Co. Com­mis­sion wraps up busy year Polk County gets air­port, road money

The Standard Journal - - LOCAL - Staff re­ports

The Polk County Com­mis­sion wrapped up busy year with a swear­ing in last week that ush­ers in a new pair of peo­ple on the board who face many is­sues ahead of them that 2018 saw work on, but not full com­ple­tion of pend­ing projects.

A year that in­cluded a his­toric visit from Gover­nor Nathan Deal, many im­prove­ments to lo­cal road­ways and frank dis­cus­sions about rev­enue came to a close with busi­ness to con­tinue as 2019 comes to a start, and Ray Carter and Gary Martin join the Polk County Com­mis­sion.

Here’s a run­down of some of the sto­ries we think will make an im­pact in the years to come as we wind down the fi­nal week of the year:

It is a ban­ner year for any county to get a visit from Gover­nor Nathan Deal, but when he also comes to sign an amended bud­get it gives any­one rea­son to stand up and take no­tice.

Lo­cal and state of­fi­cials gath­ered for a cer­e­mony at Cor­nelius Moore Field ear­lier in the year for Deal to sign the FY 2018 amended bud­get for the state, which in­cluded fund­ing for sev­eral ini­tia­tives that helped Polk County dur­ing the year, and po­ten­tially for decades to come.

Among the fund­ing ini­tia­tives ap­proved by law­mak­ers and signed and de­liv­ered by Deal was fund­ing for an ex­ten­sion of the run­way of Polk County’s air­port, a multi-mil­lion dol­lar project still in the works that will be mostly funded by the Ge­or­gia Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion through a pro­gram that Deal an­nounced that helps around a dozen air­ports statewide.

That project was in some doubt as some com­mis­sion­ers ques­tioned dur­ing bud­get ne­go­ti­a­tions that ex­tended past the end of the fis­cal year over where the county’s share of the cost would come from. Ques­tions over whether the state was guar­an­tee­ing the county’s por­tion wouldn’t go above a promised $1.5 mil­lion match, and the fact much of the en­gi­neer­ing work was al­ready done, con­vinced the en­tire board to con­tinue for­ward dur­ing the late sum­mer months.

Lo­cal of­fi­cials who had a great amount of help from State Rep. Trey Kel­ley also got money for the county govern­ment to ap­ply to­ward a com­plete resur­fac­ing of Chero­kee Road, a ma­jor thor­ough­fare between High­way 27 and Cave Spring Road that was re­paired and resur­faced over the sum­mer months.

Com­mis­sion Chair Jen­nifer Hulsey said the county has plans for Mar­quette Road between the Ge­or­gia North­west­ern Tech­ni­cal Col­lege cam­pus in Rock­mart and Rock­mart High School in the fu­ture as well, since it also serves as a thor­ough­fare between High­way 101 and High­way 113 through Rock­mart’s in­dus­trial park as well.

County files law­suit against Waste In­dus­tries

Polk County Com­mis­sion­ers an­nounced ear­lier in the year they on the be­half of the lo­cal govern­ment were mov­ing for­ward with a law­suit against Grady Road Land­fill op­er­a­tors Waste In­dus­tries for not mak­ing proper pay­ments, noise com­plaints and much more.

The suit in the Tal­lapoosa Cir­cuit Su­pe­rior Court seeks $811,552.40 in mon­e­tary com­pen­sa­tion from Waste In­dus­tries for two spe­cific fi­nan­cial vi­o­la­tions in the con­tract, stem­ming from the com­pany over­charg­ing the county on fuel fees, and ad­di­tion­ally from un­der­pay­ments of host fees. Those in­clude in­ter­est de­rived from the over­charges and host fees due.

As well as those fees, the county’s com­plaint al­leges Waste In­dus­tries hasn’t been mak­ing proper con­tri­bu­tions to the trust for the post-clo­sure fund to mon­i­tor the site through test­ing wells once it is closed for good, and seeks to get an in­de­pen­dent au­di­tor in­volved in the process.

County At­tor­ney Brad McFall pro­vided a re­port dur­ing the No­vem­ber ses­sion of the Com­mis­sion that the law­suit re­mained in the dis­cov­ery phase.

Waste In­dus­tries re­sponded fol­low­ing the law­suit’s fil­ing in May that they had ad­dressed some of the con­cerns al­ready the county based their suit on, and were do­ing more to ad­dress noise and odor is­sues.

Dis­cus­sions con­tinue over rev­enue, but prop­erty taxes go up

How does the county make up for a short­fall in rev­enue year after year?

For many years as they’ve sought to com­plete projects, re­pairs and up­grades un­planned for dur­ing the year, the county’s pay­ments from the land­fill have acted as a sur­plus to tap for ev­ery­thing from roof re­pairs to tak­ing up some of the slack when the Pub­lic Works fa­cil­ity was com­pleted.

That con­cept of dip­ping into the land­fill fund when­ever it was nec­es­sary is now be­ing chal­lenged, and as a con­se­quence prop­erty taxes stayed at their ad­ver­tised rate for the year.

Com­mis­sion­ers voted dur­ing a spe­cial called ses­sion on Aug. 28 4-1 to over­ride a veto made on an 11.475 mill­age rate in a meet­ing that lasted just a few min­utes.

Com­mis­sion Chair Jen­nifer Hulsey said it was her un­der­stand­ing be­fore the vote was taken that no dis­cus­sion was re­quired since the vote was to over­ride her veto on the amount of mill­age rate the county was go­ing to set for the year, after sev­eral were put forth.

It brought to a close a process that ex­tended the spring months all the way through the sum­mer right be­fore the dead­line to get a mill­age rate set, and tax bills printed and sent out to peo­ple.

The ac­tual rate is 14.111 with roll­back of 2.636 mills to end up at the 11.475 mill­age rate that tax­pay­ers will ac­tu­ally have to pay on their bills.

For some per­spec­tive, a mill at the cur­rent value sits at around $934,000 of in­come to the county, so it should gen­er­ate around $10,717,650 in rev­enue.

In hopes to avoid prop­erty tax in­creases in the fu­ture, county com­mis­sioner Scotty Tillery has been busy work­ing on a plan to raise fines and fees for in­di­vid­ual users of county ser­vices or those who vi­o­late or­di­nances or are fined in court can help with a short­fall that has been on­go­ing for some time.

A chang­ing com­mis­sion

As the year came to a close, the com­mis­sion did say good­bye to two de­part­ing mem­bers and hon­ored their ser­vice, and looked to wel­come a pair of new rep­re­sen­ta­tives for Dis­trict 1 and Dis­trict 3.

Com­mis­sioner Marshelle Thax­ton de­cided ear­lier in the year not to seek a new term in of­fice as a Dis­trict 3 rep­re­sen­ta­tive, and in­stead the seat was left for Com­mis­sioner Hal Floyd to take over a new four year term on in the process after can­di­date Tim Yarbrough, who pre­vi­ously sought ap­point­ment in 2017, dropped out of con­sid­er­a­tion for the May pri­mary.

In­stead, the time re­main­ing for Floyd’s Dis­trict 3 seat will be cov­ered by Ray Carter, who won out in a three­way race between him­self, Jeri Purdy and for­mer Com­mis­sioner Larry Reynolds in a spe­cial elec­tion in the No­vem­ber race.

Thax­ton’s de­par­ture marked the end of more than a decade of ser­vice on the board.

The com­mis­sion also wished Jose Igle­sias well after more than a year of ser­vice on the board after he lost in the May pri­mary to Gary Martin to con­tinue in the Dis­trict 1 seat.

Owner of Martin’s Styling Cen­ter and a for­mer Cedar­town City Com­mis­sioner for two terms and a Board of Ed­u­ca­tion mem­ber as well, Martin was un­op­posed on the No­vem­ber bal­lot as well.

Those who get to stay put for the next four years are Floyd, who was un­op­posed in May and No­vem­ber for Dis­trict 3, and Com­mis­sion Chair Jen­nifer Hulsey.

Hulsey ran against Ricky Clark for her seat in No­vem­ber after Clark, who pre­vi­ously ran on Repub­li­can pri­mary bal­lots, switched to a Demo­crat for 2018.

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