WHEN WILL JCWSA BE AN ASSET RATHER THAN A BURDEN TO THE COUNTY?

December 17, 2014

At the 12/15/14 BOC meeting, a citizen made an excellent comment on the JCWSA billing situation and asked if the goal wasn’t to have JCWSA as an asset rather than a burden to the county. Watch this video and listen to his comments.

Why can’t JCWSA stand on its own after 10 years? Will they be able to do so 10 years from now? Is the county enabling them instead of making them do what they need to do?

Just like this citizen said, “We don’t want another 40 year old living in the basement waiting on a welfare check.” That is a perfect description of JCWSA–always waiting on the county for a handout.

 

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Posted in County, Water | Tagged | Leave a comment

WHEN POWER GOES TO YOUR HEAD YOU THINK YOU ARE MORE IMPORTANT THAN THE PEOPLE YOU SWORE TO SERVE

December 16, 2014

The BOC meeting last night started out on a defiant note and ended the same way.

Crown

King Trammell’s Crown

 

All the commissioners that attended last night’s meeting arrived before 5:30PM for a 6:00PM meeting as did the county attorney, James Alexander. Doug Luke was absent from the meeting.

During the half hour before the meeting when citizens were arriving, there was discussion between BOC members. There was discussion about adding items to the agenda and what they were and what was involved. Comm. Trammell talked about how he had met with Keith Ellis, Newton County Chair, at the bridge on Pitts Chapel Rd. at the county line. After about 10 minutes of this, mostly between Comm. Pennamon and Comm. Trammell, Comm. Henry asked if they should be discussing this before the meeting started. Comm. Trammell paid no heed to Comm. Henry or to his remark.   When questioned by a citizen about it, Comm. Trammell turned and raised his voice, saying, “Seriously!?!” The response was, “Yes! Seriously! There is a quorum and you shouldn’t be discussing business before the meeting.” Again, Comm. Trammell paid no heed to that either, turned around and started talking with Comm. Pennamon about the CIE (another item on the agenda) and the strategic plan and how it all had to fit together with Forward Jasper.

Comm. Trammell somehow thinks he is above the law, and the county attorney winks and goes along. Comm. Henry and Comm. Salmon did not participate in this conversation, but it went on around them.

Once the meeting got started, two items were added to the agenda. One concerned the bridge as mentioned above and the other concerned the new AT&T towers being built around the county. The agenda was done and posted at such a late hour Friday, these items must have been left off.

At the end of the meeting, Comm. Trammell said they needed to go into Executive Session. Watch the video as to what happened.

Comm. Henry asked what for? Comm. Trammell just looked at him and said, “We don’t have to say.” Mary Patrick from the audience asked what is the reason? Comm. Trammell again said the law said they didn’t have to say. Charles Forsythe commented, and then Kathy Mudd, editor of the Monticello News, asked Comm. Trammell, “Which code section says you don’t have to tell” the public why you are going into Executive Session? Comm. Salmon read reasons why they could go in executive session, but he along with Comm. Trammell said the law said they didn’t have to say exactly why. The county attorney of course sat by, but he did say they had to sign an affidavit stating why at the end of the meeting.

All four commissioners voted to go into Executive Session even though it appeared only Comm. Trammell and Comm. Salmon knew the reason why.

Here is a copy of the affidavit—and they swear this is all they talked about in Executive Session. This was obtained through open records this morning.

12/15/14 Executive Session Signed Affidavit

Why do the citizens not trust these guys? Maybe it’s because of the arrogance that they can do anything they please and think they can get away with it (late posting of the agenda, adding items to the agenda so citizens are unaware of issues, discussing issues before and after meetings, and who really knows what goes on in all those executive sessions). Maybe it’s because they’ve become so important in their own minds, they’ve lost all sense of service to the people of this county.

Comm. Trammell was rude, arrogant, and defiant at the BOC meeting. Trust begins and ends with open communication and a high standard of integrity. Some on this BOC reflect neither. There is no open communication; there are only hidden agendas, quickly called meetings, behind the door back room discussions and deals.

If this BOC wants respect from the citizens, they need to start with some honest, straight talk and a willingness to let people know what is being done and why.

The greater the power, the more dangerous the abuse.” –Edmund Burke

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Posted in County, Open Government | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

THE “TWINKLE IN THEIR EYE” HAS BECOME REALITY

The BOC has a special called meeting Monday night, 12/15/14, at 6:00PM. That twinkle in someone’s eye has become a reality. The agenda item is JCWSA Draft IGA Review & Discussion.

December 13, 2014

Twinkly eye

In the best way they know how, the BOC continues to keep the public in the dark; the BOC has called a Special Called Meeting for Monday night, 12/15/14, at 6:00PM to discuss the JCWSA billing and the day-to-day operations contract. The agenda was not posted until 5:00PM Friday afternoon or possibly later.

By waiting so long, the County Manager and BOC are assured that as few as people as possible can find out about the meeting and make plans to attend. There is no notice available for the newspaper by having quickly posted meetings.

At the JCWSA meeting this past Tuesday (12/9/14), Mary Patrick spoke and requested that any agreement be made public before it was approved by either party so the citizens could be able to comment on it. Mary Alice Carter, Chair of JCWSA and secretary/employee of our county attorney, Jim Alexander, said that nothing at all had been done yet on the agreement.

So from Wednesday morning until Friday evening our county attorney and his new helper, David Ozburn, must have met with Karen Degges and Frank Sherrill and worked to forge this agreement. Not that this could have been anything too hard to do since this has been discussed between JCWSA and the BOC and County Manager since June 2014 or earlier. (Twinkle, twinkle!)

At the JCWSA meeting, Mary Patrick also asked these questions. If you (JCWSA) want everyone to get along with water issues, why didn’t JCWSA ask the City of Shady Dale who has a water system, does billing, reads meters, and handles customer service, to do the work instead of the county? Or if you (JCWSA) really want to show you want everyone to get along, why didn’t you ask Alcovy Shores Water Authority to do the work? They’ve been doing all this work since 1980. Of course there were no answers because this is NOT about getting along; this is about JCWSA (the weakest of all water systems in the county) demanding the others to what JCWSA wants them to do.

The draft of the agreement has been requested via open records. If we get it or not before this special called meeting is yet to be seen.

Questions that the BOC just won’t answer:

  • Has anyone kept up with how many times JCWSA has been on this board’s agenda? This BOC meaning the time since Comm. Trammell and Comm. Salmon took office for the purpose of funneling money to JCWSA.
  • How much time has been taken up with JCWSA issues? When is the “drama with JCWSA” going to stop, Comm. Luke? You said after the “$50,000 bail out and 31 years of payments” agreement we wouldn’t have to hear about JCWSA again.
  • Why is the JCWSA so desperate to have the county involved? Follow the money is the answer to this question. JCWSA continually needs money and only this BOC can and will be there to hand it to them.
  • Why doesn’t JCWSA have its own office or even one employee after 10 years in the business? Why don’t they hire their own employee to do all this work for them?

If you can attend the meeting Monday night, sign up to speak to the BOC about this issue. They give you 3 minutes. They give JCWSA all the time they want to beg for anything they desire.

 

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Posted in County, Water | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

LIAR, LIAR, PANTS ON FIRE

County to hire more staff even though we were all told repeatedly they had enough current staff to do all of JCWSA’s billing and day-to-day management

December 11, 2014

Liar Liar Pinocchio

In recent months we have heard County Manager, Karen Degges, tell the BOC that current staff could do all the JCWSA billing, customer service and day-to-day operations without any additional staff. In fact, the county would “make” $20,000 on the proposal because current staff could do the job without overtime.

Watch from the first of this video through 1:45:

Well, someone is lying about all this. Wednesday there was a new job posting on the county website and Thursday it was in the Monticello News:

NEW COUNTY JOB POSITION:
http://www.jaspercountyga.org/departments/content.asp?48

Jasper County is accepting applications for an Administrative Specialist.  Excellent customer service, strong organization skills, and proficiency in Microsoft Word and Excel required. For a full job description and application, please come by the Human Resource Department on the ground floor in the Courthouse.  Deadline to apply is 4:00 p.m. on December 22, 2014.  No phone calls please!

Now what was it Frank Sherrill with JCWSA said? Oh, yes, there would have to be 24/7 customer service when the county took over “the billing” for JCWSA. And now the county is advertising for the same.

Don’t let the BOC give you some line—that this position is for Planning and Zoning– or for anything else. Karen Degges has said repeatedly that staff has plenty of time. If that is so, why don’t they have plenty of time to do actual county business? If it is answering the phone or helping with permits and business licenses or with anything else that has to be done, why can’t current staff help out?

This is the same pattern that Ms. Degges followed in Baldwin, GA. She got her position as City Administrator and then had to hire a part-time administrative assistant and made a part-time finance analyst full-time to help do her job. These additions caused the Baldwin taxpayers to pay an extra 2.5 mils in taxes. In Jasper County, Karen Degges was hired as Finance Director/County Manager, but she had to hire a separate Finance Director and now wants an Administrative Specialist in addition to all the other staff in her office.

Current staff at the county office—

  1. Karen Degges -$85,000 –County Manager (not sure what all she does because she keeps hiring people to do what she was hired to do)
  2. Sharon Robinson –$55,000 (if she hasn’t gotten another raise. She has had at least 4 title changes in the last year, another one just recently. No one is sure of what she does other than take minutes at the BOC meetings.);
  3. Nita Hicks $13.50/hour (does payroll, Accounts Payable, Curbside, answers the phone, and anything else there is to do);
  4. Mike Benton– $50,000 –Finance Director;
  5. Debria Murphy–$15/hour plus plenty of overtime because she also works at EMS (any work over 40 hours is overtime);
  6. Sherry Braley–$16/hour—Code Enforcement and P&Z Director;
  7. Brad Cherry–$15/hour—Building inspector and also does Code Enforcement.

This is $300,000 per year just for these BOC staff people (with Debria Murphy considered at ½ time).

Remember, Karen Degges just fired Phyllis Studdard who did all types of financial work, helped at P&Z, answered the phone, and wrote grants. She was fired so Mike Benton could be hired and probably to provide a scapegoat for any problems in the upcoming audit.

So, Commissioners, your County Manager has told you that we don’t need any more staff to do all the work for JCWSA. You have been told repeatedly that current staff, including Karen Degges, has plenty of time and no overtime will be incurred. So tell us Commissioners, why there needs to be another staff person in the county office? The only reason could be is because you have two highly paid people that are out of the office when they should be at work—late to work, taking off early, long lunch “hours”, cheerleading practice, etc. If everyone in the BOC office actually worked 40 hours a week, there would be no backlog of work and everyone would actually have extra time.

The taxpayers of this county are sick of being lied to, and we are particularly sick of bloated payrolls when people are not working but being paid big salaries. To hire additional staff to take on JCWSA work is ludicrous!

The BOC needs to know your opinion about spending more money to add another new position. Please contact them and let them know how you feel about hiring more people, and ask them just where is the money coming from. Click link for their email and telephone number:

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

Lies are lies

 

 

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Posted in Budgets, Code Enforcement, County | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

ANIMALS AT THE JASPER COUNTY SHELTER COULD USE YOUR HELP…

December 10, 2014

Dogs RMG

…and so could a great organization that is committed to saving the dogs and cats at the Jasper County Animal Control shelter.

Rescue Me GA (RMG) started in November 2011. It is an all volunteer organization that has saved more than 2700 animals at the Jasper County shelter. RMG is the only way out for many of the animals at the shelter.

RMG also works hard to get most all the food at the shelter donated as well as many of the supplies, such as toys, cleaning products, blankets, etc. When the weather turned so cold recently, it was RMG that bought igloos and dog houses for the dogs that were in the runs outside to make sure they could keep warm. They pay for many of the vet bills for the dogs and cats that are either brought to the shelter or picked up by Animal Control.

Recently, it was one of the partners in RMG that got a very special anonymous person to donate approximately $70,000 (based on checks written by the County) to pay for renovation at the animal control building. The building was re-designed inside which allowed for more dogs to be housed as well installing runs outside, allowing the dogs to be able to go outside when the weather is nice.

In addition to that donation, another donor has given $3000 so a room exclusively for cats can be renovated and completed.

RMG organized the recent Spay & Neuter Clinic held in November at the shelter and has several more planned in 2015.

Toys, blankets, igloos, clinics, medicines, and supplies all take money. More money will also be needed to complete and finish the cat room. RMG is doing wonderful things at our shelter! In fact, it has been a year or more since any animals have been euthanized at the Jasper County Animal Control Shelter. This is something we can all be proud of!

If you would like to be part of these good things that are happening at our animal shelter, please consider a donation to RMG. They are a 501(c)(3) organization, and your donation will be deductible for tax purposes. You can send your donations to:

RMG LogoRMG
P.O. Box 2090
Dunwoody, GA 30350

You can donate with a credit card or with PayPal by going to their website: http://rmgdogs.org

You can also find them on Facebook at Rescue Me GA.

Rescue Me Ga is a 501(c)(3) non-profit ALL volunteer rescue dedicated to saving the forgotten animals of Jasper County, Georgia.

Posted in County | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

PROPERTY TAXES–2nd INSTALLMENT DUE 12/20/14

TAX burdenJasper County property taxes are now paid in two installments.  The second installment will be due 12/20/14. 

You will not get a notice in the mail about this.  The bill you received in July or August had both installment coupons –one for the September payment and one for the December payment.

 

Posted in City, County, Schools | Tagged | 1 Comment

SECRETS BEHIND CLOSED DOORS—IT’S THE WAY KAREN DEGGES HAS ALWAYS DONE THINGS

December 6, 2014

Behind closed doors

Access to documents does not mean access to information, or so says the County Manager, Karen Degges. She has done everything possible to keep not only the public, but also the commissioners from knowing many things. She harasses and bullies the employees under her to keep them quiet with threats of their job if they don’t keep quiet, say what she tells them to say, or do things even though the employee knows these things are wrong or untruthful.

Several times Ms. Degges or her staff has responded to open records requests that “they” (she and the staff she directs) don’t have to give any information or answer questions; all they have to do is provide a document if Ms. Degges says it is available.

This week I requested the number of building permits that had been issued for new houses in 2014 in Jasper County. I have no idea if there is a document for this because everything that has been requested from P&Z or Code Enforcement over the past 18 months has been met with answers such as there is no document, there is no log, there is no list, there is no citation, etc.

After staff (Ms. Braley) provided me with the number of permits yesterday, Karen Degges sent an email last night informing me to “please be advised that the Open Records Act is a document access statute.  It does not cover, regulate or require any government entity to answer questions (per the Attorney General’s web-site).” And additionally, she informed me that I should not send a copy of my request to the commissioners! I have realized that if Ms. Degges isn’t in total control of all information in this county, then she isn’t content.

Open Government to Karen Degges is about hiding as much as possible; it is about only producing what she thinks should be let out to the public. (This is why there was never any detailed budget discussion during the past budget process in Jasper County.) Here is an article from the Banks News Today which shows you Ms. Degges acted the same way in Baldwin, GA when she was City Administrator.
(Highlighting is TWG’s)

Baldwin budget finance director seeks secrecy in budget process; tax hike possible

Posted by Staff Writer in Top Stories

Wednesday, June 15. 2011

The Baldwin City Council will meet Thursday at 5:30 p.m. to again discuss the town’s 2012 budget, although officials had been pressured by town finance director Karen Degges to keep the budget process secret.

Under the current draft budget, the city is looking to increase spending by 8.3 percent, a move that would likely force a tax hike. Among the increased spending is more money for administrative positions, including a city administrator at $60,000 per year, a part-time administrative assistant and taking a part-time finance analyst to full-time.

But Baldwin’s budget process so far has been confused by Degges efforts to keep both the public and media at bay. The council held a highly unusual called meeting at 7 a.m. last Saturday morning to discuss the budget. The timing was apparently a move to keep the discussions secret.

A Banks County News reporter showed up and was met with a hostile reception by Degges. The finance director refused to give the reporter copies of the proposed budget, saying it was secret, a clear violation of state law. The reporter eventually got a copy of an overview sheet, but Degges waited until after the meeting to hand out details to council members to avoid giving the media a copy.

Monday, Degges sent an email to the council complaining about the media showing up Saturday.

“Saturday’s meeting was more challenging than I had hoped it would be, with the unexpected attendance by the media (after they said they would not be there at last Thursday’s work session,)” Degges wrote.

Degges also pushed the council to cancel Thursday’s meeting to allow her to meet in small groups with council members in an effort to avoid having to have a public budget meeting.

“It’s going to be very difficult to have another public meeting…. and go into the level of detail that will be needed to examine potential budget cuts and or tax increases….,” Degges wrote in her Monday email. “It will be inflammatory enough in the paper to have her print (as I am expecting) that staff has asked for an additional $150,000 in funding, which will require a 2.5 tax mil increase.

But after Banks County News co-publisher Mike Buffington challenged Degges on the efforts to discuss the city budget in secret, the city decided to go ahead with its 5:30 p.m. meeting Thursday.

“The City of Baldwin’s finances don’t belong to the city government, they belong to the citizens of Baldwin,” Buffington said. “For a public official to attempt to craft a town budget in secret and to refuse to release public documents is outrageous. Baldwin has a history of fiscal mismanagement and just two years ago, had a negative fund balance because of overspending. This kind of thing just compounds those problems.”

SATURDAY

The council spent four hours Saturday talking about the budget proposed by Degges, minus any detailed information.

The total proposed for 2012 for the Enterprise Fund is $3.06 million in revenues and $2.31 million in expenditures. The enterprise fund includes wastewater treatment plant, sewer collection/Fats, Oil, Grease Inspection Service (FOGIS), water distribution and water treatment plant.

The total 2011 enterprise fund budget was $2.6 million in revenues and $1.99 million in expense.  The proposed 2012 budget reflects a 17.5 percent increase in revenues and a 16.5 percent increase in expenditures for the enterprise fund.

The proposed General Fund account shows $1.54 million in projected revenues and $1.59 million in expenses for 2012. This figure reflects an increase of $14,019 in revenues and an increase of $139,734 in expenditures, making the total additional funds requested $125,715.

Following is the complete email written by Karen Degges showing her contempt for open government and open records (highlighting is TWG’s):

The email Degges sent to the city council members and the city attorney is as follows:
Email dated: Monday, June 13, 2011 11:38 AM

Good morning everyone,

Saturday’s meeting was one more challenging that I had hoped it would be, with the unexpected attendance by the media (after they said they would not be there at last Thursday’s work session). Clearly there is a huge amount of media interest in the activities of Baldwin, on an extremely detailed level that I have not seen with the other cities I’ve worked for. Unfortunately, the handouts I had prepared for you folks included detailed information about employee salaries, as I thought we were going to be in the position where we could have much more frank discussion about the budgets submitted by the department heads. I had hoped we would leave that meeting with a clear outline of what needed to be cut, or some clear direction from the council as to what staff should do to get the budget in presentation form. We could not get to that goal with the added distraction of having the press literally sitting right there on top of us looking at the notes being taken by the City Clerk and Council members, asking questions, and providing their input as to what we should be budgeting for. I am all for transparency in government, but not when it’s to the point where work is being impeded and the line between who is staff and who is media is being blurred. It took us four hours to get through the budget summary, which had no detailed information at all.

It is going to be very difficult to have another public meeting, which is scheduled for this Thursday at 5:30 at City Hall, and go into the level of detail that will be needed to examine potential budget cuts and/or tax increases to fund what has been requested. Sharon and I had some disagreement first thing Saturday when she asked for a complete set of handouts, which were draft working documents (and labeled so) for our internal use. Initially I refused to provide her with anything, but then she said she was going to ask the Mayor for a set of documents. Then I relented and gave her Robert’s copy of the 3 page departmental summary, and she advised she would be writing up any number we discussed in our meeting. That forced me to hang onto the other handouts. It will be inflammatory enough in the paper to have her print (as I am expecting) that staff has asked for an additional $150,000 in funding, which will require a 2.5 tax mil increase.

Normally all of this behind the scenes discussion of budget details, salaries and proposed budget cuts would be handled by staff (under the City Manager’s direction) prior to presenting the budget to the elected officials. The use of a budget committee of 3 elected officials was discussed but not implemented on Saturday. Since everyone indicated they want to be involved in the budget process (and it is your right to be as elected officials), I think some serious thought needs to be given as to whether or not we want to continue doing this level of detailed discussion and possible disagreement (about what and where to cut) in full view of the press. My primary concern is preserving some level of privacy for our employees, who do not want their pay detailed on the front page of the newspaper for all of their neighbors to see.

I will be putting together some numbers this afternoon on a few different scenarios for possible cost savings, and I would much prefer to meet with three of you Thursday morning, and the second three Thursday afternoon, and it be done as two staff meetings, than be forced to provide the press an abundance of sensitive information, including employee salaries, in a public meeting. Not to mention how much longer it will take to get through all this information in that type of meeting structure. If we proceed with the original plan, the hand-outs used will (I feel sure) be challenged again, and be again requested by the media. Even if those aren’t distributed, everything we say will be public record.

I do not want to take away from or diminish anyone’s participation, but to do this type of detailed budget work in front of the press is not going to be easy or pleasant. Please think this over and let me know if you still want to have the Special Called Meeting on Thursday, or handle this as two separate staff meetings. No matter what is decided, I will try to adjust the content of any handouts accordingly, and at least be more prepared for full publication of any documents.

If any of you have any questions about the material I gave you to take home, please give me a call or stop by and I will be happy to assist you.

Karen

As you can see from the article and from her own email, Karen Degges has absolutely no respect for the citizens, the media, or for open government. She will change documents and do whatever to keep everyone in the dark.  She also keeps the BOC in the dark by refusing to answer questions or give information in public meetings; you can see this in the meetings if you attend them. Unfortunately, our BOC doesn’t seem to mind the secrecy because they are busy doing the same thing—going behind closed doors to discuss details of contracts, budgets, etc.

 

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Posted in Budgets, County, Open Government | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments