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Auburn approves FY23 budget

The City of Auburn approved a balanced general fund budget for fiscal year 2023 (FY23) in the amount of $7,113,786 during the city council's business meeting Thursday, Sept. 1.

The city's millage rate remains at 4.93, as it has for over 20 years.

The city's fiscal year begins Oct. 1 and ends Sept. 30 of each year.

Auburn's general fund balances anticipated revenues and other financing sources to equal proposed expenditures and expenses.

Some key changes on the FY23 budget include increased funding for code enforcement, police and public works departments.

Code enforcement funding jumps from $60,841 in 2022 to $107,671 in 2023. The police department's funding jumps from $1.8 million proposed in 2022 to just over $2.1 million in 2023.

The public works department will also receive increased funding in 2023 as its budget jumped from roughly $243,000 to $391,238.

The city decreased funding for the Perry Rainey Center by about $50,000 as well as a $70,000 dip in parks and recreation funding.

The city's special events fund went up by just a few hundred dollars and totals nearly $80,000 and its library fund will total $164,720, a slight increase from 2022.

The city's water fund budget is balanced at $2,269,474 and its stormwater budget is balanced at $119,675.

Barrow County man convicted in 2018 murder of Montez Watson

On Sept. 1, a Walton County jury convicted Michael Brent Huff, 51, for the murder of Montez Watson, 32, of Loganville, who was found buried at the property Huff rented at 1050 Fleeman Road in Hoschton.

Huff was convicted of various other crimes he subsequently committed in relation to the killing, including concealing the death of another, tampering with evidence and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony and aggravated assault.

“This is a step towards justice for Montez Watson and a level of closure for his family,” said Walton County District Attorney Randy McGinley said in a social media post.

On May 1, 2018, the mother of Montez Watson visited the Barrow County Sheriff's Office seeking assistance in locating her son, who was last seen on Feb. 5 in Loganville, but was not reported missing until March 6 in Walton County.

Once Barrow received the tip from Watson's mother, a search warrant was served at Huff's home May 2, where he and his wife Jennifer, 47, resided.

On May 9, BCSO investigators found Watson's body buried on the property.

According to evidence presented at trial, Watson was shot in the chest and the back of the head Feb. 7, 2018, while at his girlfriend’s home in Walton County. Watson’s girlfriend was Huff’s daughter.

The bathroom where the shooting allegedly occurred appeared to have been cleaned in an attempt to hide evidence of the crime, said prosecutors.

With his wife as an accomplice, Huff then took Watson’s body to their home in Barrow County and buried him near a shed behind their house.

After the couple fled during the search, Huff surrendered to BCSO May 10 and his wife was found and was subsequently charged with murder. Jennifer was found by police in Laurinburg, N.C. and transported to Barrow County.

On May 24, 2018, Walton County Sheriff’s Office announced Michael Huff and Mark Campbell were charged with felony murder and aggravated assault following an investigation into Watson's death.

According to WCSO, Michael Huff, Jennifer Huff and two other accomplices, Mark Campbell and Wanda Campbell, still face charges in Barrow County in reference to concealing the death of another and tampering with evidence.

The GBI assisted law enforcement agencies in both Walton and Barrow counties.

Fall festivals and fun happening around Barrow

Those looking to bask in all things fall this season will have plenty of opportunities to enjoy the sights, smells and crisp air at the following local festivals happening around Barrow County:


Statham's Sunflower Festival returns Sept. 17 with over 100 vendors participating offering attendees local goods and yummy food. Bring the kids for bouncy houses and snow cones.


AuburnFest returns Saturday, Oct. 1 to downtown Auburn. This year, the city will be celebrating 130 years with food trucks, craft vendors, live music and pie baking, canning, quilting and knitting contests. Area backyard barbecue competitors will also be showcasing their finest smoking skills in a barbecue competition. Prizes will be given away to all contest winners. Auburn's hometown festival will also offer lots of activities for kids at its Kids Zone, which will include face painting, inflatables and free crafts at the Auburn Public Library. The one-day event will be held 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, or to sign up for a booth, contact


Voted one of the top five festivals in the state of Georgia, this year's annual event is Oct. 21-23 from 12-5 p.m. and will feature 350+ vendors, who line the streets of downtown Braselton. Shop for antiques, furniture, farmhouse, local artwork, boutique, home décor, hand crafted, primitives, rustic, salvage, good ole junk and more. The event will also feature live music and 12 food trucks, adult beverages and ice cream and snow cones for the kids.


The City of Winder will host its annual Spooktacular trick-or-treating event Friday, Oct. 28 from 5 to 9 p.m. In addition to trick-or-treating downtown, carnival rides and bouncy houses will be set up in the grassy area on Athens Street across from Jug Tavern Park.  The Community Center Parking lot will host multiple food trucks and live music will begin at 7 p.m. at Jug Tavern Park. The concert at Jug Tavern Park will run until approximately 9 p.m. Any tents, tables or decorations should be removed prior to the concert.  Local businesses are encouraged to participate by setting up candy stations outside each place of business. Be sure to sign up online using the Trick-or-Treat Booth Application link located in the left navigation pane. Submit the registration form prior to Oct. 1 and an event map will be made available online by Oct. 10.

The event is open to the public and road closures will allow trick-or-treat activities to safely be centralized to the downtown area. Local businesses are advised to be prepared with enough candy for 1,500 + trick-or-treaters.


The Barrow County Farmer's Market is hosting a fall festival Nov. 19 from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. at 15 Porter Street in Winder for its last market of the season. The festival will feature food, crafts, produce, plants, live music and fun for the entire family.


When will Winder repair its roads?

The City of Winder recently resurfaced nearly eight miles of its residential streets, representing the $1 million it budgeted for fiscal year 2022 for street improvements.

Microsurfacing was used on 6.74 miles, for a cost of $786,000, and roughly one mile was resurfaced using traditional mill and asphalt overlay for a cost of $208,000.

According the city, the micro surfacing process resurfaces almost twice the length of road for the same cost as the more traditional mill and overlay.

"The trick to using the micro surfacing is applying the treatment before the pavement has deteriorated too far. It may appear we are not addressing some roads in greater need of repair, however this is necessary to receive a greater value in the long run,” said Winder Mayor David Maynard.

Altogether, 7.68 miles of roadways were resurfaced representing $788,555.25 total investment in the city’s infrastructure. The Georgia Department of Transportation’s Local Maintenance and Improvement Grant (LMIG) represents $209,500 of the project.


The city’s approach to managing the condition of its roadways is outlined in a Street Management Policy (SMP), which provides a forecast of recommended funding to annually resurface the city's aging infrastructure for the next 10 years based on the Pavement Condition Index (PCI) rating summary.

Winder's street network, which consists of approximately 100 centerline miles and 200 lane miles of streets, has an average PCI rating of 73.9, which is falls in the fair condition category (PCI = 65-79). Pavements in this category exhibit multiple distress types, density and severity. The degree and type of distress is matched with the proper preservation treatment to add optimal years of service life.

This doesn't include private streets, state or federal highways.

In 2021, the city estimated the network replacement value (NRV) for the city's streets will cost roughly $74 million.

The city estimates spending 2% of the NRV ($1,485,826) each year in order to maintain its current PCI rating. If the city spends 2.5% of the NRV ($1,857,283), it would slightly increase the average PCI rating overtime.

The goal of SMP policy is to reach annual program funding equivalent to 2.5% of the NRV by fiscal year (FY) 2026. In the meantime, there's a significant increase in funding dollars required each year to catch up to the 2.5% NRV funding level. This estimate includes expected inflation.

Over the next decade, with the city's paving fund distribution planned to progressively increase year-to-year, the city anticipates peaking in 2031 at just over $2.1 million.

For comparison, total funding was set at $1 million and in FY2022 and it's set at just over $1.2 million in FY2023.


Aside from LMIG funds, road repairs and street resurfacing projects are largely funded with proceeds the city receives from the 2022 Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST).

The projects that will be funded by 2022 SPLOST were approved via a voter referendum in the Nov. 2021 election.

According to the city's approved FY2023 budget, voters allocated 26% of those funds to go towards transportation improvements, which includes roads, streets, sidewalks, trails, parking and other similar projects.

Voters allocated the remaining 2022 SPLOST funds to the police and fire departments (12% each), stormwater infrastructure (15%), cemetery greenspace and cultural and historic projects (10%), administrative facilities and equipment (10%) and sanitation and waste facilities and equipment (10%).

On the approved budget, however, the city notes, "although the percentages were approved by the voters, all projects were given equal priority for funding and selecting."

As a result, the city's list of projects it plans to use SPLOST 2022 as the funding source isn't reflective of those voter-approved proportions.

Some of the most expensive items on the capital projects list using these funds include a $2 million indoor gun range, a $900,000 LMIG improvement, $467,596 debt service for a fire engine the city purchased with 2018 SPLOST, a $324,000 fuel station, a $200,000 "pothole program," a $200,000 non-CDL leaf truck, $100,000 for an updated vehicle fleet and nearly $1 million worth of new work trucks, vehicles, equipment and technology updates, most of which fall under the "desirable" category.

The following are some of the streets the city recently resurfaced, which were budgeted for FY22:

  • Miles Patrick: .62 Miles 
  • Ashley Ct: .05 Miles
  • Reagan Dr: .2 Miles
  • 2nd Ave: .28 Miles
  • Alexander Ct: .22 Miles
  • Bellingrath Dr: .46 Miles 
  • Jasmine Dr: .44 Miles
  • Natchez Cir: .67 Miles
  • Bayou Ln: .43 Miles
  • Mossy Trace: .16 Miles
  • Monticello Ct: .16 Miles