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FRONT PAGE - FEBRUARY 2, 2000 - DANIELSVILLE, GA

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HOME AT THE DAM

The Broad River Soil and Water Conservation District (BRSWCD) maintains that this house next to a Madison County earthen dam off Still O'Kelly Road interferes with the group's maintenance of the watershed structure. But a judge recently ruled that homeowner Mark Stricklett may keep the house where it is. Pictured (L-R) are BRSWCD members Barbarianne Gaulding-Russell, Carol Matthews and Dale Brubaker.
Photo by Zach Mitcham


LOCAL GOVERNMENT

Pay increases shot down
BOC denies raises for three offices, weeks after approving boosts for two departments
BY ZACH MITCHAM
The Madison County commissioners turned down requests from three county officials Monday for pay increases for their employees.
The denials came weeks after the board approved raises for employees in the offices of the probate judge and clerk of court.
Kerry Bryant, chairman of the board of tax assessors; Louise Watson, tax commissioner; and Harry Rice, magistrate judge; all asked the commissioners for raises for their employees Monday. Each was turned down and visibly frustrated with the board's vote.
"Our people aren't important enough to get our raises," said Bryant after the board rejected his request for an approximately $2,800 raise for chief appraiser Chuck Anglin in the tax assessor's office. That increase would bring Anglin in line with the state average for that position in similar sized Georgia counties, Bryant said.
"If we lose him, we can't just hire a chief appraiser off the street," Bryant said. "I think he's underpaid and should be brought up to the state level."
A clerk in the tax assessor's office would also receive a yearly pay increase of about $750 under Bryant's proposal, which he added would require a shifting of funds in the department's budget and no additional money from the county.
But board members sat silent when asked for a motion on the increases.
Commissioner Patsy Pierce, who voted against the pay scale recently implemented by the county, said the board should follow the plan.
"I feel we need to live with it," said Pierce, who mentioned more than once that length of service to the county should be a primary consideration in raises.
Pierce and commissioner Nelson Nash voted against the county pay scale passed on Dec. 13, while Melvin Drake, Bill Taylor and Bruce Scogin voted for the pay system, which sets pay rates for county positions based on a salary study of similar jobs in comparable-sized Georgia counties.
Two weeks later, Pierce, commissioner Nash, Drake and Scogin voted for $7,000 in pay increases for employees in the clerk of court's office for 2000.
Then on Jan. 10, the commissioners approved $6,000 in raises for full-time employees in the probate judge's office. Pierce, Drake and commissioner Nash voted for those increases, while Taylor and Scogin opposed the action.
Scogin asked Judge Rice whether the BOC approval of raises for employees in the clerk of court and probate offices had anything to do with the timing of pay raise requests for his employees.
Rice admitted that the recent increases were a motivating factor.
"They (magistrate court employees) are as important to me as they (probate and clerk of court employees) are to them (Judge Donald Royston and Clerk Michelle Strickland)," said Rice, who asked for approximately $1,200 in increases. "These requests are less than those that were awarded."
Watson, whose request for the establishment of another full-time position in her office was approved by the board, asked for approximately $3,400 in increases for her employees, whom she said offer polite and timely service to county residents.
After the board refused her proposal, the tax commissioner made her frustrations clear.
"I'm really disappointed that these increases are not being granted," she said. "It's a disjustice for my department."
Board members agreed they've "opened a can of worms" with the pay situation, which appears unfair to many. But they disagreed on how the current problems arose - whether it was the passage of a heavily-criticized pay plan or the approval of pay raises for two offices - increases board chairman Wesley Nash said would clearly undermine the recently established pay system.

'Move that house'
Four-year fight over home by Madison Co. dam lingers
BY ZACH MITCHAM
Members of a local conservation group led reporters to the top of a an earthen dam in Madison County Thursday, not to admire the pretty view of the water below, but to show the public a home they feel is in the path of disaster, a house they want moved.
But the owner of the property, Mark Stricklett, said the group's press conference is just a form of harassment against him. A judge has ruled that Stricklett may keep his home in its current location. And the landowner believes continued action against him is politically motivated.
Before hiking up a dirt path to the top of the dam, the Broad River Soil and Water Conservation District (BRSWCD) board members met at the Ila Restaurant Thursday with local media, outlining the group's ongoing legal battle with Stricklett. BRSWCD members say their success in forcing Stricklett to relocate his home may save lives, while allowing the state to maintain the "integrity of soil and water conservation easements" throughout Georgia - there are 357 similar dam structures in Georgia in 19 conservation districts, with over 3,500 easements.
The legal battle centers on the placement of a home off of Still O'Kelly Road. According to the Broad River group, Stricklett took 63 feet of dirt off the end of the dam in 1995 and constructed a house within the dam's spillway and flood pool, where the conservation district holds a perpetual easement.
A judge recently ruled in Stricklett's favor, but the BRSWCD has appealed the case to the Georgia Supreme Court.


Animal shelter may sit next to landfill
BY ZACH MITCHAM
A Madison County animal shelter next to the county landfill may be in the works.
The Madison County Board of Commissioners agreed to allow commission chairman Wesley Nash to search for a building site on land next to the landfill off of Colbert-Danielsville Road.
Nash said he will ask local engineering consultant Charlie Armentrout to aid in the search. District 5 commissioner Bruce Scogin will also assist in the project.
Chairman Nash said the Madison-Oglethorpe Animal Shelter Committee has raised about $55,000 for a shelter, with pledges for more money expected.
"There's a fair amount of money," said Nash. "And I'd like to move forward with the project."
Nash said Oglethorpe County is interested in paying fees for use of the facility. But he said Elbert County is no longer interested in a partnership.



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