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 OPINION PAGE - JULY 14, 1999 - DANIELSVILLE, GEORGIA

Letters to the Editor
The Madison County Journal
July 14, 1999

Responds to Dove, Bullock letters on county politics
Dear editor:
In response to the letters in the Madison County Journal on July 7 from Leigh Dove and Paul Bullock, I agree with Dove up to a point. It is sad that lawsuits must happen in order to try to make Madison County government run efficiently.
As for Paul Bullock's letter, and that of George Boutwell last week - they have overused the cow story without giving any officer's name so often that I smile. Even their quotes are mis-quotes.
Ms. Pierce stated that "it would not surprise her if Mr. Mattox had defaced his own signs." That sounded like slander to me. I know Mr. Mattox is not a fool. It would take a fool to do a thing like that!
Mr. Mattox stated an obvious fact: "It must have been a Pierce supporter." Duh!
It does not take a genius to realize the simple truth here. Bullock's letter is so obviously throwing trash at Pat Graham, that a simple- minded 6-year-old could see it. Mr. Graham has a lot more patience than me. I'd sue Bullock's pants off!
As for judges, in the 1970s in Bartow County, the citizens worked at and got rid of a crooked judge named J.L. Davis. It happens!
Sincerely,
Jo Anne Parrish White
Danielsville



Column
By Zach Mitcham
The Madison County Journal
July 14, 1999

Pierce should drop action against Nash
One person asked me after Monday's commissioners' meeting what I will write about when the squabbles between county leaders subside.
"I don't know," I said without really thinking about it.
But then I considered the prospect. It's true: if anybody gains from all the ill will in the county, it's us - the newspapers. The conflicts lead to big headlines, stories, letters, ads. We sink a hefty load of money on newsprint and paper to run the latest bad blood escapades, but there's certainly a payoff.
And when I'm facing a slow news week, it seems something always pops up, somebody's taking so and so to court, somebody's accusing their political enemy of this or that.
Perhaps a big "thank you" is in order to those with a chip on their shoulder. They've really made my job easier.
But I'll be happy to see these fights laid to rest. The conflicts between those running the county are out of hand.
Commissioner Patsy Pierce's latest action against board chairman Wesley Nash is just another example of the politics of pettiness so pervasive in this county over the past couple of years.
Nash has acted unlawfully before, ignoring the authority of the board. That's been proven in court and upheld on appeal. Now Pierce says Nash is at it again, violating the law by not carrying out a judge's orders.
So is Nash a renegade chairman? Or are these allegations simply a smokescreen put up by Pierce to cover her own problems?
Let's look at probably the most serious accusation in Pierce's contempt order against Nash, that of illegal hiring and salary setting. It's with these allegations that we can get the clearest picture of what's going on.
Pierce says that since the ruling against him, Nash has accepted the board's personnel actions with less than three required "yes" votes. She points to the 2-1 board votes to hire Donna Hilley and set the wages of Morris Fortson and Connie Riley as proof that Nash is breaking the law.
Consider that the actions on Hilley and Riley have since been reaffirmed by the board with three "yes" votes. Also, Pierce can't claim the board was left out of the loop on these matters. Unlike proven previous illegal hirings, these personnel decisions were in the board's hands, not the chairman's.
But here's the real rub, the heart of the matter:
Pierce, Ken Clark and Jack Fortson cut Morris Fortson's pay by $13,000 early this year. Then Clark resigned. So that faction no longer had the numbers to make the pay cut stick. Nelson Nash and Bill Taylor were opposed to the salary reduction, creating a 2-2 split at the commissioners' table over the clerk's pay. All ties are broken by the chairman. It's pretty obvious that the chairman won't support the pay cut for his assistant. The salary should be reinstated by a 3-2 vote, right? No, Pierce missed the meeting in which Fortson's salary was readjusted, then claimed that the board had acted illegally by going ahead with a vote. When the clerk's pay was brought up later with all four district commissioners present, Pierce and Fortson refused to vote. If they don't vote, there's no tie, no vote from the chairman, no way the clerk gets his original salary.
Perhaps commissioners should simply miss meetings or refuse to vote when they disapprove of some measure they can't stop. They can do this and then claim the others who voted broke the law.
It's appalling that Pierce is trying to paint Nash as a lawbreaker on the three-vote issue, when it's her that's guilty of a backhanded tactic.
One commissioner talked Monday of letting go of old animosities, of "burying the hatchet."
It appears the only hatchet burying in this county is deep in your opponent's back.
Zach Mitcham is editor of The Madison County Journal.



Column
Frank Gillespie
The Madison County Journal
July 14, 1999

Frankly Speaking
Water management needs careful look
The Madison County Board of Commissioners faces a decision about management of the county's fledgling water system. Steve Sorrells, chairman of the county's Industrial Authority, which is taking the initial lead in developing the system, issued a list of possible management options recently.
They include: a county water department, a water authority and a private management contract. Sorrells added that whichever system the county chooses, the most important decision will be to find "a good water person" to supervise the project.
This decision needs to be well researched before any commitments are made. There are too many unanswered questions. How large will the county's water system be? Is it to serve the general public, or be limited to commercial, school and government agencies? Do we need a countywide system, or should it be limited to high growth areas? How soon can we start building a sewage system to compliment the water?
With these and other questions facing the county, Sorrells' suggestion that a "good water person" be found and employed by the county is a good one. Even if the county establishes a water authority or signs a contract with a private firm, some kind of supervision by county government will be necessary.
There are two answers to this problem. The county can create a position within county government and recruit the best available person to fill it, or they can hire an independent consultant to advise the commission.
Establishing a new department of county government would be expensive. Salaries for the department head and staff, office space and equipment, utilities and supplies would all have to be paid for. Once in place, however, that department would be dedicated only to the needs of Madison County. Commissioners could count on rapid action when decisions must be made quickly.
An outside consultant would have his/her own office and staff. That office would cover more activities than just Madison County projects, and presumably, reduce the cost to the county. However, the consultant would be working on a number of projects at the same time, and may not be available for quick action when called on.
I suggest that the Board of Commissioners consider creating a Department of Utilities that would not only handle the water system, but also work with other service providers. An expert on utilities might be able to obtain better service to the county from Cable TV providers, and help determine the future need for public transportation.
A Department of Utilities, with the proper director, would cost some money to establish.
But, in my opinion, such an office would save considerable amounts of tax money, and assure the public better county services in the future.
Frank Gillispie is founder of The Madison County Journal.


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