KAREN DEGGES, COUNTY MANAGER, MAKES EXCUSES AT OPEN GOVERNMENT FORUM

October 21, 2014

Watchdogs, newspaper reporters, and a few county officials attended the Open Government Forum in Macon last Friday. This forum was sponsored by the Transparency Project of Georgia and the Georgia First Amendment Foundation. Jim Zachary (long time newspaper editor and fierce open government advocate) representing the TPOG, and Hollie Manheimer representing the GFAF were the main speakers. Thank you to Charles Forsythe for attending and recording the forum so we could have these videos.

Jim Zachary did not mince words and neither did those in attendance about the problems obtaining open records. Everyone in attendance agreed that the Attorney General Sam Olens does nothing to enforce the open government laws. Open meetings didn’t seem to be as big of a complaint, but there were problems with agendas. Remedies under the law were explained as well as the goal for all watchdogs should be to create a culture of openness—something TWG has been trying to do since 2001.

Mr. Zachary had a lot to say about Executive Sessions—also known as Closed Sessions—but better known as “Back Door Deal Making.” Watch what he had to say:

There is no requirement in the law for Executive Session. The BOC and City Council go into every Executive Session by CHOICE, not because they have to.

He also had a lot to say about how the newspapers had abdicated their role as watchdogs and as open government advocates.

At the end of the meeting, there was a question and answer session with those in attendance. Several war stories were shared by watchdogs in attendance. Karen Degges, Jasper County Manager, had her say as well. Remember, this is in a room of “watchdogs,” many of whom hear excuses about open records all the time.

If Ms. Degges and her staff are just so very busy all the time, in fact so busy they can hardly do their work and answer the “hundreds” of open records requests submitted by “Mary Patrick” (Jasper’s aggressive watchdog according to her), we need answers to the following questions:

  • Why doesn’t Ms. Degges come to work on a regular basis and on time so she can get her work done?
  • An example of how hard Ms. Degges works
    • Monday –10/13/14—Holiday—off work
    • Tuesday—10/14/14—not at work
    • Wednesday—10/15/14—not at work, came to work at 5:00pm to attend BOC meeting
    • Thursday—10/16/14—at work approximately 2 hours late
    • Friday—10/17/14—in Macon all day at forum (along with Sharon Robinson) (Note: They arrived at forum 20 minutes late)
    • Monday 10/20/14—not at work
  • How is Karen Degges going to do all this extra work billing, doing the work orders, and doing the day to day management of JCWSA, when she is so busy she can hardly do her work and get out open records requests—something required by law?
  • How is Ms. Degges getting paid when there is no way she has PTO (paid time off) left?       Is it true she doesn’t even turn in PTO when she is out? Is she exempt and has she been given unlimited time off by this BOC?

Mr. Zachary ended the forum with these comments:

We all must continue to advocate for transparency and open government and less “back door deal making” in Jasper County.

Please help us by being watchdogs too and reporting to us what you see, hear, and know about what is going on in Jasper County at taxpayerwatchdogs@yahoo.com.

 

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Citizens, be informed and stay informed! Only by being informed can the citizens understand what is being done and talked about, and then press our officials to make good decisions for everyone in Jasper County. That is our goal with the Taxdogs blog.

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THOMAS PERSONS HALL TO BE FINED DOUBLE BY COUNTY

October 19, 2014

ThomasPersonsHallIt is truly amazing how the Planning & Zoning/Code Enforcement office goes after some situations but not others.

Wednesday night at the BOC meeting (10/15/14), it was brought up that someone reported that the Historical Foundation- the organization renovating the old school building, now known as Thomas Persons Hall- didn’t get a permit to do the renovation. Therefore, since they didn’t “follow policy”, they should have to pay the permit fee and then pay it again as a fine. Watch the discussion here:

It was voted on 4-0 to charge them double, but the BOC wanted to be nice and said the fine could be paid in installments.

Let’s look at some facts.

  1. Thomas Persons Hall/Old Civic Center/Old Monticello School building does not pay property taxes. They are exempt.
  2. The main reason for building permits is to
    1. Make money for the county
    2. Determine a value and then add it to the value of your property so you can be taxed on it
  3. This building is being fixed up for community use—not some private endeavor.
  4. The money going into this building is either from grants received or from donations.
  5. The STATE OF GEORGIA –Department of Corrections and the State Prisoners did the work and told the Historical Foundation they were exempt.

There is no doubt, everyone should follow the policy as Comm. Luke says on the video. BUT the Economic Development Authority (not the BOC) WAIVED ALL PERMITS AND FEES FOR NORTON. Norton is a private business.

The Historical Foundation is an entity working to renovate this building so there is a community center we can all use. Yet they are supposed to pay a $1632 permit fee plus a $1632 fine.  This amount of grant money and donations could go a long way in fixing up the auditorium rather than going to the county as fees and fines.

Call or email your commissioners and tell them how you feel about this situation.

Jasper County Commissioners

District 1 – Carl Pennamon
District 2 – Bruce Henry
District 3 – Gene Trammell
District 4 – Craig Salmon
District 5 – Doug Luke

Note: The BOC doesn’t follow all of its own policies. How can we fine them?

If you like this newsletter, please forward to a friend and recommend they subscribe, too.

Citizens, be informed and stay informed! Only by being informed can the citizens understand what is being done and talked about, and then press our officials to make good decisions for everyone in Jasper County. That is our goal with the Taxdogs blog.

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HOW DARE YOU CITIZENS COME TOGETHER AND SPEAK OUT!

October 17, 2014

TapedMouth

This blog is in response to the letter to the editor written by Robert Jordan, City engineer, Development Authority of Jasper County member, and who does engineering work for DAJC and the County, and his wife, who does engineering work for the county landfill. See their letter here. We have talked to many of the people that attended the town hall meeting, and no one saw Mr. Jordan or his wife in attendance at any time during the meeting.

How Dare You Citizens Attend a Town Hall Meeting Speak Out!

Just because you citizens pay the majority of the taxes in this county, how dare you think you can let “the powers that be” know how you feel. How dare you speak out! How dare you even hold a privately funded town hall meeting to talk about what is going on in this county! You are not supposed to know anything, and you are not to interfere with the plans of those who know so much more than you. They have a “better idea” for this county, and they are going to tell you how it is going to be. Your job is to shut up and hand over your tax money to pay for it.

Don’t ask questions! Don’t attend meetings! Sit in the dark and be ignorant! You are not supposed to know how your money is spent. And if you do, don’t you dare question it. That’s negative! There are no problems in Jasper County, and if you think there are, you are negative. How dare you try to tarnish the shiny image of Jasper County and Monticello!

You should know by now that “a better Monticello, Shady Dale, and Jasper County” can only come about if you agree with the special interests, the “economic development” crowd (that has many conflicts of interest and are paid with your tax dollars), and you stay at home and keep your head in the sand and your mouth shut. You don’t know enough to make decisions about your future. Only the “positive” Forward Jasper crowd can dare to decide what will happen in this county, and then they will tell you exactly how it will be as they put more of your tax money in their own pockets and in the pockets of their friends.

Remember, in the age of information, ignorance is a choice, and it seems to be the choice the special interest crowd and our elected officials want you to take!

“When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.” “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” — Edmund Burke

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Citizens, be informed and stay informed! Only by being informed can the citizens understand what is being done and talked about, and then press our officials to make good decisions for everyone in Jasper County. That is our goal with the Taxdogs blog.

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Posted in County, Economic Development | Tagged , , , , | 5 Comments

IT’S NOT ABOUT THE COUNTY BILLING FOR JCWSA—THAT WAS A SMOKE SCREEN

October 16, 2014

Smoke Screen

If you want to know the real reason JCWSA wants the County to start doing their billing for them, just read the highlights. But the entire presentation by JCWSA Engineer, Frank Sherrill, was a slick presentation with a sucker punch to the taxpayers at the end.

First, who is Frank Sherrill? The first time we really heard his name was when he came to Jasper County in 2003 along with Newton County attorney, Tommy Craig, to sell the BOC on Bear Creek Reservoir. He told the standing room only crowd that Jasper County had to buy into BCR because Jasper County didn’t have a water source anywhere—he had looked. Mr. Sherrill also provided the BOC in 2003 with all the projected growth numbers and the exponential expansion of the JCWSA customer base—something they are still waiting on.

Mr. Sherrill provided numbers again last night—showing just how much money Jasper County was going to be making by providing a billing service AND MANAGING JCWSA on a day to day basis. Here’s how the conversation went:

Frank Sherrill told the BOC that this new “plan” would be a continuation of the working relationship between the county and the authority in the operation of the system. He said that JCWSA’s needs and the City’s needs don’t jive. That there was a beneficial contract with the City but JCWSA needed to do something else. (You’ll find out why—keep reading!)

He continued, “This is an opportunity that JCWSA can pay the county money. Our natural ally is the county.” He said he had been talking with Karen Degges and ‘other people’, and at the JCWSA meeting last night (10/14/14) it was agreed they wanted to start development of a detailed contract with the County. (The agenda information says there will be a 1/1/15 start date).

Sherrill said, JCWSA owns the assets. The operation will be by the county government.” The county will be responsible for customer relations, work orders, management of JCWSA & day to day decision making. Management would be by the County Manager. (And all those she has designated to do the work including the Registrar, the AP/PR clerk, the Finance Director, Public Works, and the HR director, with the bulk of the work being done by the Registrar.)

According to Mr. Sherrill, as of 10/15/14, JCWSA had 380 active customers—the highest in the history of authority. The water system is 10 years old.

THEN THE REAL REASON FOR THIS BILLING CHANGE WAS REVEALED.

JCWSA has about 100 meters that need replacing and they want the County BOC to sign off on the loan approvals—meaning the county would be on the hook for the debt. Yes, folks, this is the real reason for JCWSA wanting to “help the county” and “provide them with a cash flow” and why “the City isn’t a good fit” anymore. (The City doesn’t have the financial ability to sign on a loan for JCWSA so they aren’t needed any longer.)

Sherrill said they had to replace radio-read heads on the meters so that it would be easy for Public Works employees to read the meters. Then he told how much it would cost, how they could get a GEFA loan to replace meters, but only if the BOC would sign off, and how they could easily pay all this back. He ended with, “This will make JCWSA state of the art.”

AND THE OTHER REASON FOR THE CHANGE? SO THEY CAN GIVE DEVELOPERS OPPORTUNITIES!

No joke, folks. This is a quote from Mr. Sherrill, “The northern end of this county will grow if it is ready. WE CAN PROVIDE OPPORTUNITES FOR DEVELOPERS THAT WANT TO COME IN. Your turn is coming if you are ready.”

So that’s it, folks. This water authority is once again about developers, land owners, and engineering firms—the ones who made the money the last time while the taxpayers have been picking up the bills ever since 1999 when JCWSA came into existence. This is why the director of the Economic Development Authority keeps saying we are going to have 10,000 people in the north part of the county….so the county can help pay for water lines and develop land!  We still have empty subdivisions from the last “developer opportunities” we taxpayer’s provided.

Frank Sherrill ended saying the JCWSA was in better financial shape than ever. (Well, DUH!! They just got $50,000 from the taxpayers only 2 months ago to pay off long outstanding bills and notes. ) “We have to do this project!” he ended.

At the first of the week we will have video of this presentation and more about this so-called “billing proposal” and how Karen Degges says it will really cost the county nothing to do it.

If you don’t like this plan, please call or email your commissioner. You can find their information here:

Jasper County Commissioners

District 1 – Carl Pennamon
District 2 – Bruce Henry
District 3 – Gene Trammell
District 4 – Craig Salmon
District 5 – Doug Luke

 

If you like this newsletter, please forward to a friend and recommend they subscribe, too.

 

Citizens, be informed and stay informed! Only by being informed can the citizens understand what is being done and talked about, and then press our officials to make good decisions for everyone in Jasper County. That is our goal with the Taxdogs blog.

www.taxdogs.wordpress.com

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Posted in County, Water | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

BOC TO DISCUSS/VOTE ON TAKING OVER JCWSA BILLING & MAYBE MORE

October 14, 2014

MeterReader

Wednesday, October 15th at 5:15pm, the BOC will hold a work session to hear the pleas from JCWSA to take over the billing for their water accounts. Frank Sherrill, their long time engineer, will be making the presentation.

On August 13th the BOC voted to give JCWSA $50,000 plus entered into an agreement with them to fund JCWSA for another 31 years. That was supposed to “put an end to all this controversy.” But no, JCWSA can’t seem to do anything on their own or without the help of the taxpayers of this county, and this BOC hasn’t been capable of actually asking relevant questions to get pertinent and necessary answers to make good decisions for ALL the citizens of this county.

Questions such as:

·         Once the billing is done, who is going to do the collecting? How much time will that take?

·         How much time will the customer service—answering the phone, following up on problems, etc.—involve and who is going to do it?

·         How much is going to be charged and what happens if JCWSA can’t pay their bill on time?

·         Is another county employee going to be hired to do this work? How much will the salary, health insurance benefits, time off, and new cell phone cost?

·         Is JCWSA going to pay for a new computer, billing program (Karen Degges indicated a new updated program would have to be purchased), installation, paper or billing invoices, postage, etc.?

·         Why is the county getting involved in this? Why can’t an outside service handle the billing and all the other services the City provides now?

 Our last blog was incorrect. We said the City was charging $1800 a month for the billing service; however, the City of Monticello charges $2300 a month to radio-read the meters, send out the bills, and receive the payments. It was Ms. Degges in a BOC meeting a few months ago that said the county would charge JCWSA “about $1800 a month.”

So here’s another couple of questions:

·         If the City is charging $2300 and doesn’t want to do it any more, why would the County only charge $1800 a month?

·         How are we going to ever know if the county breaks even or if we once again give more money to JCWSA by providing free services?

The City runs a water system of its own and has personnel familiar with billing, reading meters, collections and customer service—for which they bill $2300 a month. The City charges extra for setting meters, finding locates, locking and unlocking meters, connecting and re-connecting service, water line break repairs, other repairs and maintenance, etc.

·         How is the county going to do all these things or is the county only going to do the billing and JCWSA will have to hire someone else to read the meters and all the other services required?

We are anxious to hear all this discussion, answers to these questions, as well as how much it will cost the County (something we may never know because no one does a cost analysis on anything—this BOC just votes 5-0 and spends money).

Folks, this is one meeting you need to show up for! Please try to make it! Please, pass this along to your friends and neighbors! You may get a glimpse of why your property taxes really went up!

 

Citizens, be informed and stay informed! Only by being informed can the citizens understand what is being done and talked about, and then press our officials to make good decisions for everyone in Jasper County. That is our goal with the Taxdogs blog.

www.taxdogs.wordpress.com

www.facebook.com/taxdogs

 

 

 


Posted in County, Water | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Can this group of commissioners get any more sneaky and devious? More help for JCWSA

October 10, 2014

BOCLaugh2014

LAUGHING AT US WITH EACH 5-0 VOTE –2014 Crony BOC

After everyone at the town hall meeting told the 3 commissioners present to quit dealing with JCWSA, what did they do? Oh, they went and figured out another way to help JCWSA out. The county is going to take over the billing for JCWSA. The agenda says “discussion, presentation, and even a work session”, but we all know this has been discussed over the telephone and email for a while among the BOC, County Manager, and JCWSA. This shows that the BOC has no intention of listening to the people of this county (one of the main complaints at the Town Hall meeting).

Here’s the BOC Agenda notice that the meeting will be on a Wednesday night, which is church night. Maybe they figured they could sneak it all by the citizens by holding it on a Wednesday night 10/15/14 instead of waiting until 10/20/14, the normal 2nd meeting night. This notice wasn’t posted until Friday night, another intentional attempt to keep the public from knowing about it.

 

This Board of Commissioners is the sneakiest and most devious group of commissioners we have ever had! And yes, Comm. Luke, there are commissioners (Trammell and Salmon) who ran to screw the county over, but now it appears you and Comm. Henry have joined them in screwing the county. Comm. Pennamon has always been right there ready to give JCWSA money and anything else they have ever wanted. Why should we expect anything but a 5-0 vote?
 

Is Karen Degges going to get to hire another employee just to help out JCWSAanother buddy of hers? Instead, maybe Sharon Robinson could actually do something once in a while—like work one day a month billing (her words at the BOC meeting) for JCWSA. We certainly don’t need any more high priced employees in the BOC office sitting around doing little work, but maybe the County Manager can convince the BOC that this will “save the county money” (her favorite saying when trying to convince the BOC to do something she wants).

At present, the City of Monticello does the billing for JCWSA for $1800 a month. They also do all the taps and repairs that they can do for JCWSA and bill for that. The City doesn’t want to do it anymore. Why? Maybe because they never got paid on a timely basis. Want to know when the City finally got paid by JCWSA? Not until after the BOC gave JCWSA $50,000. So how often will the County get paid—or will this be another one of those things all the taxpayers of Jasper County (including you folks in the City that already pay high prices for your water and sewer) get to do to “help out JCWSA?”

 
Based on the agenda, the meeting starts at 5:15PM for a “work session” about the billing. JCWSA has enough money to hire Frank Sherrill, their long time engineer for $500 a month to be a liaison between JCWSA, the County, and the City. JCWSA needs to subcontract their work out and the county needs to get out of the business of holding JCWSA’s hand. With a $50,000 bail out and a 31 year agreement to continue funding them, you would think the BOC had done enough!

 

Folks, this is one meeting you need to show up for! Please try to make it! Please, pass this along to your friends and neighbors!

 

Citizens, be informed and stay informed! Only by being informed can the citizens understand what is being done and talked about, and then press our officials to make good decisions for everyone in Jasper County. That is our goal with the Taxdogs blog.

www.taxdogs.wordpress.com

www.facebook.com/taxdogs

Posted in City, County, Water | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

$11,719,653 BILLED TO JASPER COUNTY PROPERTY OWNERS FOR TAXES

October 9, 2014

AWalsh

We were pleased to have Tax Commissioner Angela Walsh at the town hall meeting to speak about taxes, tax collections, and the new on-line payment system. She emphasized she did not set the tax rates; her only job was to collect the taxes after they had been set by the BOC, City Council, and School Board.

She noted that in Jasper County $11,719,653.87 in real property taxes had been billed for 2014–this does not included vehicle, mobile home, and timber taxes (and maybe a few others). These taxes are distributed to the county, city, school system, and hospital.

You can see her presentation here:

The first installment of property taxes was due 9/30/14 and 48.68% of all taxes had been collected. The second installment is due 12/20/14.

Mrs. Walsh said she is hoping the new on-line system will ready by 12/20/14.   There will be a fee for using the system of 2.2% of the bill plus 30 cents. She also said that anyone can renew their vehicle tag online right now for a $4.95 fee.

Mrs. Walsh said she was always available to answer questions and is in her office from 8:00AM to 5:00PM each day.

You can see Jasper County property taxes in comparison to surrounding counties by clicking here.

 

If you like this newsletter, please forward to a friend and recommend they subscribe, too.

Citizens, be informed and stay informed! Only by being informed can the citizens understand what is being done and talked about, and then press our officials to make good decisions for everyone in Jasper County. That is our goal with the Taxdogs blog.

www.taxdogs.wordpress.com

www.facebook.com/taxdogs

Posted in County | Tagged , , | 2 Comments