Madison County leaders have long said that there’s not enough money to maintain all the roads in the county, but could something be done?
“With the amount of money we have for roads, and the amount of roads we have in miles, and what it costs to pave per mile, it would take 45 years to fix all the roads,” said county commission chairman Todd Higdon Monday night.
District 5 commissioner Derek Doster floated an idea: a county T-SPLOST?
That would be a one-cent sales Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax in the county that would go toward transportation improvements in Madison County.
Plans for a regional one-cent tax for road upgrades died in 2012 when voters in northeast Georgia voted “No” on the proposal. Though Madison County stood to gain significant revenue from Athens sales taxes if the 2012 proposal passed, voters didn’t favor the regional plan.
But since then, a number of Georgia counties have implemented a one-cent tax for transportation improvements, not as a regional tax, but as a single-county revenue source.
Doster noted the Clarke, Oglethorpe and Elbert counties have gone that route and he suggested that county commissioners start talking about the possibility.
Higdon said that if the county had a T-SPLOST, it could address all roads within 15 years, not 45. Doster said a T-SPLOST could allow the county to have a crack-seal crew to repair roads much faster.
No action was taken Monday, but more discussion of the idea is likely.
POTENTIAL ADVISORY BOARD
County commissioners heard from Drago Tesanovich, co-chair of the Madison County Clean Power Coalition (MCCPC), regarding the formation of a citizens’ advisory board to review the potential impacts of proposed developments in the county and to provide information to the planning commission, industrial authority and board of commissioners. The BOC took no action on the matter Monday, though the topic is on the group’s March 1 agenda. Tesanovich suggested the board establish a committee to determine exactly how the advisory board would be composed. For instance, it may have five members appointed by each district commissioner and two at large members. Commissioner Terry Chandler said he would like to know when the advisory board would present its information within the planning stages.
NO ZOOM AT BOC MEETINGS
Tesanovich also asked the group to consider reinstating Zoom at commissioners’ meetings. He noted that elderly people and those at high risk for covid often aren’t comfortable attending meetings in person and that having meetings available via Zoom allows for more participation. Former BOC chairman John Scarborough held commissioners’ meetings in person and on Zoom. New commission chairman Todd Higdon said he’s not comfortable trying to run a meeting in person and on Zoom. He said the meetings would last much longer, and he added that people can be on Zoom and not identify themselves and post anonymous and disparaging remarks. He said people need to make such statements in person. Doster suggested the board look into making public commenting easier for those who aren’t comfortable attending.
NO REVERSAL ON NOISE ORDINANCE
MCCPC members have asked commissioners to consider reversing their 2019 vote to exempt businesses from noise violations for their normal operations. Ward told board members that the sound from GRP is driving people crazy. Higdon said that the Williams Transco natural gas booster station in the county is just as loud as GRP and that it has been around for decades. He said the county can’t enforce noise regulations just on GRP and not on Williams Transco, which provides natural gas up the eastern seaboard. He said that if he tried to take action on Williams Transco, the president would be on the phone with him asking what he was doing.
A noise study of GRP was completed this week and results should be available soon, but Higdon said the county won’t amend the noise ordinance because of GRP.
“It feels like we’re just supposed to roll over and take it and we have no recourse,” said Ward about the issues with GRP.
Higdon told Tesanovich and Ward that they will “catch more flies with honey.” And he suggested MCCPC take down the Hwy. 72 billboard against GRP. Tesanovich responded that he did not agree with that suggestion.
LAND FROM DOT
Madison County recently acquired five acres of property from the Georgia Department of Transportation at Hwy. 72 and 98. Higdon said the land has been cleared and the road department is already making use of the property. The land will be the site of an EMS station.
OLD FUNERAL HOME
The county is renovating the old funeral home on Albany Avenue next to the government complex, which will serve as the county elections office. The current elections office will be used by the industrial authority.
“I don’t see why this won’t be available for the elections office by mid summer,” said Higdon.
Madison County is purchasing three tractors, one for the recreation department at $21,782 and two for the road department at $39,900 each. Higdon said the county got good prices on the vehicles. The rec department tractor will be handled through the 2021 county budget. The road department tractors will be handled by remaining 2014 sales tax funds.
PROPERTY PROPOSALS POSTPONED
The commissioners held a lengthy discussion Monday about three proposed property conveyances, but the group took no action. The county owns the land under the Danielsville Volunteer Fire Department, the Collins Volunteer Fire Department and the City of Danielsville maintenance shed. Higdon has proposed that these entities own the land under their buildings. He said giving fire departments the land will allow them to use the property as collateral to purchase needed equipment. However, such an action is complicated by the fact that the fire departments are not government entities and the county can’t give the land to the departments without putting the property up for bid. Commissioner Derek Doster said he wasn’t comfortable taking that step Monday. He suggested the board take a big-picture look at volunteer departments in the county and work with fire officials to determine their long-term needs and how the county can help them. Commissioners also want to know what will happen to property if at some point a volunteer department is no longer in operation.
Doster also said he didn’t want the maintenance shed property conveyed to the City of Danielsville Monday. He said he didn’t see the benefit to the county. Higdon said the conveyance would help the county avoid a future conflict with the city. During negotiations regarding access to a proposed new Department of Family and Children’s Services building, former chairman Scarborough brought up the possibility of using the land as an access point for the facility, which would have required the city to find a new maintenance shed. Higdon said he wanted to avoid the county using the property in that way against the city. The board took no action on the matter, though the group agreed to discuss the property matters again.
County commissioners approved Lee Mitchell as the newest member of the county planning commission. Dickie Hunsinger was hired to fill a vacant part-time position at the transfer station. County commissioner Brian Kirk was not able to attend the meeting in person due to a medical matter, but he participated via speaker phone. Higdon said former commission chairman Anthony Dove contacted him to offer thanks to the sheriff’s office, Danielsville Police Department and EMS for assisting his mother when she fell outside, adding that Dove said he appreciates people looking out for each other.