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What happened in 2005 -- Highlights as we saw them

What happened in 2005--highlights as we saw them.

The good, the bad, and the **ugly—alot of the ugly can be read at the Monticello News

website in “Kathy’s Korner.” (We do feel that Kathy brought out many of the frustrations people have.)  You should read the article first and then read the following highlights that we’ve kept track of.  We will point out, nothing in the News article brought up anything about the City and its problems or even mentioned 2 of the Commissioners, both of whom have sat on the board for at least 3 terms. Their “expertise” should be guiding the new commission, but instead they play the part of obstructionist with their 2-3 voting.

 

January, 2005

·         Signed Ethics Policy

·         Replace P&Z Board which had been developer oriented over past 4 years

·         Put moratorium on Subdivisions

·         Set up Fiscal /Financial committee

·         **Hospital finances questioned, their monthly check held, and  rumors are spread the  hospital will close.  People turn out “en masse” to protest and are ready to string up new commissioners. 

 

February, 2005

·         Comm Bernard, Comm Johnson, and Ken McMichael meet w/ BCWSA regarding buying

       water from Butts with positive feedback.  Water line under Hwy 16 bridge becomes do-able

·         **WSB does Whistleblower2 expose on City of Monticello and missing Grant money at

Funderburg Park.  Use of grant money for Walter Smith's rental houses was also exposed.          Monticello News completely ignores story.  (see article under City issues at taxdogs.com)

·         **City receives more grant money for Funderburg Park--$225,000 with RDC as "overseer"

·         **Comm. Bernard and Comm. Yarbrough both turn in questionable expense reports.

 

March, 2005

·         appoint new County Attorney-John Nix  (T.W.G. opinion—this is

            long overdue.  Mr. Roberts served 30 years or more and there was too much that was

            questionable during the last 4 years—Bear Creek Reservoir contract which he gave his

            blessing to; ADS contract with all the problems; Perimeter Road problems which he

            never corrected since last July when the public continued to question his giving County

            property back to people free of charge; allowing conflicts of interest especially in voting

            by past Commissioners; allowing violations of Open Meetings and Open Records causing

            Attorney General to send representative to Jasper County, etc., etc., etc.)

·         Financial statements and check register available to public in BOC office

·         Appoint/hire new Certified Public Accountant firm to do county audit

·         Start work on Heli-pad for hospital

 

April, 2005

·         Animal control facility being worked on--after 4 years of promises by last BOC

·         Get commitment from DOT for help on paving County Line Rd.

·         **City hires Peggy Billerman of P&Z/Curbside, who takes over $14,000 of county

            money with her for City curbside residents.

·         **hire new County Manager—Bernie Fontaine—many people question the reason and if it’s a good thing since he had already served and been let go by a previous BOC

·         **EMS/Fire Resolution without public input—Yarbrough accused of conflict of interest and asked not to vote since his wife worked for Ed Westbrook.

·         **JCWSA works on 25 year agreement with City with no dissolution clause included

 

 

May, 2005

·         Public hearing on landfill and new C&D trench-talked about for 2 years by last BOC

·         Get commitment from DOT for help on paving Apt to Miss Rd.

·         **Garbage contract is now split with City and County with a big mess.  One of the problems-

            County Attorney Roberts never had the City sign the Contract with ADS.  Also

            ADS contract was poorly written (by Attorney Roberts) with no penalties for poor or no    service. Comm Pennamon says he knew about this "deal" between Manager Fontaine,

            Billerman, and City since Feb.  Yet did nothing and therefore helps county lose

            thousands of $$ of profits from curbside.  (Who is he looking out for?)

·         **JCWSA signs agreement with City of Monticello for City to do billing, service work, etc.  Changes are made as to term of agreement and ways to dissolve it.

           

June, 2005

·         Submitted grant application to USDA to pay for Animal Shelter--saving taxpayers $$

·         **City audit shows $700,000+ deficit plus $900,000 taken from Water & Sewer Bond

fund that must be paid back.  Many other deficiencies and problems, yet Monticello News fails to report it all.  Hospital shows $800,000 profit for year ended 9/30/04. (T W G obtained  a copy of the audit as well as the salaries paid to the 5 highest paid employees at JMH  (See letter at taxdogs.com under hospital issues)

·         **Ken Jackson, Magistrate Judge, rules that Danny Norris, City Police Chief doesn’t have to

            pay his garbage bill because the Judge is not sure if the contract is Constitutional.

            (Judge Jackson wasn’t in his office long enough to research a recent Supreme Court

            ruling that said it was.)

 

July, 2005

·         Borrowed $600,000 from GEFA for landfill closure

·         **City continues to stall on signing contract with ADS leaving county legally obligated

            for all bills.

·         Fran Womack turns in resignation.

·         Bernie Fontaine  resigned unexpectedly

·         **Hired Leonard Myers—interim County Manager at $50/ hour plus daily travel

·         Betty Moon was asked to return to BOC office to work

 

August, 2005

·         Approve new subdivision ordinance with tougher standards for developers.

·         Had budget hearings on 2005 and moved $$ around to prevent overspending

·         Started on landfill closure. **Comm Hill and Comm Pennamon both vote against landfill closure even though it is REQUIRED by the State and will cost County $100/day in fines.

·         **Comm Hill and Comm Pennamon vote against Equipment Repair for County.

(Comm Hill and Comm Pennamon vote as obstructionist on many issues--not for good

of county but to have 3-2 vote they can use in their "talking points")

·         **JCWSA has agreement with City to jointly apply for $500,000 "emergency" water grant.

            Many secret meetings have been held with City in violation of open meeting laws.

·         **Comm Bernard signs Signature Community Grant application for the City without approval or knowledge of rest of BOC. 

 

October, 2005

·         Secured promise from DOT to match SPLOST $ for roads at 75%

·         **Leonard Myers refuses to let Finance Comm in on any budget work sessions; entire Finance Comm. resigns.  Letter indicates nothing they’ve suggested has been implemented.

 

November, 2005

·         Finalize budget and kept millage same--only tax increase would come from growth.

·         Received audit report showing almost $900,000 of overspending during last BOC term as well as lack of any financial controls and questionable abilities of financial staff

·         SPLOST approved for roads, hospital, economic development and recreation

·         **Realize that last SPLOST for courthouse may be $500,000 short

·         Passed Eminent Domain resolution asking State Legislature to pass legislation

            disallowing government take over of private land for development/developers

·         **City has more grant problems.  $65,000 grant from DNR received years ago for Funderburg Park is questioned.  Letter states the DNR doesn't think project will ever happen.

·         Hired new County Manager—Greg Williams at $80,000

·         **BOC continues to hire people and give raises in BOC office even though they talk of

            budget shortages (CFO was advertised for earlier, making another position)

 

December 2005

·         **Comm Hill waits 3 days before Utility digest is due to question legality of BOA member--

            this is after letting his appointee take the class and take the test twice at taxpayer

            expense.  This is also a “first” because many of his appointees have served illegally

            in the past.  Problem:  Attorney Roberts failed to file paperwork in January 05.

            (see taxdogs.com article) 

·         **BOC votes themselves a raise and unlisted expense reimbursements, subject to the approval of the Legislature.   They also are considering changing the County Charter—all

without public knowledge or approval.

·         EPD accepts landfill capping.  Firm got done in record time and if there are/were any penalties,

          they would be minimal.

·         **JCWSA has 200 customers after running 34+ miles of line and spending $4 million plus.

            We continue to question their ability to pay back their debt with so few customers

 

2006 is just starting.  The Taxpayer's Watchdog Group intends to push again for clearer agendas and executive session “decisions” being put in the minutes.  There are too many things that the public is kept unaware of because of closed sessions and no mention later of what goes on. This was the downfall of the last BOC –Bear Creek Reservoir and all the secret meetings, the suspected deals with developers, two BOC members that were partners in land dealings but yet this was denied in order to try to have a zoning passed for one of the commissioners, etc.

 

There are 5 members on the board.  They are trustees of our tax money and have the responsibility to oversee how it is spent. The Chairman is not the sole commissioner; it is the Chairman’s role to carry out the wishes of the board.  The BOC votes to authorize the Chairman to carry out those wishes.  When any member lets things happen without saying anything or does things “on his own”, he should be reprimanded by the rest of the Board.  The ethics policy should be reworked with some penalties attached to it.  The new expense reimbursement should be narrow in scope so that it can not be abused with anything being allowed as long as it’s for “carrying out their commissioner duties.”  That could be anything, including meals with anyone and anybody. The public should be informed, and there should be public hearings before our County Charter is changed.

 

We will continue to watch and see what happens and report it. However, the citizens (you!) need to also speak up.  Send us emails , comments, suggestions, things you see and hear.  Most of all continue to contact your commissioners with problems but also with some praise when they do good things.  Everything these “new guys” have done has not been bad!  The voters were tired of the developer oriented Planning and Zoning and BOC over the past 4 years.  These “new guys” changed that with an immediate moratorium on more subdivisions and a reworking of the development ordinances as well as a new P&Z Board.  In 2006 there should be negotiations about the Service Delivery areas and who can do what.  The Service Delivery will determine water areas  for the City, ASWA, JCWSA, as well as how other services are handled in the County.

 

 

 

 

There’s much to do, and we want the entire board to work together. We want the entire board to have input on what’s on the agenda.  We want the entire board to approve complete minutes that are the official record of Jasper County actions.  We want the people kept in “the loop.”  We want the County to hire qualified people and let go of the ones that are not qualified or are not doing their jobs.  We want the commissioners to be responsible for signing checks and overseeing the finances.  We want the commissioners to show up for all meetings and fulfill their duties; if they don’t, we want their pay docked. We want the Commissioners to quit interfering with the Board of Assessors, but we also want the Board of Assessors to take care of the problems. We just want people to serve that care about what is best for Jasper County and our quality of life.

 

There is no doubt that it’s tough hearing complaints day in and day out.  The Taxpayer's Watchdog Group gets much of the same—we’re negative, we’re for one person and against someone else, this, that, and the other.  There is always 2 schools of thought on every situation—for or against.

 

Let us state the TWG mission statement again:

** To keep the taxpayers of Jasper County, Georgia informed as to where and how their tax dollars are being spent.
** To keep the taxpayers abreast of local policies and laws being discussed and enacted.
** We advocate more open government, less government spending, and lower property taxes
.

 

This is what the Taxpayer's Watchdog Group has always stood for.  Our goal is to keep the public informed.  We question why certain things, such as City grant problems and Hospital profits, are never published in the paper.  We think it is inappropriate when quotes are taking out of context and published that way.  We think it is unfair when only part of the story is told.  When that happens, we try to tell “the rest of the story.”  We have had several people tell us that their editorials aren’t printed in the paper—we will be happy to send them out with our Taxpayer's Watchdog Group emails --if they are appropriate.  In 2006 we will continue to make suggestions and comments.  Our goal is to have an informed public. 

 

Remember, the next elections are only 2 ½ years away.  Have you thought about running? What would your ideas be to improve Jasper County?  Let us hear from you during 2006.

 

 

TWG

Yesterday is not ours to recover, but tomorrow is ours to win or lose.    -- Lyndon B. Johnson

 

Keep this list for future reference:

Carl Pennamon                     706-468-8739                        cpennamon@yahoo.com

Charles Hill                   706-468-8025                       cdavidhill@yahoo.com

Jack Bernard                         706-468-5101                        Bernard_jack@hotmail.com

Greg Johnson                       706-468-5361                        johnson643@aol.com

Bob Yarbrough                     678-625-1195                        byarbrough5dist@aol.com
 

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