JCWSA “BILLING” & COMCAST AGREEMENT ON BOC AGENDA MONDAY NIGHT

October 31, 2014

Two items under old business are on the November 3, 2014 meeting agenda. The meeting starts at 6:00PM. These two items should be of great interest to the people of this county.

JCWSA logo

Item #1–JCWSA Billing Proposal

As posted on this blog before, this is about MUCH more than billing; it is about the county taking over the JCWSA and its day-to-day operations. This is also about incurring debt for JCWSA. Read the blog post about this issue to refresh your memory. Click here>>> IT’S NOT ABOUT THE COUNTY BILLING FOR JCWSA—THAT WAS A SMOKE SCREEN

Karen Degges, County Manager, provided the BOC with an “administrative analysis” of how much time it would take to do all the tasks necessary for the county to run JCWSA and do its billing. See document here. You can see on this document who she assigns tasks to, how much they make an hour, and how long each task is projected to take. She has some figures that are truly hard to believe.

Do you think that it will only take 3 ½ hours a month to answer the phone and assist 380 customers? In fact Karen Degges says it will only take 40 hours a month to do all this work. She has the Registrar, Carole Norris, doing almost ½ of the work. Make sure you look at the document to see all the tasks that have to be done.

What is strange about all this is, the County Manager shows that all these people have extra time to do these tasks (things the JCWSA should be responsible for doing), but when people complain about no one being in the office at Code Enforcement she is tells people that there were cutbacks, and that is why service is so poor. She says the same about Public Works—they’ve got less people so things just can’t get done. So which is it?

And thank goodness it will only take Public Works 6 hours a month to read meters, do locates, lock and unlock meters, do new account reads, issue service orders, etc. We don’t want them to take too much time away from all the road work that needs to be done. By the way, who at Public Works knows how to do all these things or will they have to go to training to do this work for JCWSA?

The past due amounts owed to JCWSA as of 10/14/14 was $15,035.74. The County Manager shows Sharon Robinson will have to work 2 hours a month to do collections on these amounts and new receivables. See amounts due here.

The cost to the county is shown as $11,829 to do all this, but “really, it isn’t going to cost the county anything” according to our County Manager, Karen Degges. She says these people have all this extra time anyway. There are no benefits (health insurance, etc.), social security tax match, workers comp costs, etc. taken into account in any of these figures. But those don’t matter either.

Karen Degges, Frank Sherrill (JCWSA), the BOC, and the county attorney have all been meeting (behind that door) and will have this all worked out for us by Monday night. Please attend this meeting!
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Comcast Item #2–Comcast Agreement

This issue has been on the agenda twice, and we can bet it will continue to be on the agenda until Karen Degges gets Selective Solutions this contract. (Just like having the health insurance deductible on the agenda 4 times until she got her way.)

The first presentation (8/11/14) was written up in the blog. Click here>>>COMCAST SERVICE AGREEMENT TO BRING TV TO BOC OFFICE?

Here is a copy of the agreement the County Manager tried to get passed. click here to see what the agreement provides

Ms. Degges repeatedly assured the BOC it would cost nothing and save the county $3000 a month, but the agreement shows it would cost $164.75 a month for 36 months PLUS usage, taxes, and fees are extra.

At a following meeting (9/8/14), Mr. Ken Holmes from Selective Solutions attended and presented “the deal” to the BOC. This deal is all about getting Comcast to put in two voice lines and provide internet and it will somehow save the county $1500 a month (not $3000). It also has extremely high fees for internet service on the agreement.

Why did Selective Solutions make the presentation regarding Comcast?  Comcast has a sales force.  Comcast should have come and made a presentation or answer questions.  Why is Selective Solutions involved at all, and how much do they make as the middle man? NO Commissioner will ask this question! A company as large as Comcast should not need a contract just to find out if they can provide service or not.

The BOC heard a spiel about they had to sign a contract first to show the county is serious, and then if Comcast cannot provide the service or it’s too expensive the county could cancel the contract. What sense does this make? Somehow it makes perfect sense to our County Manager who needs this so she can have telephone calls rollover to her cell phone when she is out of the office. “It would be just like she was in the office,” she said.

Another problem that was never mentioned is what the equipment is going to cost. Shouldn’t we find out what equipment and handsets cost before we even entertain changing the service?  But again, these are questions the BOC never asks. They can’t even be certain it will save the county money at all.  

 

You are encouraged to attend the meeting for these two issues. They are first on the agenda. Citizens, if you want to make a difference in what goes on, the only way to do it is to attend the meetings. You also have 3 minutes to speak beforehand about any issue you please.

 

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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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SHERIFF POPE PROVIDES INFORMATION ON BETHEL CHURCH RD. INTERSECTION AND OTHER PROBLEM INTERSECTIONS IN THE COUNTY

October 30, 2014

Sheriff Pope Badge PicTWG received the following information from Sheriff Pope today:    

 

I would like to make a couple of clarifications involving the wreck at Bethel Church Rd. and Hwy. 212 West on Monday morning, 10/27/14. When reading the original email, it would be easily misinterpreted that our office’s response time was inappropriate due to disregarding the wreck in order to work school traffic. I assure you that was not the case.

Deputy Carey was the officer dispatched to the wreck call involving a light utility truck and a Ford Ranger with no injuries on Hwy. 212 West and Bethel Church at 7:42 a.m. Deputy Carey left his post at Hwy. 212 West and the Jasper County Primary School where he was directing traffic in order to respond to the wreck. He arrived on-scene at 7:46 a.m.

We agree that this is one of the most dangerous intersections in the county, and we are working with those involved to implement traffic devices and signage that will make this a safer intersection for our citizens and drivers passing through our county. After speaking with several of the drivers involved in the accidents, it appears that the GPS navigation units are directing users to travel through this unfamiliar intersection. On both of the last two wrecks the drivers came to a complete stop, saw the oncoming traffic and then pulled off thinking it was a four way stop.

My personal opinion is the most effective solution is for the intersection to be a four-way stop. I base my opinion on and reference the intersection at Hwy. 380 and Hwy. 11 South in our county. After numerous serious accidents, this intersection was made a four-way stop. To date, we have not had another accident at this intersection. I also reference Hwy. 87 in Monroe County and it’s intersections at Hwy. 83, Juliette Road and Hwy. 18. Lights, signs and strips were all tried at these intersections prior to making them all four-way stops. While I’m sure that these efforts were somewhat effective and helped, there was still the need that finally lead to make these all four-way stops.

We have currently been actively involved in discussion with the Georgia Department of Transportation concerning the purposed extension of Hwy. 380 from Hwy. 16 East to Hwy. 83 North and Hwy. 380 a four-way stop, nor the Rock Eagle intersection. We have strongly encouraged their reconsideration of these future intersections.

It still remains our primary goal and mission to protect the citizens of Jasper County and provide the highest level of professional service obtainable. I take that responsibility personally and extremely seriously.

Sheriff Donnie Pope

 

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WHO SHOULD YOU VOTE FOR?

October 29, 2014

Vote

The registrar’s office has confirmed that over 1,000 people have taken advantage of early voting in Jasper County as of this morning.

“Real” voting day is next Tuesday, November 4th from 7:00am-7:00pm at your designated polling place.

Remember, if you are not satisfied with a candidate, especially if they have no one running against them, you can write in another name—your name, your mother’s name, Mickey Mouse, any name—as a protest to show the candidate you don’t feel you are being represented.

There are two constitutional amendments. There is also a State-wide referendum question; it is about allowing providers of student housing to be tax exempt. In essence a yes vote allows developers of the student housing to be tax exempt! Make sure you are aware of what this referendum is really about before you vote—giving developers more tax breaks. This is not about making student housing more “affordable.”  Read about it here.

Here is a copy of the Sample Ballot for Jasper County including pictures of the candidates—this does not include District 2 and District 4 County Commission races:

http://vote-ga.org/Ballot.aspx?State=GA&Election=GA20141104GA&Congress=010&StateSenate=025&StateHouse=129&County=159

Take time to vote. It is still a privilege you have!

 

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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MONDAY MORNING 8:00am—ANOTHER WRECK AT HWY 212 W & BETHEL CHURCH ROAD

October 27, 2014

Danger

Just wondering what Comm. Craig “I’ve never had a problem at the Bethel Church Rd. intersection” Salmon is thinking this morning? There was another wreck at that intersection at 8:00AM this morning.

It has to be emphasized that the BOC and County Manager have had over two weeks since this was brought to their attention to place signs—such as “Dangerous Intersection”, “Two Way Stop Only”, and various other warning signs that could be placed at this intersection to alert people to the dangers.

This morning when the wreck happened, people sat for 10 minutes waiting to turn left onto Hwy 212 from Bethel Church Rd. with no officers to direct traffic. Finally Sheriff’s deputy Patrick Carey showed up, while 2 officers were still directing traffic into the Primary school and Piedmont Academy.

The wreck this morning involved two service-type trucks. The stop sign is now down because of this wreck, so we will see how long it takes public works to be directed to get it back up (correctly this time we hope).

Comm. Henry was texted this morning as he seems to be the only one that might care about this. No other commissioner responded to messages left on Friday night after the last wreck. He sent back this picture of a sign that he had suggested.

StopCrossTrafficThis is perfect, along with another sign in between the “Stop Ahead” sign and the actual intersection that says “Dangerous Intersection.” However, when is it going to be done?

The County Manager is the one in control in our county, but this morning at 9:00AM she still wasn’t at work. She was out of work the entire week after this issue was presented to the BOC on 10/15/14. So maybe the Public Works department hasn’t even been directed to put up signs.

Maybe it is time for the BOC to actually get involved and do something!

 Please share this on your Facebook page and forward this email to others. Ask them to call or email the Commissioners. You or your loved ones could be the next victims at this intersection.

Hwy 212 E at Perimeter Rd. (Hwy 380) is just as dangerous. This intersection involves two state roads, so GDOT will have to get involved to make things better at that intersection.

 

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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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ANOTHER WRECK TONIGHT AT BETHEL CHURCH RD. & HWY 212 W

October 24, 2014

Car Wreck

The evening of October 10, 2014 a wreck occurred at the intersection of Hwy 212 W and Bethel Church Rd. It ended in tragedy for the family of an eighteen year old boy from Homer, GA.

 

On October 15, 2014 Mary Patrick spoke to the Commissioners concerning this wreck, asking for signage and anything else to help prevent more wrecks at this intersection. Watch presentation here:

There were suggestions given about signage needed and other ideas.

At the end of the meeting Comm. Salmon had his say about the presentation:

After asking the County Manager to look into “getting quotes,” Comm. Salmon said he had been hitting Bethel Church Rd. for 26 years and had never had an issue with it. In fact he said this 2 or 3 times.   Comm. Henry asked about getting some correct verbage for the signs, and the County Manager brought up rumble sticks. There was concern among the commissioners.

Each year there is more and more traffic on Hwy 212 W and at Bethel Church Rd. More people that don’t know that it is only a 2 way stop at that intersection, cross through it. There have been many wrecks there, and there have been fatalities at that intersection.

Tonight there was another wreck (2 weeks after the last one). It was fortunate that there were no fatalities; however, we don’t know the extent of any injuries in the wreck that occurred.

I called Comm. Henry and informed him of the wreck. He was concerned and agreed to look into getting something done quickly. I called Comm. Trammell and there was no answer. I called Comm. Luke and left a message for him at his house urging them to get Public Works to put signs up as soon as possible. I called Comm. Salmon (the commissioner for my district) and informed him of the wreck. His response was, “You had 4 years to get something done.” Then he had to hurriedly get off the phone. Comm. Salmon lives close to this intersection, but since “he has never had a problem there” he doesn’t seem to be concerned about it. I was truly shocked at his calloused response, as I was the evening of the BOC meeting.

Commissioners, please push this issue to the front of your agenda next week instead of allowing continued wrecks, destroyed vehicles, and people being hurt or killed at the intersection of Hwy 212 W and Bethel Church Rd.

 

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Hancock Co. Probate Judge Pleads Guilty to Embezzlement

Hancock Co. Probate Judge pleads guilty to embezzlement

http://www.13wmaz.com/story/news/local/hancock/2014/10/23/marva-rice-hancock-probate-judge-guilty-embezzlement/17787923/

4:38 p.m. EDT October 23, 2014

HancockCoA Hancock County probate judge pleaded guilty Thursday to two counts of theft of federal funds.

Marva Rice entered her guilty plea at the federal courthouse in Macon, according to a news release from US Attorney Michael Moore.

Rice faces a maximum sentence of up to 10 years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines.

Rice was responsible for collecting fines and fees and depositing those funds in the probate court bank account. A federal investigation revealed that in 2012, Rice failed to deposit $43,864, the news release states. In 2013, she used $20,000 in county funds to pay her own personal legal fees.

She will be sentenced in about 60 days, according to the news release.

 

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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.

 

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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