Why have public hearings become such a joke? And who will benefit from the $9.5M Water/Megasite Project?

January 17, 2018

Public hearings are required by law; however, they no longer seem to serve the purpose of allowing citizens and taxpayers to express their opinion about an upcoming project before the final decision is made.  There are two (2) reasons why this is no longer true.  One, the citizens have no idea of the details of any project before the public hearing takes place, and two, the project is already a done deal before the public hearing.

In particular, the recent hearing on the USDA loan/grant of $9.5M applied for by the City of Monticello could hardly be called a public hearing.  The mayor and three (3) of the city council members listened to the consultant for 20 minutes of a 30 minute hearing.  It was obvious they could care less about what any citizen had to say because they refused to allot time for everyone that wanted to speak.  Four citizens were allowed to speak approximately two (2) minutes each.  The council did not answer any questions, and no responses to written questions (the Mayor said should be submitted) have been received.

Presently, the plan is to make sure the utility rates are set so the City’s utility revenues will cover expenses plus the $201,057 annual payment to USDA for the next 40 years.  The consultant projected negligible population increases during that time.  One of the citizens that did get to speak questioned the need for this $9.5M “water” project if there was no growth expected and the current usage would not increase.

The consultant’s report (obtained through open records) gives extremely unlikely “alternatives” to the project, such as drawing water out of Jackson Lake–something that JCWSA and others were told 15 years ago would never happen.  Using  highly unlikely alternatives as comparisons made the $9.5M Mines Lake project the “cheapest” and “best” according to the report submitted to USDA.

It is time to allow citizens to vote on large amounts of debt that will encumber them for decades.  At a very minimum, officials should have a real public hearing AFTER full disclosure of the details and then decide AFTER the public hearing what to do, and if anything should be modified or questioned.

There always seems to be a way for taxpayer investment to fund lots of private profit….on land deals, surveys, consultants, etc.  Of the $9.5M requested, $1.05M is for “contingency” and $337,000 is for “contractor markup.”  This is approximately $1.4M or 15% of the project cost to help selected contractors make more money….uh, for cost overruns.  Another $580,612 is listed for engineering design and construction management.

As it is now, as long as taxpayers foot the bill, nothing seems to be too expensive or too outrageous for our public officials to support.  Which private firms and individuals will this project enrich with taxpayer’s money?

TWG

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 City, Open Government, Water | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

CONSULTANT ADMITS NO PROJECTED POPULATION GROWTH BUT CITY NEEDS $9.5M USDA LOAN FOR WATER

January 13, 2018

The City “public hearing” on the USDA loan was little more than a way to check off a box on the USDA loan list of things to do.  Four citizens were allowed to speak less than 3 minutes each, while consultants spoke for 20 minutes of the 30 minutes allotted to the public hearing.

Consultant confirms that city utility revenues are on the hook for the USDA loan repayment, but thinks that is a great idea.

The consultant admits there is no population growth expected and said that usage would stay the same or go down as well.

City resident, Greg Holder, questioned the need for the property and the loan if there is no population growth and lamented that his pocketbook was at stake since the city had pledged utility revenues to pay the loan.

Other questions asked that need answers (waiting on answers):

·       When will this project come online and provide more water?  This would include running water lines, refurbishing the wells, putting in a water treatment plant, etc.  USDA loan request documents do not say, and according to USDA notes from the initial meeting between Stone Workman and USDA representatives, it shows Workman wanted this project done in phases.  Buy the land, then later do the water project, but USDA would not loan money for a project that was not needed presently.

  • How many wells are on the property?  Newspaper reports, documents, and the consultant all have a different number of wells on the property, ranging from 5 to 8.  How many are actually there?
  • Will Stone Workman receive any consulting fee or other compensation for helping get the USDA loan since this is something he does do for hire?  This is one question that was answered immediately.  The mayor said no, but Mr. Workman, former USDA Rural Development State Director, has been intimately involved in getting this loan, and does so for others.  He has said it is his expertise.
  • What properties are going to be annexed into the City?  This was not discussed at the public hearing, but brought up later in the City Council meeting.  Are the owners of those properties going to agree to the annexation or is it just going to happen so the City can bring in more tax revenue to help pay for the project?

 Mayor Standifer said to submit any questions in writing and they would send the answers.  No questions were answered at the public hearing, and many people did not know what questions to ask because all of this has been done in secret, behind closed doors, and in out of town meetingsYet, Mayor Standifer continuously uses the word “transparency” and how they want everyone to know about the project….after the deal is already done, of course! 

There is no doubt that the City is going to get this $9.5M loan/grant package if there is a real need or not.  As long as taxpayers foot the bill, nothing seems to be too expensive or too outrageous for our public officials to support.

TWG

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 City, Open Government, Water | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

ANOTHER JASPER COUNTY EMPLOYEE ARRESTED FOR THEFT

January 5, 2018

Keith Haddock

 

As reported, “Joel Keith Haddock, 41, of Monticello was charged with three counts of theft by taking. Mr. Haddock is a former Emergency Technical Technician (EMT) for the county’s fire/rescue program, and he allegedly took money from the fire station in Monticello.”

 He was terminated last week, so at the time of theft he was not really a “former employee.”

 

 Mr. Haddock follows four (4) other Jasper County employees arrested for theft.  Those employees being:  Sherry Braley (P&Z Director), Michelle Raynor (Probate Clerk), Melissa Strozier (Senior Center), and Michael Barrett (Jasper County Sheriff Dept), all who have been arrested for theft while employees of Jasper County in the last 3 years.

 

TWG

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, EMS, Planning & Zoning, Sheriff | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

BOMBSHELL: CITY OF MONTICELLO TO GET $9.5 MILLION USDA LOAN AND SET UTILITY RATES TO INSURE COVERAGE OF DEBT SERVICE

January 3, 2018

If you want to know more or have comments about this loan and corresponding debt and possible utility rate increases, attend the public hearing on Tuesday, January 9, 2018 at 5:30PM at City Hall.

Last February, City of Monticello Mayor Pro Tem, Stone Workman, contacted USDA (where he previously worked as State Director), about a loan for the City to purchase land and develop it as a water site.  The project was to take effect in stages—first purchase the land and then run water lines and put in a treatment plant.  However, this plan quickly changed when USDA informed the City only loan money would be available for that proposed plan. 

 According to documents we have obtained, the City will get a $9,500,000 grant/loan with $4,000,000 being a grant and $5,500,000 being a 40 year loan with annual payments of $201,057.
  

Additionally, the City assured USDA in writing that they would pledge the revenues of their combined utility system–water, electric, gas, and sewer—to pay the debt.

The City recently obtained a $3,236,000 20-year loan from GEFA to purchase the “Feldspar wells” and Mine Road property of 705 acres.  The plan appears to be to obtain the USDA loan to pay off the GEFA loan for the property and then run water lines from the site to the City. 

We have approximately 600 pages to review, but we will keep you informed of other information we find in the documents—including the inflated population projections to “show” that water will be needed in the next 30 years.

Stone Workman uses his past employment with USDA to help cities, counties, and businesses to obtain loans from USDA.  Recently he has worked with John McDonald of JWM Ventures headquartered in Las Vegas, NV.  At a meeting with the Brunswick City Council, the newspaper reported, “Workman said his expertise is acquiring financing for the company’s projects.”  They quoted Workman as saying, “The USDA has a loan guarantee program, and there are new market tax credits and other federal, state and local programs. That’s what my specialty is.” 

 Read entire article here:
http://jacksonville.com/news/georgia/2015-08-19/story/developers-eying-brunswick-downtown-hotel

We are assuming  Stone Workman will forego his usual consulting fee for obtaining the USDA loan the since he is Mayor Pro Tem of the City of Monticello.

Stay tuned.  There is a lot more to come!

TWG

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, Open Government, Water | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

GEORGIA LEGISLATURE WANTS TO PAY PEOPLE TO MOVE TO “RURAL” COUNTIES

December 28, 2017

“Under the incentives proposal, lawmakers would create a program to offer state income tax deductions of up to $50,000 annually for 10 years to new residents of rural counties. That yearly deduction would double to $100,000 in counties that also give property tax abatements to new residents.”

What about those of us that are living in and have lived in Rural Georgia for years? Are we just out of luck for any tax breaks?? And why would these poor, rural counties give away property taxes? Isn’t this the reason they want MORE people to move in–for an increased tax base?????  Who would make up that loss of revenue? Oh, yeah, the people that already live here and are paying way too much in property taxes already!

If the State has so much extra money, why don’t they give ALL the citizens of Georgia a tax break by decreasing the state taxes, the fuel taxes, the sales taxes, the permit fees, etc.??  The State always has plenty of money to give away to big billion dollar corporations in “incentives” to move to Georgia, but never can seem to help the people that already live here.

Is this idea really a way to help rural counties or just another way to push Atlanta’s problems on someone else?  Rural Georgia seems to be just about  anywhere but the Atlanta area.

You can read the entire article here.

http://www.myajc.com/news/state–regional-govt–politics/some-big-georgia-cities-under-consideration-for-rural-tax-breaks/Iv2YcwxG1n2xM5JyIj2vdJ/?ecmp=newspaper_email#user/access/9e6c.d6733044.1514405400.

 TWG

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 Property taxes, State Legislation | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

JCWSA BOARD APPOINTMENTS – WHEN YOU SCREW SOMETHING UP, DO IT SO BADLY THAT YOU HAVE AN EXCUSE TO RE-DO IT

December 20, 2017

At the December meeting, the BOC made appointments to the JCWSA board.  The only problem was, the BOC had no idea what the terms were or who they were appointing to what terms.  We do have to give credit to Comm. Salmon, who corrected the terms from 5 years to 3 years and also said the terms were staggered.  This seemed to make no difference as the BOC plowed ahead and reappointed every member attending and filled 3 vacant slots without regard to the terms of the slots being filled.

Mark Walton, former JCWSA member and current record-keeper of sorts, provided the BOC with a chart of current members and their terms as well as the open board seats approximately two weeks before the BOC meeting.  Obviously this bit of information was ignored.

Four (4) current members were reappointed without regard for their terms.
Mary Alice Carter was reappointed, despite her term not ending until 2019.  Ken McMichael was reappointed and his term actually ended in 2017; his term was extended until 2020.  Billy Whitten was reappointed but his term doesn’t end until 2018.  Elvin Singleton was reappointed and his term does not end until 2018.  All these reappointments should be null and void except for Ken McMichael’s reappointment.

Additionally, three (3) vacant seats were filled with Eileen Ott, Joseph Hinton, and Bobby Sutton; however, the BOC had no idea what seats they were filling or when the terms ended. 

The County Clerk, Sharon Robinson, was told to look up terms and report back at next meeting.    

The BOC needs to look at the terms for the JDA (Stanton Springs)we think the last appointment of Steve Jordan was in 2009, and at Economic Development.  The vacant seat left by the resignation of Robert Jordan last December has never been filled, or at least not properly. 

TWG

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 , | 4 Comments

PROPERTY TAXES DUE 12/20/17

December 15, 2017

Just a reminder that your property taxes are due December 20, 2017. 

 You can pay your property taxes online by going to https://www.jaspercountygatax.com/#/

 

TWG

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Posted in Property taxes | Tagged | 3 Comments