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From Commissioner Rob Jones: An open letter to the taxpayers of Pickens County from Robert Jones
To begin with, I would first like to thank all of the people who have provided thoughts and information to me on the subject of the proposed millage rate increase, both those who attended the three public meetings and those who have approached me outside of those meetings. Although these discussions can be tense and even acrimonious at times, they are an important part of a successful government run by the people.
I have also had discussions with the individuals that you have elected to serve you in Pickens County. These include Brenda Weaver, your chief superior court judge; Rodney Gibson, probate court judge; David Lindsey, probate court judge-elect; Allen Wigington, magistrate court judge; Donnie Craig, sheriff; Joe Hendricks, district attorney; Alison Sosebee, district attorney-elect; Gail Brown, clerk; Sharon Troglin, tax commissioner; and Kevin Roper, coroner. To a person, they each are dedicated to reducing how they spend your tax money; they are also dedicated to generating more revenue in order to offset the costs of county government.
Two other people will help me with your budgetary obligations next year. You have already elected one with Becky Denney. She has read this letter and she believes in it. I fully believe that whomever you elect from the west side of our county will hear the same voices that I have heard when he or she makes decisions as to how to spend your money.
The problem we face with this year’s millage rate is two-fold. The first part has to do with the Young Life settlement. As most of you are aware, we are obligated to pay Young Life $400,000 on or before Jan. 15, 2013, as full settlement of claims Young Life had regarding the tax exempt status of its property located in Pickens County. Young Life won this claim (and more) in the Court of Appeals earlier this year. I don’t agree with the Court of Appeals’ ruling, and I venture to guess that the taxpayers who have read this ruling also disagree with it. However, our opinions do not matter, and we must pay the money. This is a one-time payment. The matter needs to be put behind us so we can make sound financial plans for the future.
See comments from other elected officials and more on this in tomorrow's print edition.
Updated: Gilmer County CFO hired as replacement, see story in print or e-edition on sale.
Mechelle Champion, right, at an earlier tax hearing with Commissioner Rob Jones and County Attorney Phil Landrum. Champion resigned on Friday.
Pickens County Finance Officer Mechelle Champion has resigned as of Friday 7.
According to Commissioner Rob Jones, the CFO put in her resignation due to personal issues.
“It was a friendly resignation,” Jones said Monday, who noted that Champion will work on and off until Oct. 31.
“She’s going to work for a while and help with the paperwork to get things caught up,” Jones said. “I’m looking for a new CFO now, and I’ve got a few names I’m pulling from.”
Champion was not available for comment.
After being pressed and berated by more than 50 citizens for two hours Friday in the final hearing on a proposed 9-percent property tax increase, Commissioner Rob Jones agreed to give the budget one more look before making it official. Above, Commissioner Rob Jones presents finer points of the budget to a crowded meeting last Friday.
Jones told the crowded mid-morning gathering of citizens angry over the higher tax rate that there is little left to cut, “but we’ll go back and see what we can do.”
The citizens in attendance had a lot to say, including calling for a 20 percent cut in all county department spending. See the rest of the this story in our print and e-edition now on sale.
Also in our print and e-editions: Final chance for cuts not encouraging, says Jones
See previous story from our August 30 edition, Tax Hike Too Much, citizens tell commissioner
With state dam officials on hand, members of the Grandview Lake Company opened a single 8-inch valve Tuesday morning, starting a gradual lowering of the scenic lake.
Peter Wilcox, president of the Grandview Lake Company, said they will lower the water level about 8 feet to allow more detailed monitoring of the earthen dam built in 1946.
See details on the work in our print edition and e-editions now on sale
See complete story in this week's print edition.
In a sudden move, Jasper City Hall announced Thursday that the portion of the Jasper City Park containing the duck pond and walking trail would be closed for urgent repairs beginning later today (Friday, Aug. 25).
The repairs could take a month, according to a statement sent from city hall. The sports fields adjacent to the duck pond in the park will not be closed.
Jasper Mayor John Weaver said he went by the park earlier Thursday and started looking at everything that was broken, rotten, overgrown or just trampled following a summer of heavy use and realized they needed to take action immediately.
Heavy equipment will be needed around the walking paths and there is no way the work can be handled with people coming through he said.
Weaver noted that of prime concern are spindles holding up the handrails around the pond that are rotten and a safety concern.
The park, which includes a walking path, tennis courts, two playground areas and picnic areas sees heavy summer use all day, walkers using the mostly level paved path, while the picnic tables with nearby grills get regular weekend gatherings. The park also contains the best playgrounds in the county.
Weaver said the park is really pushed beyond its capacity with the number of users. He said when he started developing a work list he kept finding items that were in urgent need of attention, which prompted the immediate closing.
There are overgrown trees, the rotten spindles, the lake is leaking through a drain, we are going to need some heavy equipment to do the work “and I won’t even tell you about the sand in the playground.”