IS THE LAW NEGOTIABLE NOW?

A letter to the editor, Monticello News, this week

July 22, 2016

Dear Editor:

After reading your article last week on the BOC discussion of Bennett Cove, it led me to believe that there had only been one violation there—“a party last year caused problems with loud noise and other complaints.”  Nothing could be further from the truth.

Despite the fact that Dr. Cecil Bennett is operating a commercial business (which he advertises on several sites online) in an agriculture district, he has been and continues to be allowed to carry on.  In April, Code Enforcement wrote a citation for operating a commercial business without a license; a license that can not be obtained until there is a request for a zoning change, a hearing, and an approval.  Since April 2016 there have been at a minimum, graduation parties on 2 separate weekends, a wedding, and 2 other parties-one that included fireworks the weekend after the 4th of July. 

Bennett Cove Weddings

In 2015 there was liquor served without a license, ads on Facebook to “drink til you drop”, loud music all night long, ads for an XXX lingerie party, numerous and ongoing complaints by citizens, and yet neither the noise ordinance nor the zoning ordinance was enforced and the parties were allowed to continue.  Dr. Bennett bragged at a zoning hearing in December that he had never been cited. 

In January 2016, Shane Sealy, P&Z Director over zoning and Code Enforcement said, “There should be no events, day or night, at Bennett Cove until there is hearing and approval of a special use permit.”  After the so-called text amendment presented by Dr. Bennett was denied by the P&Z Board, Dr. Bennett proclaimed to everyone in the room (around 20 people) that it was his property and he would do what he wanted on his property.  Since that time he has done exactly that, which unfortunately includes disturbing the peace, operating a commercial business without a license, having no health permit, collecting no tourism tax for overnight stays as required, trespassing on neighbors property, and a variety of other complaints by the surrounding neighbors.  You can watch a neighbor detailing the problems in this video-

Captain Mike Steele of the JCSO, after finally complying with an open records request, confirmed NO citations have been issued by the JCSO from June 2015 until present.

In Washington, D.C. we see daily that those in power do not face consequences and do not have to follow the law.  The same seems to be true in Jasper County.  If you are a doctor or hold some other title, or if you have a certain last name, or if you are an elected official, you don’t have to worry about obeying the law.  In fact, during the BOC discussion, the Sheriff said that he and Dr. Bennett’s lawyer were trying to come to a resolution.  Really?  If I decide to break the law every weekend, will I be able to continue to do so as long as I have a lawyer, and he and the Sheriff can work out a resolution?  Is this how the law works now?

I always understood that everyone is equal under the law, justice is blind, and that the law will be applied equally to everyone.  It now appears anyone and everyone can build a structure on their property, rent it out, and/or run any type of business they please.  If one person is allowed to do so without consequence, then everyone should be allowed to do so.  Once Jasper County gets a reputation for not enforcing the law, things will get out of hand very quickly.

Mary Patrick

TWG

 

 

Posted in Code Enforcement, County, Open Government, Planning & Zoning, Sheriff | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

TWO DAYS LEFT FOR EARLY VOTING-MAGISTRATE RUN OFF

July 21, 2016

Deadline

You can still vote in early voting today and tomorrow downstairs in the Jasper County Courthouse.  Election day, and your final chance to vote, is July 26th.  There are only two names on the ballot –Tim Lam and Angie Steele- for the Chief Magistrate position.  Even if you did not vote in the primary, you can vote in this run-off if you were a registered voter.

There has been controversy over a perceived conflict of interest with Angie Steele and her husband, Sheriff Captain Mike Steele and his role over the deputies.  Mrs. Steele repeatedly put ads in the paper and posted on Facebook that the JQC (Judicial Qualifications Commission) had told her there was no conflict; however, her recent post on Facebook indicates that might not be the case.

Angie JQC Post

Be informed, and then vote!  Don’t miss your chance to vote and make a difference.

TWG

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Posted in County, Magistrate, Elections/voting | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

JDA CALLS ANOTHER EXECUTIVE SESSION FOR LAND ACQUISTION

July 18, 2016

JDA logo

Tomorrow (July 19) from 12 noon to 5PM, the members of the JDA along with their attorney, Andrea Gray, and their CPA, Wayne Tamplin, will meet at Magnolia Hall in Social Circle to hold an Executive Session.  This is the second executive session in 3 weeks for JDA to discuss “land acquisition.”

On the agenda is:

JDA ExecSes

Land acquisition can mean buying or selling land.  Anyone that has kept up knows that it would be impossible for JDA to buy land because they have no money and just got the 4 counties to start paying on their $1.3M bank loan and their $5.9M GEFA loan.  That is unless they float more bonds; then of course, they could buy land.

However, it is most likely they will be selling land, but this time it probably won’t be made public until it is a done deal.  No more letting the pesky citizens find out and realize they were going to be taken to the cleaners. Keep your eyes and ears open

JDA has yet to bring us any tax revenue after giving away 10 years of tax incentives, $1.1BILLION in bonds, and $300M of State and local funding and incentives. 

By the way, when is it going to be decided by the 5 lawyers that ALL means ALL and Jasper County gets the money collected by Newton County on JDA property? 

And whatever happened to that big meeting between all the JDA members, the BOC members of each county, along with the public to “explain and lay out their plans for the future???”

TWG

Be informed! Stay informed!

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Posted in Economic Development, Open Government | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

THE JASPER COUNTY BOC POLITELY DECLINES TO GET INVOLVED IN CITY CODE ENFORCEMENT

July 15, 2016

 In an attempt to cut off discussion about City-County Code Enforcement, Comm. Trammell called for the question and said all in favor…and then was told by Comm. Luke that a motion hadn’t even been made yet.

Watch the video:

 

 “We have a motion and a second to decline the opportunity to work with the City” on code enforcement, is how Gene Trammell phrased it when calling for a vote after a motion was actually made.  The motion made by Comm. Henry was “we politely decline to do the City’s code enforcement.”

 Trammell started the conversation about City/County Code Enforcement by saying, “We’ve talked about this earlier.”  That is not true!  The BOC never talked about doing the city code enforcement before- at least not in a public meeting.  

The City originally wanted the County to draft a IGA (InterGovernmental Agreement).  During the discussion, Trammell said, “The City opted not to do an IGA and that leaves us in murky place.”  Mike Benton recommended that the County not provide code enforcement for the City and said, “We have our own situation we have to take care of.”  Then Comm. Trammell said, “So many convoluted things have come to light.”   

The vote was 5-Ø to politely decline involvement in City Code Enforcement!  This is good news for County taxpayers!

TWG

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY GETS $400,000+ GRANT TO BUY PROPERTY—WHICH PROPERTY?

July 14, 2016

Old Washington Park School

 Please, don’t tell us taxpayer’s money—yes, a grant is taxpayer’s money—is going to buy “some old property” as Comm. Trammell revealed at the last BOC meeting.  Is this “old property” the Old Washington Park School building? 

 

 The Development Authority of Jasper County (DAJC) has certainly been discussing the old Washington Park School for the past several months.  It has been one of their “projects”— a project that gets tax incentives to come here while Jasper County citizens get higher taxes.

 TWG has asked for a copy of the grant award through open records, but we were told it is secret since it involves “real estate acquisition.” 

 Citizens voiced their concerns repeatedly and asked the BOC not to buy this building a few years ago when the School Board put it up for sale.  Concerns included the cost of fixing up the old Washington Park School and the asbestos problems it has. 

 In December 2013, J.E. Winston (of Macon) bought the building and 3.2 acres for $7,535 from the School Board through an online auction.  In May 2014, this property was sold to Monticello Studios, LLC for $60,000.  The tax assessors have it valued at $81,100 for 2016, and have this property classified as A-4 Agriculture.

 Is the old Washington Park School the property the DAJC is considering with its $400,000 grant?  If so, how much will it cost and who is going to benefit?

 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, Economic Development, Open Government | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

COMMISSIONERS LUKE & PENNAMON REBUKE TRAMMELL FOR FAVORITISM

July 13, 2016

An unusual exchange between commissioners took place at the Monday, July 11, BOC meeting after citizen comments.  After not keeping time on one citizen, Comm. Trammell tried to reign in other citizens and then tried to cut off Comm. Pennamon as he was speaking.  This must watch video says it all:

TWG sincerely hopes Comm. Luke is being honest about his wanting to listen to citizens.  We encourage him, and all the BOC members, to continue to be open to listening to their comments, complaints, and suggestions and give enough time to each person as they did on Monday night.

Comm. Pennamon is absolutely correct, the BOC can’t play favorites.  It was a highlight of the meeting when Comm. Pennamon stood up to Chairman Trammell for trying to cut him off while he was making that point.  Trammell has done his best at every meeting to cut off discussion from other members of the BOC.

TWG

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Posted in County, Open Government | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

FIRST THE COUNTY TOOK OVER CITY POLICE, NOW CITY CODE ENFORCEMENT IS NEXT

July 9, 2016

Not another back room deal!?!

Behind closed doors

 On the BOC agenda for Monday night, July 11 at 6:00PM—Item #2 under New Business– City of Monticello Code Enforcement

Last month, it was reported that City Councilman Larry Thurman said there would be an agreement “next month.”  Despite claims by BOC Chair Gene Trammell that this was not true, it is on the agenda. 

We are hoping this item is FOR DISCUSSION ONLY, but unfortunately, history shows us when something is on the agenda, it ends up being voted on with little discussion, and citizens are in the dark until after it is voted on.  (Remember, citizens only get to comment AFTER all is said and done.)

After reading in The Monticello News about an agreement between the City and County on Code Enforcement, I submitted Open Records requests to every commissioner, the County Manager, the P&Z Director (over Code Enforcement), the City Manager, City Councilmen, and Mayor.

Every person with the county said they had no documents—no memos, no notes, no letters, no emails—concerning the City/County Code Enforcement discussions.  Isn’t it strange that there are NO documents concerning this issue, even though it has been being discussed since APRIL 2016?  Absolutely no one, not the County Manager, not the City manager, not the P&Z director, nor anyone else that attended a meeting to discuss this issue took one single note. 

Commissioner Trammell wrote the following:
“There have been preliminary conversations, but nothing final.  Nothing has been put to paper, even the attorneys have not talked through the mechanics of how it would work. The BOC as a group has not discussed this issue in depth.  The city does ask for assistance on a regular basis, and if that is to continue there has to be a written agreement as to procedures and cost.”

If the City is concerned about Code Enforcement, why don’t they hire their own CE Officer to take care of the problems in the City? 

In 2014 there were two (2) “strategic planning” meetings with a large variety of people attending (approximately 30 people each time).  During these meetings Comm. Pennamon, David Dyer, Susan Holmes, and Steve Jordan all mentioned City-County Consolidation more than once as a way to “save money.” 

So how did all that money saving work out when the Sheriff took over the policing duties of Monticello?

  1.  The Sheriff said it would cost $600,000 per year to police the City of Monticello.  The City reimburses the County nothing.
  2. The Sheriff has a special “precinct” in the City, and it is covered 24/7, but there are no special precincts in the County—such as in the Turtle Cove/Alcovy Shores area, or the Shady Dale/Farrar/Newborn Area, or the County Line Rd./Henderson Mill Rd. area.  All these areas have subdivisions and a good sized population.
  3. The County taxpayers have had $650,000 added to their taxes to pay for this special 24/7 police service in the City by the Sheriff, but people living in the county don’t benefit from that service.  County folks get service when they call for it.

How has this new arrangement saved money for the taxpayers?

Monday night the BOC should reveal to all citizens what the plan is –in detail—for the County to do City code enforcement, and GIVE CITIZENS TIME TO REVIEW IT AND COMMENT ON IT.  The people in the county can’t get code enforcement to do anything as it is; so why would the county take on more work?  Is a special City Code Enforcement officer going to be hired?  How much more are the county taxpayers going to have to pay for this special service for the City?  The answer will be, “Nothing!  The city will pay for it.”  Who in the county has ever tracked anything so we know how much it costs? 

4.7.16-Code-Enf-Docs  Click link to see a copy of the documents that do exist, even though all county officials said none existed.

Also, a copy of the agenda packet was requested and not received.  If there is anything in the packet concerning the code enforcement issue, it was not released to us.

Please, take time Sunday afternoon and evening and Monday to call and/or email all the commissioners about this issue.  Ask them to discuss it only and let the citizens KNOW what is planned and be given time to comment.   As of now THERE ARE NO DETAILS, THERE ARE NO DETAILS, THERE ARE NO DETAILS.

Commissioner Contact information—click link for email and telephone number:

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

Take time to attend the meeting Monday night, July 11 at 6:00PM.

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, Code Enforcement, County, Open Government, Sheriff | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments