Madison County commissioners have long grappled with how to handle requests from property owners to adopt and maintain private drives.

Commissioner Derek Doster proposed Monday that the county look into potentially setting up special tax districts on drives where significant upgrades are needed to bring the road up to county standards. That way, residents wanting county maintenance of their private drives can pay for upgrades over a period of time in their tax bills, not all at once, and county taxpayers as a whole aren’t saddled with the cost of bringing someone else’s private roads up to county standards.

No action was taken on the matter, but commissioners seemed open to the possibility. Private drives often pose problems for the county’s emergency vehicles when they are not up to county standards. The board also tabled a request Monday to adopt Bluestone Hills Lane as a county road Monday.

In other matters, commission chairman Todd Higdon said redistricting is coming up and he’s not sure if the numbers that will be used for the county new district map are accurate. That issue is on the agenda for Nov. 1.

Higdon praised the middle school football team for winning the area title.

He asked commissioners to submit their requests for Local Maintenance and Improvement Grant (LMIG) projects. He also noted that the county has received its Georgia Broadband Ready Community Certification.

Higdon reported that 46,816 people entered the county government complex through Sept. 30 of this year. There were 151 court sessions, 44 entry denials, 740 weapons collected and returned, three removals and four incidents.

The board approved policies for the recreation department on special events, background checks, its scholarship program, uniforms, concession operations and sign advertisement sponsorships.

Prior to the regular meeting, the board held its first work session on the 2022 budget. Library director Jennifer Ivey and code enforcement department head Christopher Roach spoke about salaries with the county commissioners during a one-hour session.

Ivey requested a 3.59 percent increase in the library budget for 2022 to go toward salary increases. She noted that starting pay at the library is $8, which she said is less than pay at fast food restaurants, adding that the library staff works with the public on sensitive matters at times, such in printing divorce papers and death certificates. She asked that the starting pay be increased to $9 and hour. She noted that she began as director at $33,500 and works two jobs. She asked the board to consider a raise for her to bring her closer to director’s pay in surrounding areas. The commissioners had questions about how the county library works with the Athens Library System. They wanted to know if the Madison County Library employees receive supplemental salary funding from the 11-county system. They don’t. The library system provides support in a variety of ways, but not in terms of salary. Some libraries in other counties receive support from their local school boards or a city council. The board asked the regional director on hand Monday to find out how many libraries in the system get school board support. Higdon also asked the director to draw up a clear contract on what happens with the county money when it’s sent to the library system and what is received in return.

Roach spoke to the board about the wide range of tasks he handles. He is able to prosecute county code enforcement cases on the county’s behalf in the magistrate, probate and superior courts. He noted that he hasn’t lost a court case in his first seven months on the job, but he said he focuses on having people bring their properties into compliance with county codes without court action and that he has been successful in that way. Still, court fines were about $2,000 annually prior to his arrival, and he said he’s now bringing in about $2,000-to-$3,000 a month in revenues for the county on code violations. He spoke of his numerous certifications, including for soil and water inspections. He said he has trained code enforcement officers in other counties who make significantly more than him and that his salary doesn’t meet the state minimum for his position. He requested an increase from $18 to $25 an hour.

Roach also requested a second code enforcement officer at $15 an hour who could help with building inspections. Higdon said the county is going to need to hire someone to help with building inspections. He noted that through September, the county had 207 building permits. It had 224 through all of 2020 and 177 the year before. Higdon said that when the building inspector is out, the county has to contract for services at a high cost.

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(1) comment

Virginia Moss

The proposed tax districts for private driveways could be a solution, but private property is private property. Why make taxpayers, even only those with the driveways, pay to fuss with what is their responsibility. I'm all for personal responsibility. If private owners fail to properly maintain their own driveways, that's on them.

In some areas of the country, if you don't meet a long list of proper access to your property, you are not to expect government services. That includes room for a large fire truck to make a 360 degree turn. They let your house burn down. If you stack firewood next to your house, they will not even bother with protecting your house from wildfire. Don't expect an ambulance to help you if it can't get to you or even find your house due to lack of house number signage. Again, personal responsibility.

The county should not field requests for the county to deal with private property at all., especially when there are so many actual county-owned roads in need of repair and paving.

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