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County Government Annex open; access limited to one person in each office

The County Government Annex remains open but access has been limited due to concerns with the spread of the coronavirus.

The Annex is still open for business with normal operating hours.

“We have directed all foot traffic to the south end entrance of the building except for employees with scan card access,” county clerk Jenni Gailey states. “We have locked the doors at the front entrance at the roundabout. We have limited foot traffic to one person at a time in all offices.”

Hand sanitizer stations have been placed in entrances.

“Of course, we are considering every bit of information that we get from our departments - fire/ems, sheriff, ema as well as state agencies,” Gailey adds.”

The March 24 Banks County Board of Commissioners meeting has already been cancelled.

“We may have to consider teleconferencing meetings if this continues,” Gailey states.”

The Banks County Senior Citizen’s Center is closed until further notice.

The Banks County Recreation Programs are also cancelled until further notice.

Homer plans public hearing on water, garbage increases

The Homer City Council agreed March 10 to raise its water and garbage rates and to hold a public hearing about those increases at the beginning of the April 14 council meeting.

Homer council members approved raising the minimum water bill from $14 to $16 for up to 3,000 gallons of water. Additional water above the 3,000 gallons will be $6 per thousand gallons.

Garbage rates will go from $15 to $17 a month. The city’s garbage contractor increased its rates in July 2019 by 18 cents.

James Dumas suggested the public hearing. He has brought it up at several recent meetings as a way to get residents’ comments.

He also said the Georgia Rural Water Association is expected to send representatives to an April meeting. He cited a view from the group that water rates could be based on the size of meters. Meters as small as ½-inch can be used, he said.

The council deferred a decision on a sewage feasibility study by Turnipseed Engineers, a firm that has done extensive work for the city. The study, which would cost $24,500, would identify potential routes and the financial feasibility of each if the city were to join the county in a sewer project.

A study would take three to six months. Dumas said if the city went ahead with a sewer project, it would have to contract with an engineering firm for extensive drawings about it.

The county has proposed the city run collection lines and send sewage waste to the county for treatment. The county has a treatment facility near the Atlanta Dragway. The county has said it will provide sewer service to the Martin Bridge Rd. exit on Interstate 85.

City council members have been debating the issue for months.

Banks County High School and Banks County Elementary School have told the county they would like to have sewer service. The high school has problems now with high school football games, council members have said.


In other business, the council:

•agreed to spend nearly $68,000 for new software from Harris Local Government that would save employees time when posting information. Carol Ayers, Homer city clerk, said the software should serve the city for 10 years or longer. The software will send information to several specific locations that now have to be entered one at a time. Banks County government uses the same system and has “for years,” Ayers said. The software will be paid for with SPLOST – Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax – money.

•agreed to spend a bit more than $7,700 to reconfigure the front of the city hall office. Jeff Banks got the bid, one of two the city received, for extending a wall from the current office to the front wall of the building. That would provide additional space for current city business and for a new office that is there and needs some furniture.

•approved a 3 percent increase in salaries and a $2 per hour increase for non-salaried employees, effective July 1. The motion for the pay increase came after a closed session of the council.

•heard a report about property on Chambers St. that the city is taking efforts to clean up. City attorney David Syfan said one certified letter has been sent to the property owner and another had been refused. He suggested having the letter hand-delivered to establish a pattern that the city had tried multiple steps to get it cleaned up. He said the move would help establish that the city has given the owner “several opportunities” to respond. That would help in a court case, he said. A woman, Kay Dixon Allen, complained that the property is in bad shape and does not have running water or electricity to it. She said the property owner has allowed it to deteriorate.

•took no action on a request that the city adopt a “hunting” ordinance. No one attended to speak for it and council quickly decided to take no action.

•met in a closed session about litigation against the city from the owners of the Chimney Oaks Golf Course. The owners filed suit over the city’s refusal to grant a liquor by the drink license. Council voted months ago to hold a referendum on liquor sales, beer and wine sales. That referendum was scheduled to be held in conjunction with the presidential primary, but that has been postponed until May 19. A hearing was set to hear an injunction request Wednesday that the referendum not be held. As of Monday afternoon, a decision on that hearing had not been made.

Dana Simmons named principal at BCES

The Banks County Board of Education voted, at the March 12 meeting, to appoint Dana Simmons as the principal of Banks County Elementary School.

Simmons, who is currently the assistant principal at BCES, will assume the role for the upcoming school year.  Simmons also served as the instructional lead teacher at BCES. Prior to becoming an instructional lead teacher, she served as a counselor at the primary school. Simmons began her career in 2000 with the school system teaching special education at Banks County High School.

Simmons holds her doctoral degree in leadership from Liberty University and is a 1996 graduate of Banks County High School. Simmons is a life-long resident of Banks County. Her family resides in Baldwin.

Simmons is replacing Nancy Bentley, who is making the shift to the director of special education for the system.


In other business at the March 12 meeting, the BOE:

•hired Gatlin Boswell, teacher, effective 2020-2021 school year.

•accepted the resignation of Susan Reems, paraprofessional, effective Feb. 28.

•accepted the resignation of Constance Giudici, attendance clerk, effective March 13.

•hired Tanner Clark and Brittany Dodd, bus drivers, effective immediately.

•named Anthony Seabolt as the Georgia School Board Association delegate. Mark Stroud was named as the alternate.

Homer approves emergency ordinance outlying town operations related to coronavirus

The Homer Town Council held a called meeting Monday, March 23, to approve an emergency ordinance to outline how city operations will be conducted during the shutdown due to public health concerns with the spread of the Covid-19 virus.

The ordinance provides for the mayor to issue policies, orders and regulations necessary to respond to this public health emergency, outlines how town council meetings are to

be handled during the state of emergency and how other town business will be conducted.

The ordinance provides for the following:

•town council meetings may be conducted by electronic means, including audio or video conference.

•the mayor may suspend licenses or permits for events issued earlier by the town that may impact public health or well-being of the community.

•the mayor may authorize the purchase, for which funds are available, of items related to the emergency. Such purchases may be made without following the purchasing requirements of the town’s municipal code.

•the mayor is authorized to adjust any personnel policies related to leave time and other conditions of employment related to providing sufficient staffing related to an emergency.

•a zoning moratorium is imposed as to all proposed zoning applications of any type for the term of this emergency.

•the mayor is authorized to close town facilities to the general public to protect the health of the public and the town employees.

•municipal court is suspended during the term of the emergency.

•the mayor is authorized to extend the deadlines for payment related to any amounts owned to the town during the term of the emergency.

•in the absence of the mayor, the mayor may delegate such powers outlined in the ordinance to an emergency interim successor.

•the ordinance is in effect for 30 days from the passage, which was March 23.