The City of Commerce increased its millage for the current budget year.
The council unanimously adopted a tax rate of 3.886 mills Sept.16, slightly higher than 3.817 mills last year.
Commerce’s tax rate was lowered in 2015 to 4.020 mills and it stayed at that level for three years.
According to the “current 2019 tax digest and 5-year history of levy,” Commerce will get $747,342 in property taxes for FY2020, which started July 1. That would be an increase of $43,000 over FY2019, an increase of about 6 percent.
The city’s 2019 net tax digest is $192.3 million, up about $7.8 million over the 2018 net tax digest.
The council also denied one request for a variance and tabled a second request.
The tabled request is for a variance at 338 B. Wilson Rd. for storage units. Bryan and Tawana Wood requested a change so that a fence would not be required and asphalt paving would not be required in the middle of the units.
Tawana Wood told the council the building is 10 feet high and the fence would be only six feet. She said the couple would commit to planting shrubbery around the structure to partially shield it from view.
The building also would be “self-secure,” she said. The building would be in a rectangle with an opening for a road and gate. The inside – area between the building – would have a gravel surface, which the couple said would be permeable and would help with water drainage.
The request was delayed one month “so we all know what we’re getting,” council member Bobby Redmon said.
On the other request, the council denied a variance to allow an auto restoration shop on a Homer Rd. lot.
The variance requested for the shop would be an illegal use in the OCR zone. Hill and council members noted a request could be made to the planning commission for a C-2 zone.
Hill said the lot also is too small for the requested use.
In other business, the council:
•was asked to donate $500 toward “conceptual drawings” for a proposed county aquatic center. Jefferson Mayor Steve Quinn asked the council for the donation and he emphasized that a decision to build has not been made. “I’m not asking you to donate to something that’s a sure thing,” Quinn said. The Jefferson City Council agreed to a study committee, which has seven members, including Darren Owensby from the Commerce City Council. Quinn said, “We have so far to go. We have so much to learn.” He said he would not support plans that did not project a self-sustaining operation for the aquatic center.
•heard Wascher say the city will be asked to close a street so the side of the Oxford building can be cleaned up. He said 1818 Properties, which is renovating the Oxford building, has said a road between the buildings need to be closed while the cleaning and renovations are done. He said that likely would come to the council in October.
•heard that the city’s annual cleanup week will be Oct. 14-18. Sandra Haggard, city clerk, in an announcement Monday said the week gives residents a chance “to clean out the garage or attic and dispose of unwanted yard waste.” Wascher said it would not include picking up electronics, paint, tires and construction materials.
A man allegedly attempted to strangle and smother a woman inside her apartment on River Walk Ln. on September 5. Jefferson Police Department officers found the man walking down Hwy. 11 where they arrested him.
The woman said Kolby Dean Quiett, 36, 46 River Walk Ln., Jefferson, wanted to resume their dating relationship, but after she refused, he became angry and assaulted her.
Quiett allegedly punched the woman in the face, grabbed her by the throat and pushed her against a wall. The woman initially was able to escape, but Quiett caught her, allegedly took her down and put a pillow over her face. When that didn't work, he removed the pillow and used his hands to cover her mouth and nose.
The woman reportedly told officers she "was intending to die," before she bit his pinky finger. Quiett then ended the assault.
The woman said she was afraid to call 911 because she claimed she was told she could go to jail for having contact with Quiett. There is a bond order in place prohibiting Quiett from having contact with the woman. She said she called 911 anyways because she feared for her life and Quiett left the residence. The officer noticed the apartment had been destroyed.
A Jackson County Sheriff's Office deputy later found Quiett walking on Hwy. 11 near the Gwinnett Medical Clinic. Quiett resisted arrest until a Jefferson PD officer arrived and apprehended him.
Quiett made several threats to the officer on the way to the Jackson County Jail and even spit on him twice. He told the officer he would "get" him and said he was "243 gang, down for life." When asked what gang he was referring top, Quiett said the officer would "find out."
Because of Quiett's conduct, the officer turned the police sirens and lights on to rush to the jail faster. Quiett urged the officer to slow down, but continued to threaten officers. At the jail, Quiett continued to struggle with deputies. Quiett had to be restrained in a chair with a spit mask.
Quiett is charged with aggravated assault, aggravated battery, obstruction of law enforcement officers, terroristic threats, aggravated stalking and criminal trespass.
Jackson County is in the running for a “small- to medium size” industrial project, the county’s economic development director said Friday, Sept. 13.
The Jackson County Industrial Development Authority met in a called meeting Friday to consider an incentive package for the company.
John Scott, vice president of the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce and economic development director for the county, characterized the project as “fast moving” and said the company may make a decision on a site within a week or two.
He said the company is considering two sites in Jackson County and one site near the county.
Scott said he was “pulling together a small incentive package” Sept. 13.
He said the company would make a capital investment of about $50 million and would create about 50 jobs.
He said the county has known about the project for about six months.
Once the company makes a decision on a site, Scott said, “due diligence” must be finished by the county and the company before a final decision is made.
The bridge on State Route 82 Spur over the North Oconee River opened to traffic Friday, Sept. 13.
The new bridge replaces a structure built over 60 years ago and features two 12-foot lanes along with paved shoulders.
Visitation and funeral services have been announced for former state legislator and Commerce mayor Tommy Stephenson.
Visitation will be held Wednesday from 5-8 p.m. at Little Ward Funeral Home in Commerce.
Funeral services will be held in the Little Ward chapel on Thursday at 11 a.m.
In lieu of flowers, donation can be made to the Commerce Rec. Department or the Commerce Public Library.
Stephenson died Sept. 16 of injuries from a car wreck that happened Sept. 9, according to a family social media posting.
Stephenson, 64, served as mayor of Commerce being elected when he was 25-years-old in the early 1980s. He was later elected to the Jackson County Board of Commissioners.
In 1992, Stephenson was elected to the Georgia State House of Representatives where he served on the Defense & Veterans Affairs, Ethics, Health & Ecology and Rules committees. He eventually rose to be Majority Whip in the House.
He served as state representative until 1996 when he made an unsuccessful bid for Congress.
Stephenson was a respiratory therapist at Wellstar Kennestone Hospital and a member of River of Life Worship Center.
In addition to his parents, Stephenson was preceded in death by his son, Bo Stephenson; brothers, Leon and Bobby Stephenson; sisters, Joan Stephenson and Kay Franklin.
Stephenson is survived by his daughters, Kayla Smith (Charlie) and April Toney both of Commerce; sons, Jody and Steven Rogers both of Commerce; four grandchildren, Charlsey and Ceily Smith, Ella and Jack Toney; brothers, David and Jimbo Stephenson both of Commerce; and sisters, Linda Adams of Nicholson and Shirley Bell of Jefferson.
Facilities projects were the main topic of action at the Sept. 9 Jackson County Board of Education meeting.
After several months of discussion, the BOE named Lindsay Pope Brayfield Clifford & Associates, Inc. for architectural and engineering services for the Empower College and Career Center. The firm will be paid an initial $20,000 and will earn a fee of five percent of the construction costs.
The school system will convert the existing Jackson County Comprehensive High School into a college and career academy after that school relocates to its new home in West Jackson in 2021.
The board also approved hiring Carroll Daniel Construction as the construction manager at-risk to renovate East Jackson Middle School. The $5.5 million project is expected to begin in May 2020 and be completed by June 2021.
The board also approved HVAC projects at East Jackson Elementary, Maysville Elementary, West Jackson Elementary and East Jackson Comprehensive High School. The action included approving the projects in the systems 2021 state capital outlay projects and to hire Southern A&E as the architect for the projects.
In other facilities action, the BOE approved leasing part of the former West Jackson Primary School facility to Northeast Church. The lease payments start at $1,875 per month and gradually go up to $4,125 per month in April 2021.
The church has been located in part of the old Mitsubishi facility in Braselton for the past few years.
Judge David R. Sweat will hear the two recall challenges filed by Hoschton mayor Theresa Kenerly and mayor pro tem Jim Cleveland.
No hearing date had been announced as of press time.
The issue started after Kenerly allegedly pulled a candidate for the city administrator position because he is black and said the city wasn't "ready for that." Cleveland defended Kenerly in a news article and also expressed his views against interracial relationships.
In the months following, citizens have continuously called for their resignation and a number of ethics complaints have been filed against them.
A recall effort was also initiated and organizers submitted an application for a recall petition with the required 100 signatures in early September. Kenerly and Cleveland filed challenges in superior court on Sept. 6.
Sweat has heard numerous controversial cases in Jackson County in the past. He was a visiting judge for the Pendergrass whistleblower's trial in 2017, and for Steve Bryant's petition to challenge the Jackson County Board of Education Post 5 race after he lost to Don Clerici in 2018.
All three school systems in Jackson County have now set their millage rates for the current year.
The Jefferson City School System kept its rate the same while the Commerce City School System increased its rate and the Jackson County School System lowered its millage rate.
Because the systems' net tax digests are higher, each will get more in property tax revenues in 2019 than they did in 2018.
Both Commerce and Jefferson had a quirk in their digests for 2019 where the "rollback" rates were actually higher than the year before. That was due to lower commercial and industrial values in those two towns, which created an odd result in the state's tax formula used to calculate rollback rates.
Collectively, the three systems will generate $48.28 million in operations from property taxes.
Local property taxes make up only part of any school system's finances with the rest coming from state and federal funds.
In an early-morning called meeting Sept. 13, the Jackson County Board of Education approved a tax rate of 18.655 mills for general operations and 2.7 mills for bond repayments. The operations rate is slightly less than last year, which was 18.858 mills.
The Jackson County School System is by far the largest in the county. It will net $34.9 million this year with that rate, up $2.3 million from last year.
The Jefferson Board of Education approved its tax rates for 2019 at its regular meeting Sept. 12. The board kept its rates the same at 15.157 mills for operations and 3.845 mills for bond repayments.
The operations rate will net the system a little over $10 million in local taxes for the year.
The Commerce Board of Education set its millage rate at its meeting on Sept. 9. The board set the system's rate at 19.062 mills, up from 18.694 mills in 2018. The system's bond rate will be 3.0 mills.
The millage increase is the system's "rollback" rate, which is higher than last year due to the odd situation with the tax digest this year.
Commerce's operations rate will net the system around $3.38 million for 2019.