March 5, 2015

CellTower“The real reason behind AT&T halting its network infrastructure roll-out is because it spent, or plans to spend, too much money on acquisitions.”–Steel in the Air


The BOC was taken aback at their last meeting when representatives from AT&T told them the plan for Jasper County has changed. David Walker with AT&T wireless said, “AT&T has not forgotten the plan, but will do things as capital becomes available. May it will be next year or next, but it is on the capital plan.” Watch video:


In essence folks, we have a bunch of ugly towers standing around the county and absolutely no cell service on them. AT&T has reneged on its agreement after having towers built. The company has pulled back on its plans to aggressively build out rural areas with new towers. (See article below)

There is some hope. American Tower, the company that built and owns the towers, can put other carriers on the towers, but only if they pay a penalty ($1000 per tower) for being out of compliance and ask for a variance of the ordinance which requires AT&T to locate on the tower first. It was stated that AT&T would NOT be locating on these towers any time in the next several years.

The BOC also has the authority to fine AT&T up to $350 per day per tower for being out of compliance. The BOC declined to do so because they said they wanted cell service on these towers. Sherry Braley, Planning & Zoning director, said T-Mobile was interested in locating on the towers. Renewal of the permits, at a cost of $1000 per tower, will have to be paid every 6 months until the towers are activated and in service.

Six towers are built and two are not. No one could answer why the proposed tower on Clay Tillman Rd. had not been built. The proposed tower on Palato Rd. is being held up because the site has some historic significance.

At the end of the 35 minute discussion, Comm. Trammell had more of his usual interesting comments. He said, “It is what it is. Let AT&T pay the fee and get on with it. We are well positioned to get new carriers now because of the towers. AT&T will get here when it gets here.” Comm. Salmon had a better comment, much more to the point, “AT&T has changed their mind after the agreement was made. It leaves a bad taste in your mouth.”

Have you ever tried to get out of a cell phone agreement with AT&T? It will cost you a bundle, and they show no mercy. Our BOC was almost too gracious by allowing the AT&T rep tell them how much they cared for Jasper County while sticking the knife in deep and twisting it.

The following article probably accounts for the delay in getting the towers up and running in Jasper County. TWG received this on January 30th after we put out a blog on the delay on these towers (BOC APPROVES 8 CELL TOWERS WITH MOST REQUIRED PAPER WORK MISSING and DID YOU KNOW? ….That AT&T is out of compliance because they don’t have the new cell towers operating yet? )

 AT&T Slow Down  

From “Steel in the Air”

In the first 4-5 months of 2014, SITA received approximately an equal amount of inquiries from landowners who had received cell site lease proposals from AT&T and Verizon.  In that same time frame, we saw almost no inquiries from landowners who were approached by Sprint or T-Mobile.  Then in late second quarter, landowners who had been approached by AT&T for new towers were being told that their projects had been put on hold.  Simultaneously, AT&T announced a two-month freeze on capital expenditures (CapEx) which later turned into a significant reduction throughout the end of 2014.

Why the slowdown?  AT&T suggested that it would not invest money in new infrastructure while the FCC pondered whether to characterize AT&T as a utility, thereby subjecting AT&T to a possible “net neutrality” policy.  Steel in the Air believes that is just a smoke screen.  The real reason behind AT&T halting its network infrastructure roll-out is because it spent, or plans to spend, too much money on acquisitions.  In March 2014, AT&T purchased Leap Wireless for $1.2 billion.  AT&T announced plans in May 2014 to buy DirectTV, which will cost $48.5 billion, but will give the company access to more than 38 million video subscribers in the U.S. and Latin America.  In November, AT&T also announced plans to buy Mexican Telecom Iusacell for $1.7 billion.  While it does seem that the company’s divestitures are broadening (particularly into video), the near term result is clear that the company pulled back on its plans to aggressively build out rural areas with new towers.

So what can the cell site lease sector realistically expect from AT&T in 2015?  More of what we saw in 2014 – fewer new site builds and a renewed focus on site upgrades and fiber backhaul to existing sites.  While the slowdown won’t impact existing site owners, it will delay new AT&T installs on existing towers and reduce the number of landowners who receive proposals for new AT&T ground leases.



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March 4, 2015

Hand with moneyThe BOC meeting Monday night was about spend, spend, spend. The county has issues with needing new police cars, road patching, and the county website, and everything can be solved with money—lots of it.

The Sheriff spoke for 35 minutes about needing 8 new cars per year, but saying that figure was unreasonable, but he did want 5 more new cars now. A special called meeting will be held within 2 weeks to discuss financing for this request. The cost per car is $40,000, so the money being talked about is between $200,000 and $320,000. The BOC’s solution seemed to be more debt and financing (except for Comm. Pennamon who suggested buying what could be bought with the money on hand). Comm. Trammell said, “Debt is not a dirty word—if handled properly” and this board has certainly added plenty of it—with almost a million dollars already borrowed during their term. Watch the following video. We will have a more detailed blog upcoming about it.

During this video, County Manager, Karen Degges says within 2 years the county will have a rebound in property tax values—meaning more property taxes to spend, and money coming in from Baxter! Later in the meeting she said we would have more sales tax coming in because of the economy—she implied it is going to be zooming! The way this BOC spends money, they already have plans to spend it all and more! (And don’t forget the $640,000 surplus Karen Degges says the county will have!)

Road patching and/or paving seems to be on every agenda. Karen Degges wanted $50,000 more for gravel and the BOC voted to “take this out of contingency” and allow her to spend the money. Of course, it doesn’t seem to matter what they vote for, she spends what she wants ($72,000+ for “plate dirt” when $50,000 was approved). The BOC agreed to let Ms. Degges and the Public Works director, Preston Campbell, look at the roads and decide which pot holes would be filled. Comm. Luke hinted at borrowing more money because “5 year increments [to do roads] isn’t going to work.”  

The BOC also agreed to allow Selective Solutions to proceed with revamping the website (which we agree is badly needed). When a comment was made about approving this, Comm. Salmon and the county attorney said that wasn’t necessary because Selective Solutions was already doing the county’s IT work. So, no amount of money was discussed about how much this revamp would cost. Comm. Trammell said he wanted the county website to “short circuit the misinformation that flies around.” (You know the misinformation shown in the videos taken at the BOC meetings!)

It truly seems impossible that the county can have this much money to spend, and the audit is still not ready so we don’t know if there will be a $640,000 surplus.  But as long as the county has those pre-signed checks, “staff” will keep writing them. Just expect another big tax increase with your next property tax bill.


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.

Posted in Budgets, County, Sheriff | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments


March 3, 2015

Deer Capital signAt the October 6, 2014 BOC meeting Comm. Salmon made a statement that he would pay for the 25 “Deer Capital” signs that Karen Degges pushed the BOC to order. The cost would be $35 per sign for a total cost of $875.

See video of the entire discussion. Comm. Salmon’s comments come at 5:20 on the video. He said he was willing to pay for the signs to help “advertise” Jasper County.

It appears that Comm. Salmon didn’t follow through with his pledge. Last night the BOC approved a budget amendment to move $1,050 for “Deer Capital Signs” into the Public Works budget. There was no discussion of this because it was on the consent agenda.

See resolution here.

Karen Degges pushed the BOC to order the 25 signs saying they could easily sell them at the Deer Festival for $70 each for someone’s “man cave.” It appears they didn’t sell quite as well as she expected, so the Public Works budget will absorb the cost, according to the resolution.

You can see by the video and the resolution that was passed last night (3/2/15) by the BOC that TWG does not put out “inaccurate accusatory statements that are without merit.” Comm. Salmon needs to follow through with his pledge.



Your comments are welcome!


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Next BOC meeting Monday, March 2 at 6:00PM

February 27, 2015

gavel   The next BOC meeting will be March 2, 2015 at 6:00PM. The following will be on the agenda.   Blue items are TWG comments.

 V.      Consent AgendaThe consent agenda has items that are not discussed by the BOC. We find it strange that budget amendments will not be presented so the citizens know what items on the budget are being amended.1.   Approval of Minutes:

· 2/2/2015 Regular Minutes

· 2/19/ 2015 Called Meeting Minutes

 2.   Check Register – Check #’s

3.   Budget Amendments – Finance

VIII. County Commissioner ItemsVarious items are discussed by the BOC members.       These items don’t have to be on the agenda.

IX. Presentations/Delegations      –Website Redesign Presentation – Ken Holmes, Selective Solutions and Allie Young, Alcovy EnterprisesSelective Solutions hosts the current website and always wants to bring Comcast to the county courthouse offices.  

X.   Regular Agenda

       Old Business:

1.      Alcohol License Application – Cora’s Bar & Grill – Wanda Barron

2.      Road Patching List

3.      AT&T Cell Tower –just wondering if AT&T will pay a fine for not following the rules like the BOC made Thomas Person’s Hall pay—double.

New Business:

1.      Region 2 Planning Board Appointment – Dept. of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities (DBHDD

2.      Surplus Sale Items

3.      Sheriff Vehicle Replacement

4.      Personnel Policy Update

5.      Financial Report

 XI. County Attorney Items                         

 XII.   County Manager Items

1.      Landfill Update–Hoping to hear all about how our County Manager is coming with converting fiber into electricity.

  XIII. Executive Session


Please take time to attend every BOC meeting.  Your participation is vital to the direction of Jasper County.

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Covington News Article on Tommy Craig & the Bear Creek Reservoir

The last blog had a link to the Covington News investigative article that reveals information about Tommy Craig and Bear Creek Reservoir.  The link does not go directly to the article.  Here is the article in its entirety.  Great reporting!

Problem Lies in Water Management, not Supply: Water Authority

Covington News
February 23, 2015
By Meris Lutz

BCR Lake Varner

On November 5, 2014, County Attorney Tommy Craig posted an alarming series of photographs at a work session for the proposed Bear Creek Reservoir.

The photographs showed Lake Varner’s water levels at a critically low level, its banks exposed, and dry islands rising above the surface. It was meant to emphasize the need for a new water source for the county — Bear Creek. Craig has been acting as water consultant and project manager for Bear Creek since the county began pursuing it in 1996.

Craig did not note in his presentation that the diversion pumps that fill Lake Varner had been turned off since April 29. The photograph was taken on November 4, and the pumps were turned back on November 24.

Newton County Water Resources Director Jason Nord confirmed that the county does not run the pumps often in the summer months to save energy and costs, and to reduce negative impacts on the environment and the quality of water. He took the photographs, and did not think their presentation was misleading.

“Tommy Craig doesn’t call me and tell me when to turn the pump on or off,” said Nord. “I don’t work for politicians; I work for the citizens of Newton County.”

Nord was responding to a technical memorandum by the Newton County Water and Sewerage Authority that found fault with the county’s pump management system.

“During the eight years covered by this review, which includes the 2007-2008 historic drought period, the [water treatment plant] staff has only pumped 9% of the total available flow during the May-November time periods each year…During this time period each year the lake level is consistently falling according to the attached information provided by the WTP staff to NCWSA,” the memorandum said.

“The operational philosophy of a pumped-storage reservoir should be, at minimum, to endeavor to keep the lake as full as possible,” it continued. “It is of grave concern that the reservoir has been unnecessarily allowed to get to dangerously low levels several times during the last eight years.”

“An important conclusion from this review is that there is no immediate source water problem if the Lake Varner reservoir is properly managed,” the memorandum concluded. “The lake level fluctuations would have been minimal if this had been implemented the past eight years.”

Nord called the authority’s report “misleading” and said the plant was operating exactly as it was designed to.

“Numbers, reports and statistics can be manipulated for any reason,” said Nord, adding that the authority did not have all the necessary facts to make such a judgment.

The technical memorandum’s findings echoe those of a key study, called a safe yield analysis, commissioned by and released to the authority’s board this week, as well as an independent review the authority commissioned of the draft Master Water Plan.

Taken together, the documents concluded that Newton County’s current water resources are sufficient to carry it forward for several decades. It is on this basis that the authority has advised against construction of Bear Creek until the customer base is large enough to fund such a project.

Chairman Keith Ellis said he had read the authority’s review of the unfinished Master Water Plan but would not comment.

The authority’s review found several serious flaws in the plan, for which the county paid Krebs Engineering over $200,000.

The review, prepared by three different engineering firms and the authority’s own chief engineer, cited the Krebs plan for inflated population projections and water demands, an inadequate hydraulic model, and a “lack of understanding regarding the transmission and distribution system.”

“People are reviewing that,” said Ellis of the review. “I do not get into technical stuff.”

He said to his knowledge, there was no scheduled meeting between the Board of Commissioners and the Water Authority. Commissioner Nancy Schulz suggested a joint work session between the two bodies at Tuesday’s meeting. Nord said he was preparing to hold a regular meeting with the technical staff of all the county’s wholesale customers.

The amount of water available in Lake Varner has implications for the timeline of the construction of Bear Creek. All parties agree that at some point, an additional water source will be needed.

The public work session, the Krebs report, and Craig’s statements to the public have given the impression that Newton County is facing an imminent water shortage in the face of rapid growth.

The authority’s findings have called that into question and raised questions about information presented to the public about Bear Creek.

The presentation given by Craig at the November work session cost the county between $12,000 and $18,000, according to an invoice submitted by Craig on November 10 (some of the preparation for the work session was bundled with other expenses). That presentation included a slide that estimated Lake Varner’s safe yield had decreased from 23 mgd (million gallons a day) to 20.4 mgd based on a letter provided by Schnabel Engineering, which was awarded a $2 million no bids contract to design the dam in 2012.

Craig claimed publicly that no safe yield analysis had been done since the 2008 drought of record, and suggested Schnabel conduct one for $86,000. The proposal was scrapped when the water authority stepped in and offered to do a safe yield analysis at its own expense.

Shortly thereafter, engineer Jim Mathis, formerly of Infratec Consultants, came forward to say he had been hired by Craig in 2009 to carry out a safe yield analysis that included the most recent drought data.

A copy of the analysis, along with a submission letter signed by Craig, was found on file with the Environmental Protection Division. That letter and attached analysis stated that Lake Varner’s safe yield remained 23 mgd, unchanged by the 2008 drought.

When asked about the Infratec report after a BOC meeting last month, Craig refused to comment. He has not responded to multiple attempts to reach him for comment since.

The safe yield analysis commissioned by the authority, which was carried out by WK Dickson, put Lake Varner’s safe yield at 23 mgd, confirming the 2009 report.

The authority’s report calculated Bear Creek Reservoir’s safe yield at only 23.8 mgd, without taking into account the county’s recent proposal to move the dam upstream, which, the report said, would likely reduce safe yield even further. The 404 Dredge and Fill permit application submitted to the Army Corp of Engineers says the reservoir would supply approximately 28 mgd.

Members of the authority’s board also expressed concern that Bear Creek would draw on the same water source as the county’s existing facilities.

“It is a pretty limited watershed,” said Executive Director Mike Hopkins. “You’re not dealing with the Chattahoochee.”

Hopkins and Chief Engineer Scott Emmons said the authority’s latest findings confirm their view that the county should prioritize addressing deficiencies in the existing infrastructure and management.

“The source water concern is not an immediate concern,” said Emoa. “The treatment capacity is an immediate concern.”

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February 26, 2015

It seems that Tommy Craig (Newton County attorney and Bear Creek Reservoir consultant) has been making up a lot of things about Bear Creek Reservoir over the years. And he billed the Newton County BOC over $12,000 for his recent presentation on Bear Creek Reservoir, where he tried once again to prove the reservoir needed to be built.

The NCWSA received analysis that doesn’t agree with Craig or his “facts”. Read this great investigative article in the Covington News.
BCR Lake VarnerAren’t you glad the Jasper County BOC and the JCWSA were fought tooth and nail in 2003 and 2004 and prevented from signing off on this multi-million dollar disaster? There’s already been over $21M spent on Bear Creek Reservoir and there is no permit and no reservoir today. Jasper County’s share would have been 25% of everything spent.



Your comments are welcome!

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February 24, 2015

 At the February 19, 2015 Jasper County BOC meeting, the Commissioners were asked about HB 170 (see important information below). After the comments, Comm. Trammell said it wouldn’t hurt the county at all, but it would hurt the Schools. What figures has Comm. Trammell been given to say it wouldn’t hurt the county at all, when other counties in the State are coming up with millions in losses?

Maybe he realizes NO FIGURES the BOC receives can be trusted or are relevant. We must wonder if the BOC has even asked how much sales tax comes into Jasper County each month or year from gas sales. It would be a good bet they don’t have a clue. But why would they care if all they have to do is vote to increase those taxes by 6% and you have no say!

That is what HB 170 is all about—transportation funding. But don’t be fooled. All local money will go to the State and the State (appointed boards) will be in control. The counties stand to lose millions that YOU will have to make up.

Transportation funding is a big deal this year in the Georgia Legislature. What is strange about this is neither Rep. Holmes nor Senator Jones has mentioned it their weekly columns in the local paper. Governor Nathan Deal wants the Legislature to come up with $1.5 Billion for transportation, and the proposal will make you pay higher taxes on gasoline.

House Bill 170 (HB 170) would phase out the state’s sales tax on motor fuel and increase the state excise tax from 7.5 cents per gallon to 29.2 cents per gallon to help with “transportation” and infrastructure in Georgia. Sounds good, right? $1.5 billion would be raised simply by taking gasoline tax funds that currently go to local governments and transferring it to the state. Here’s the kicker– YOU are left making up the difference the county loses.

The taxes from Jasper County’s Local Option Sales Tax, SPLOST, and ELOST (3% in all) would go straight to the STATE with this proposed HB 170. Many cities and counties have signed resolutions opposing this because of the loss of money to the county, cities, and schools.

Based on articles in several papers throughout the State, over $500,000,000 would have to be funded by local taxpayers with higher gas taxes or property taxes to fill the gap so the State can fund “transportation” projects.

Never fear! With such opposition, the Georgia’s Legislative Transportation Committee and ACCG have come up with a fix. The local county commissioners can just VOTE all by themselves, without a referendum of the people, to raise the sales tax 6% on gasoline sold in the county. The ability to allow a majority vote of 5 county commissioners and not a referendum of the people is against all the current laws. This will be a double sales tax to make up for the money lost to the State under this “transportation plan.” The Georgia Municipal Association, representing cities, opposes the bill.

Some county commissions have now backed off of their opposition since, hey, all they have to do is just raise your taxes and tell you “tourist” and “out of town people” will make up part of that and you will get the benefit. Don’t believe any of it! You will be paying more and more taxes.

Those that support this bill will tell you this is to fund roads and bridges. Ask the question, whose roads and bridges? Again, don’t be fooled. This is about more than roads and bridges. The bill now defines “transportation” as a much broader term, adding public transportation (MARTA) and ports (Savannah). Here is what is included:

            Georgia’s Constitution requires that all gas taxes be used for roads, but this bill attempts to redefine “transportation purposes” to include public transit, rails, airports, buses, seaports, and all accompanying infrastructure and services necessary to provide access to these transportation facilities.”

Talk about expansion of big government! In Georgia, public transit is not financially viable – MARTA stays bankrupt. Public transit is a black hole for taxpayers – period. Seaports and rail are privately held business ventures.

Cronyism plays a big role as well. Thanks to the Valdosta Tea Party for the following information (and remember the Georgia Chamber of Commerce is all behind this bill like they were the TSPLOST that was defeated by ¾ of the voters of the state):

      One highlight of their plan includes “Recapitalize the Georgia Transportation    Infrastructure Bank so that a revolving, self-sustaining, loan/grant fund is created to incentivize governments, authorities, CIDs and other entities to provide matching funds for local construction of projects.”[emphasis added]

   ”Other entities” would be those Public/Private/Partnerships with large corporations that get those juicy no-bid contracts and loans through the Infrastructure Bank. Taxpayers get stuck with any losses, while the private corporations get the profits – hence Public/Private.

   Can you imagine how much fun the cronies would have with this?  We imagine it would be very easy to hide money and contracts using this bank. A taxpayer-supported loan/grant fund for unelected boards and “authorities” just doesn’t pass the smell test in America.

    The bank’s board is where the POWER lies–Section 5-1 of the bill states, “’Georgia Transportation Infrastructure Bank Act,’ is amended by revising subsection (b) of Code Section 32-10-127, relating to loans and other financial assistance and the determination of eligible projects, as follows: “(b) The board shall determine which projects are eligible projects and then select from among the eligible projects qualified projects.” The power grab is breathtaking. The bill authors want transportation projects decided by a small power-elite at the Infrastructure Bank.


The details of this bill are ever changing, but there is one thing for sure, if you want to pay more taxes, sit back and do nothing, because if this bill passes you will. If you want to voice your concerns contact Rep. Susan Holmes and Sen. Burt Jones.            



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.

Posted in Chamber of Commerce, County, Schools, State Legislation | Tagged , , , , , , , | 8 Comments