May 13, 2015
Last night at the BOC meeting we weren’t sure if Gene Trammell had lost his mind or just can’t remember from one day to the next what he says. He started the meeting this way, “Nobody ever mentioned closing Animal Control.” Watch his 57 second speech…
“Rumors” with no basis in fact? Nobody ever mentioned closing Animal Control? At the 5/7/15 budget hearing HE was the person that asked County Manager Karen Degges to go over the closure proposal. Here is a copy of the 2 separate budgets for Animal Control that are in the FY16 budget packet. The discussion about Animal Control, its budget, and the closure proposal lasted from approximately 7:15 to 7:25pm on May 7. If the tapes haven’t been destroyed or altered, they will show this was discussed.
Even though the other commissioners didn’t comment on Trammell’s blatant lie, Comm. Salmon did dispute what he said. He said it was indeed discussed, and we thank Comm. Salmon for being honest about it publicly. Watch the video with all the commissioners’ comments, and watch how Comm. Trammell tries to change the tone by interjecting “it wasn’t voted on.” (Comm. Salmon starts at :53 on the video.)
Karen Degges also has comments about what was discussed. Trammell says “nothing has happened.” Well, nothing is ever voted on during budget discussions, but maybe he forgot that too.
Trammell has to make another comment about RUMORS at the end of the Commissioner comments. “This is typical of the way rumors travel in Jasper County. I guess it..we just have any…we just don’t have anything to do. And we ..so we try to tend to one anothers’ (sic) business.“
What Trammell seems to forget so often as he is working “one on one” or behind closed doors, it is our business. It is the public’s business. And we will “tend to it” so we know what is going on and how much it is costing us! This is why it is called OPEN GOVERNMENT, which this BOC tries desperately to get around anyway they can.
The new discussion about Animal Control is now about how words are used–not “close” the shelter, but have it so one person picks up animals and takes them somewhere to be euthanized. They will still have one staff member, so in essence it won’t be closed down. And are there any guesses who that person will be? We are betting it will be the new ‘code enforcement officer’ that Karen Degges hired. All she (Virginia Williams at $15/hour) does now is ride around with either Sherry Braley (the Animal Control director, Code Enforcement, P&Z person) or Brad Cherry the building inspector. She used to work in Baldwin, GA with Karen Degges and has been an Animal Control officer.
There has been NO air conditioning at Animal Control for a week or more. Any bets Karen Degges making $85,000 a year is sitting in her office without air conditioning? Or Mike Benton ($55,000/year) in his office, or Sherry Braley ($18/hour) in her office without air conditioning? But it is ok for the peons at Animal Control that make $8.00 per hour to suffer along with the animals there. Karen Degges says on Facebook that “she didn’t know about it.” Well, her Animal Control director, Sherry Braley knew about it; why didn’t she tell Ms. Degges? No, instead Degges tries to blame the Animal Control staff for not telling HER. Who is in charge—Karen Degges or Sherry Braley? The staff must stay confused, because we sure do at the meetings. If it is something to brag about Degges is in charge. If it is something else, Braley is in charge.
There has been no money allowed to be spent on vet services recently either. Today RMG raised enough money to help a dog with a wound on his neck with maggots in it, and he was able to be seen by a vet today.
Mike Benton told the BOC during his quarterly financial report on 5/4/15 that Sherry was not letting Animal Control spend any money because they had gone over budget in some areas. BUT when any other department goes over budget, he and Karen Degges come with a budget amendment and have plenty of money left in contingency to move to that department’s budget so they can continue to spend. In fact, both Benton and Degges have bragged to the BOC how they still have over $100,000 in contingency and have been finding ways to spend it during the budget hearings. But not for animal control! No air conditioning, no money for traps or a catch pole, no money for a vet to look at hurt or wounded dogs, but plenty of money for everyone else.
Here’s some examples..
—Karen Degges just hired a new person this Monday 5/11/15 —an administrative specialist at $15 per hour—to help Sherry Braley, to help Mike Benton, to help her do whatever it is she does. Today Degges’ spent hours of county time on the Facebook page of the rescue group that pours time and money into the animals at the Jasper County shelter and to give those folks a budget lesson.) Karen Degges makes $85,000 or $40.87 per hour. She is always so overwhelmed with her work, which mostly consists of stirring up confusion and trouble and then convincing the BOC she can fix it. Her Facebook time today cost the taxpayers a pretty penny.
—She added more money in the P&Z budget to make sure her friend got full time pay all during the new budget year at $15 per hour.
–She has moved contingency money into Public Works after spending $25,000 more on plate dirt than the BOC approved.
—Economic Development already gets $60,000 a year and they have asked for another $47,511. A $10,000 increase is suggested by the County Manager.
–We could go on and on, but the problem is here, someone does not want Animal Control to succeed. The BOC was misled with bloated utility figures and problems that don’t exist. (The utility bills paid in April only totaled a little more than $400, not the $1000’s the BOC was told was happening.)
Karen Degges also says in her Facebook posts that she has to cut the budget. No, that is not true. She has to cut the 12% proposed increases in the FY16 budget—the wish lists every department has submitted. The current budget is $8.8 M; the proposed wish list is $10,000,444. So this isn’t about “lean years” and huge cuts; this is about cutting wish lists that some departments will get and others won’t. Animal Control seems to be one that won’t.
This morning (May 13, 2015) Karen Degges showed up at Animal Control and happened to be there when a citizen arrived. She was sitting in her car talking with one of the Animal Control staff that was standing outside. There is no telling what she was unhappy about, but based on her Facebook posts today, we can guess what it was all about. The BOC refuses to reign in this bully, and employees are too worried about keeping their jobs (except for a very few chosen few) to do anything about it.
Karen Degges whines about all the “hard budget years” ahead of the county on her Facebook posts about Animal Control, but brags to the BOC in a power point presentation that the county will have a $630,000 surplus for FY14 (no audit finished yet) and Mike Benton said FY15 will have a $500,000 surplus. So which is it? Again, the problem is, Karen Degges can make any department look bad if she wants something changed. Right now it is Animal Control. Animal Control is one of the few budget areas we saw that no pay raises are requested on the FY16 budget. Why is that?
Here’s just part of Degges’ post on RMG’s Facebook—“Yes, we are in a very tough budget year, and whether I personally like it or not, I was instructed to deliver to the board a balanced budget at various millage rates. Some commissioners want to lower the millage rate, so I was charged with finding ways to cut between $850,000 and $1,500,000 million dollars. To the person above who suggested we start cutting with our salaries…the entire county payroll (including the sheriff’s office, ambulance drivers and so on) is less than $500,000 so we could all be let go and it wouldn’t be enough money…that’s how much we have to cut this year.”
These are the kinds of blatant lies told by the County Manager and repeated by the BOC. She says that the entire county payroll is $500,000 a year!! Her own report in the budget packet shows ONE DAY of pay for the county is $14,255.60 or $3,706,716 per year. If you add in the FICA and retirement that must be paid, one day is $15,975.32 or $4,153,583 per year. Look at this schedule and see what Animal Control costs the county in salaries. (Salaries are almost 1/2 of the annual county budget.)
When did all the problems with Animal Control start? Right after Comm. Henry made mention at a BOC meeting that he wished everything was running as smoothly as Animal Control was. This was when the $72,000 renovation of the Animal Control building was completed (with funds Rescue Me GA worked to have donated, not Jasper County staff or commissioners) and there was going to be a grand opening. Ms. Degges had rarely if ever been to Animal Control before then, but right after all the hoopla, she sent Mike Benton (CFO) down to Animal Control to inform them they couldn’t spend any more money. The real problem here was RMG got the credit they deserved, Comm. Henry commented everything was going well, and Karen Degges wasn’t in the limelight she so craves.
Yes, TWG does bring issues to the forefront, and we will continue to do so. With the blatant lies told and the secret meetings held by this BOC and their staff, no one knows what they will do. They did present a closure of Animal Control budget and they did discuss it with Comm. Trammell leading the way. These are not vicious rumors, and the blatant lie in denying it by Comm. Trammell shows why people of this county do not trust him or the BOC.
As we said in our first post about this proposal–We have learned long ago, if something is presented and no one says anything about it, it will happen. By alerting people to this possibility, the BOC knows where those who contacted them stand on the issue. The BOC can find all sorts of money to fund everything else, why not animal control?
Again, here are the numbers and email addresses for the Commissioners. Take time to let them know your feelings on this issue.
District 1 Pennamon email@example.com 762-435-9766
District 2 Henry firstname.lastname@example.org 706-819-3943
District 3 Trammell email@example.com 706-468-0554
District 4 Salmon firstname.lastname@example.org 706-819-9561
District 5 Luke email@example.com 706-819-3933
When will enough be enough? When will the citizens of Jasper County decide they want the truth and honesty and demand it? Soon, we hope!
Please forward this to your email list, and take time to get involved.
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.