer is getting more people into the hospital. The short term need is critical to get to a long term answer. It gives us time to develop more business.”

Jefferson Hospital’s interim CEO, Steve Widener, told commissioners that he feels Pioneer can turn around the hospital’s current financial situation. He talked about the staffing changes as well as plans to reorganize the hospital’s emergency room.

“Our emergency room business is down,” Widener said. “We have listened to people in the community and they say we have to do something about the ER. As of Aug. 1 Jennifer Tanner, Abbot Easterlin and Melissa Cave will start staffing the ER during daytime hours. Doctors Polhill, Cox and Pilcher will back them up. A new group of doctors are being contracted to work at night.”

Monday, July 15, the Hospital Authority met and gave Chairman Ray Davis authority to sign the agreement with the county if it is approved as expected in a called meeting for Wednesday.

Authority legal counsel Jeff Harvey said that a sentence had been added to the contract expressly absolving the county of its obligation if the hospital is closed and the authority is terminated.

Easterlin said that while he has been in contact with one local lending institution, “We do not have a commitment from anyone to lend us money at this time.”

During the authority meeting hospital Assistant CFO Matt Clark confirmed that the hospital had received more good news.

“We did receive $140,000 for a UPL in the last quarter for indigent care so that should get us through this next payroll and on into the last one,” Clark said. “I thought we were going to have to dip into some savings but we did not have to do that.”

With this revenue and the county’s agreement, the authority members expressed hope that they would be able to get through the end of the year.

“They’ve already got it in their 2014 budget,” Harvey said of the county’s promised revenue. “They have it broken down into monthly payments.”

“We were under the impression they were going to have to build it into the millage base, but to the credit of the county they really did some belt tightening when they did their budget this year. I give them credit for doing what I didn’t think local governments did which is do an exemplary job of tightening the belt.”

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