Banks County Opinions...

November 7, 2001


By Phillip Sartain
The Banks County News
November 7, 2001

Garage tales
I just cleaned out our garage for the 10th time in the last 10 years. And let's be honest here - it was just as useless an effort as the first nine times. The entire project was doomed to failure from the start and I did it anyway. Even worse, my efforts were so predictably futile that I think that I've already written this column several times before.
Come to think of it, I've already complained about our junky attic, our junky cellar, our junk room, our junk drawer, and the junk under the seat of my truck. So what's one more babbling piece about a junked-up garage?
First off, I want know what evil mind launched the idea of a separate little house to store your car in the first place? It's a nightmare that never ends, a perpetual cleaning and cluttering, cleaning and cluttering, cleaning and cluttering. For the record, we have pretty much mastered the cluttering part.
When my wife and I bought our house, it came with a garage. Having never had a garage, it was a mystical experience for me. People would ask, "How many bedrooms does it have?" I would look at them like I was in a trance and mutter, "It has a garage." They'd look at me for minute and then walk off to find my wife for the rest of the layout.
I got to park on my side of the garage exactly two weeks and six days before I lost control. In that short amount of time, my side of the garage was completely consumed by junk. I resisted for as long as I could, but I was fighting a fungus. Lydia lasted a little longer, hanging in there for a record six months.
After that, it was all we could do to stem the tide of junk from flowing out of the garage, down the driveway and into the street. The sole function of my annual cleaning is to prevent our yard from looking like a year-round yard sale. Even so, when I raise the door on the weekends, I still have to run people off that think we're open for business.
Finally, I decided to talk to a house counselor about the problem. He charged me two hundred bucks to tell me that the only way to break the curse was to convert the garage into a rec room.
"You're crazy," I told him. "I'm planning on using it again. Soon."
He laughed at me and then he looked at me sharply. "You're in denial."
"No, really," I said. "I'm going to clean it out and park a car in it."
"You pervert," he snarled at me. "When the rest of the neighborhood hears that, they'll run you out of town."
"But that's why I bought the house in the first place."
The counselor leaned toward me, "Listen pal, if you don't break free from the cycle now, you're going to have to get a license from the city to run a junk yard."
"But where will we park our cars?"
"Where they belong," he roared. "Outside."
I reeled in horror. "But they'll get wet and cold and everything."
The counselor held up his hands. "You people are all alike. Cars are not real. They don't have feelings, so stop treating them like the family pet."
As he talked, I began to feel a sense of relief. After all, he had all the credentials and his office was a converted three-car garage. So he knows his stuff. And he's written a self-help book on breaking the clutter/cleaning cycle of garage madness. I bought a bunch of extra copies to give away as gifts.
I'm going to read it myself when I get the chance. In the meantime, I'm keeping the books stored in the garage. But just until we get started on the construction project. When we finish, we'll store them in the new rec room with the rest of our junk.
Phillip Bond Sartain is a Gainesville attorney.


By Shar Porier
The Banks County News
November 7, 2001

A tale of two taxes
It's been rough these past few weeks on the city councils of Baldwin and Maysville.
It has to do with that "B" word that leads to the "R" word as applied to the "T" word. Budget - Raise - Taxes.
The cities, just like the rest of us, are having difficulty making the expense column equal the income column. They suffer the same increases in utilities as we do; the same increases at the gas pump. Like us, they make every effort to keep something back for an emergency. They, too, have plumbing, furnaces, air conditioners and vehicles to keep up. We have mortgage payments; they have bond loans. We all struggle to survive in an economy that gives us no quarter.
City councils have a tough job keeping a city in the black. Nobody wants to raise taxes.
Baldwin's council has just experienced its first public hearing on a tax increase. It did not go over well. A handful of residents appeared at the meeting to speak out against the increase. Something most people don't realize is when the public hearings begin, the budget is already set. Budget talks are held months in advance of public hearings. Baldwin's city council held a number of work sessions on the budget. Even though the meetings were listed in The Banks County News, not one resident was present. So, they didn't hear how the firefighters and police officers decided to for-go a raise in salary for the hiring of needed additional manpower. They didn't hear the concerns nor see the scratching of heads as the council members fought to hold down costs. For hours and hours they'd go back and forth from department head to department head, cutting a little here and little there. Trying to get to a bare-bone budget.
The same is true for Maysville. Council members worked to hold costs down and finally came up with the best budget they could. Unfortunately, to end the fiscal year in the black, Banks County residents in the city limits will be hit with a fire tax. The council has to impose it because the city can no longer afford to pay for fire service that some think should be paid by Banks County. After all, Banks County includes fire service in its ad valorem tax. That portion of tax could come back to the residents who paid for it.
Whether or not the Banks County residents understand the double payment, the council had to enact the tax to meet the needs of the city. Making such a decision will probably put the city at odds with residents, as well as the county. Yet, it is an earnest effort to balance the budget in spite of possible uncomfortable political consequences.
These council members are trying their best to run their cities efficiently and effectively. They put in long hours for little pay. They are on call, no matter the hour, every day they spend in office.
If more people attended the public meetings, the more they would learn about the workings of the councils and what they manage to accomplish with limited funds and staff.
Shar Porier is a reporter for The Banks County News.




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