2013-09-19 / Front Page

Commission postpones setting millage rate to rethink budget

Behren Bass, a very accomplished graduate of LCHS, was honored at the regular meeting of the Lincoln County Board of Commissioners held Thursday, September 12. Accepting a framed certificate from Commissioner Cooper Cliatt on her daughter’s behalf was Michee Ferguson. Bass is currently a student at the University of Georgia. Behren Bass, a very accomplished graduate of LCHS, was honored at the regular meeting of the Lincoln County Board of Commissioners held Thursday, September 12. Accepting a framed certificate from Commissioner Cooper Cliatt on her daughter’s behalf was Michee Ferguson. Bass is currently a student at the University of Georgia. With the adoption of the millage rate on the agenda, the Lincoln County Board of Commissioners opted to try again to get taxes below the rollback rate of 10.404 mills.

To keep the millage at last year’s rate of 10.22 mills, the board will have to come up with $65,000 in revenues for FY 2014.

The action took place at the regular meeting of the commissioners held Thursday, September 12.

As things stood, the commission was expected to approve the rollback millage rate, which would allow the county to collect approximately the same amount of money as last year.

During the discussion period, it was noted that the Lincoln County Development Authority had not officially set its millage rate due to a mistake in advertizing. Therefore, the process will not be complete until September 26.

Essentially, the county cannot levy tax for the Lincoln County Board of Education and other entities until the development authority submits its millage rate.

In his comments, Commissioner Richard Brown said, “The development authority has done a good job of targeting businesses. In the new future, I believe we will see a lot of new jobs coming to Lincoln County, and the $65,000 will be moot.”

Commissioner Billy Joe Goldman stated, “We’ve talked about it, and I don’t see any other way to operate the county (than to raise the millage rate to 10.404 mills).”

“I hate to keep raising taxes,” remarked Commissioner Robert Glaze. “Things are tight for everybody. People have to choose between buying groceries and paying taxes. I don’t know what else we can do.”

“There are no frills in the budget,” according to Traci Bussey, finance director for the county, “There’s no money there for major repairs or the replacement of equipment. We are scraping by, trying to patch roofs and vehicles, and do as little as we can.”

The motion was made to set the county’s millage at the rollback rate of 10.404 mills. Goldman supported the motion, with Brown, Glaze, and Cooper Cliatt voted in opposition.

It was then agreed that the commissioners would meet Tuesday, September 17, at 6 p.m. to rehash the budget one more time.

Due to press constraints, a report of the meeting will appear in the September 26 issue of The Lincoln Journal.

In other business, Commissioner Cliatt, vice chairman of the board, recognized Behren Bass, valedictorian of the LCHS Class of 2013.

Her list of accomplishments included finishing high school with a 99.0313 GPA; serving as a summer intern for Congressman Paul Broun; receiving The Augusta Chronicle’s “Best and Brightest Award,” which placed her among the top five students in the CSRA; winning first place in the “Young Georgia Authors Writing Competition,” and earning a perfect score on the Georgia High School Graduation Writing Test.

Among her “Senior Superlatives” at LCHS were “Most Creative,” “Friendliest,” “Most Likely to Succeed,” “Best All Around,” and “Best to Take Home to Parents.”

“Behren is smart, athletic, and involved,” said Commissioner Cliatt. “She is a true ambassador for Lincoln County.

“That our school system turned out a young person of this caliber speaks highly of our community.”

Bass is the daughter of Michee and Michael Ferguson of Lincolnton and Deanna and Brett Bass of Aiken, South Carolina.

The honoree, who is currently a student at the University of Georgia, was unable to attend the commissioners’ meeting.

Commissioner Cliatt presented a framed certificate to Bass’ mother, Michee Ferguson, who accepted it on her behalf.

In further business, the commission: l Heard the OES Department Report given by Director Broom, who said ambulance personnel responded to 121 calls for service during the month of August. The average response time was seven minutes.

As for fire and rescue activity, he noted there were four fire calls and three rescue calls last month.

Broom went on to say that the MED 1 ambulance, which has been out of service off and off since Thanksgiving of last year, has been out of the shop for three weeks. “We are cautiously optimistic,” he stated. l Heard the Recreation Department Report given by Director Billy Kirby, who indicated that the soccer program started on September 10, with 129 children, ages 5-13, participating. The games will be held on Tuesday and Thursday nights.

He further pointed out that football registration is currently underway. The program is set to begin October 28. l Heard the Finance Department Report given by Director Bussey, who said, “Over the past two years, SPLOST (Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax) revenues have dropped 20 percent. Also, T-SPLOST (Transportation) col lections are down 24 percent from earlier projections.

“We are really losing sales tax, which will negatively impact future SPLOST projects.” l Heard the Public Works Department Report given by Director Roby Seymour, who stated that his office billed 1413 water customers, 620 water availability customers, and 156 sewer customers $67,147.45 for the month of August.

Regarding the road department, the director said his staff has been busy scraping roads; patching pot holes; hauling crush-and-run, rock, and asphalt; packing trash at the transfer station; bush-hogging; working with Gaskins Paving; trimming limbs; cutting trees off of roads; cleaning out pipes; mowing; and painting sewage system tops. l Was informed that Engineering Management Incorporated (EMI), the engineering firm for the Blackjack Sewer Project, is requesting payment of a $20,136 invoice from January and an additional $8,975 for overseeing repairs made by the contractor, John R. Walker, from February until the present.

Earlier, the county decided to withhold payment from EMI and John Walker until the problems with the sewer system were resolved.

In his remarks, Director Seymour said, “I believe that EMI has done as much as it can possibly do. We can’t hold the firm responsible for not doing its part, and the extra money stems from the contractor not doing his part.”

The commission voted to pay EMI $20,136 and try to negotiate the remainder of the bill. l Was informed by Seymour that the bids for resurfacing the roads in the Blackjack Community and for the purchase of a tractor and slope mower will be opened on September 17. l Discussed acquiring the rightsof way on Green Acres Road. l Heard the Planning and Zoning Department Report given by Director Seymour, who said his office issued six business licenses during the month of August for a total of $243. Also, the office received $200 in zoning revenues.

Concerning code enforcement activities, 44 building permits were issued last month for a total of $1,977.50. Likewise, 86 building inspections were conducted. l Voted to rezone 1.23 acres on Double Branches Road from A-3 to C-1 to accommodate a flea market at the request of William Baker. l Voted to grant a special use permit for 9.788 acres off of Prater Road to allow Telecom Development Services, LLC to erect a 300- foot self-supporting communications tower on the site. l Heard a request from Linda Burns for the group to reconsider the ordinance governing signs, so Beulah Baptist Church can purchase a sign that scrolls the times of services and other events.

The commission voted to turn the matter over to the Planning and Zoning Commission “for a second look.” l Voted to give the Lincolnton- Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce $2,500 out of the Hotel/ Motel Tax Fund for new Christmas lights.

Plans are for the different colored LED lights to cross the street in a zig-zag pattern on Peachtree Street, from Main Street to Humphrey Street, and down Main Street itself.

In her remarks, Melissa Burgess, co-chairman of the Holidays in Olde Lincoln Towne Festival, said, “This year, we’re not asking business to help sponsor the event. We feel they have been hit hard enough.

“We are, however, making a huge effort to ensure that this parade is the biggest and best yet. We started earlier than usual, and several bands have already made a commitment to attend.”

Commissioner Brown abstained from the vote because he serves as chamber president. l Voted to approve financial policies for the county. l Voted to amend the alcoholic beverage ordinance to state that with crowds of 100 people or more, the sheriff’s office should be notified, and there should be a deputy on the premises at the expense of the license holder. l Voted to adopt new application fees for alcoholic beverage licenses. l Voted to pay the CSRA Regional Commission (CRC) dues for FY 2014, which amount to $6,430. l Voted to approve an amendment to the FY 2014 Cooperative Agreement with the CSRA Regional Commission for senior citizen services. The amendment is the result of sequestration, which caused drastic reductions in funding from the CRC Division of Aging Services.

The cuts amounted to an estimated total of $7,000 for Lincoln County. l Voted to appoint Nancy Dawkins to serve a three-year term on the Community Service Board of East Central Georgia.

The next regular meeting of the board of commissioner will be held Thursday, October 10, at 6 p.m. in the courtroom on the second floor of the courthouse.

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