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