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Notes by John Quarterman. These are citizen notes recording what we think we heard at a public meeting of the Lowndes County Board of Commissioners.

They are not the official minutes, which are usually approved at the next meeting.

Here is the VDT's writeup.

Due to having to deal with a problem a county contractor introduced at my driveway (contractor replaced my 40 foot culvert with a shorter one; it's fixed now), I was late to this meeting, and my notes begin at the point marked NOTES BEGIN HERE.

Which happens to be in the discussion about the adult entertainment ordinance, which was one of the two big items. Court Clerk Crow's issue was the other big item.

Another interesting development was that Chairman Paulk noticed someone in the back of the room wanting to ask something and called on her. This didn't used to happen in a work session. Someone had told me that he had done this before, so I guess this was the second time.

What: (Meeting Name): Lowndes County Comissioners Work Session

When: (Meeting Date / Time): Monday July 13, 2009 5:30pm

Where: (Location of meeting)
325 West Savannah Ave.
Commission Chambers

Who: (Who were officials there)
Chairman: Ashley Paulk
District 1 Commissioner: Joyce Evans
District 2 Commissioner: Richard Lee
District 3 Commissioner: G. Robert Carter

(Who were other staff / speakers there)

A dozen or more county employees from various departments.

(Who or how many other attendees were there)

How: (Meeting Notes:)

Headings from Agenda (PDF)

1. Call to Order

2. Invocation

3. Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag

4. Minutes for Approval

a. Work Session – June 22, 2009

b. Regular Session – June 23, 2009

5. Appointments for Introduction

a. Animal Control Board

b. Development Authority of Lowndes County

6. Resolution for MPO Transit Service Plan

7. Ordinances

a. Solid Waste Management Plan Ordinance

b. Anti-littering Ordinance

8. Public Hearings

a. REZ-2009-06 Tillman, Union & Cooper Rd., 0048 035, 2.78 ac., 1 lot, E-A to R-1, well/septic

b. REZ-2009-07 Roberts, 8812 Hwy 135, 0250 031A, 2.5 ac., 1 lot, R-10 to C-G, well/septic

c. TWR-2009-01 9JK0903-A "Marlin", 3860 Old Quitman Hwy, 0036 004, 320 ac., E-A

d. Consideration of an Ordinance Regulating Adult Entertainment, Unincorporated Area, LCBOC

NOTES BEGIN HERE. The County Commission covered all the issues the Planning Commission didn't want to touch. Considering the Planning Commission is an unpaid volunteer body, I can see why they didn't want to touch them.

S is a lawyer providing legal opinions requested by the county.

Carter: Do we need their recommendation?

S: No.

Carter: We can't keep lingering.

S: Can't completely ban; free speech issues.

S: Can't do a referendum in a case like this.

S: Can regulate adverse effects, so-called secondary conditions. It's not just live entertainment, also adult bookstores, movie theaters, movie stores.

S: We've done that partly by setting distance limits: > 1000' from a school, > 500' from alcohol.

Lee: Why can't we apply the same 1000' to both?

S: Trying to keep alcohol out of the adult establishment vs. greater distance from school to keep students from getting there. 500' seems far enough to discourage people from walking to the store and back with alcohol.

S: Started with Gwinnett County ordinance that has been battle tested.

Lee: I don't think we have any adult entertainment establishments in the unincorporated parts of Lowndes County, and not in the county at all, AFAIK. Do we have any video or book stores that would be grandfathered in?

S: This ordinance applies only to unincorporated areas of the county. Not personally aware of any such existing establishments.

S: Suppose an est. starts, follows ord., and then school wants to locate within 700': est. is grandfathered in.

S: Could try treating license as independent annual renewal, but would almost certainly be in the crosshairs of a legal challenge. Several hundred thousand dollars later, decision would probably be that it was grandfathered in.

Carter: They could just bring their own liquor in.

S: That's prohibited by the ordinance.

Lee: Only real question I have is that distance issue, and you've clarified that.

S: What I've tried to do, in working with the Ga. expert on this, is to regulate what we can of the secondary effects, without opening ourselves to a legal challenge.

Lee: Does the city of Valdosta have an ordinance, and how does ours compare?

Jason: Yes, it requires a certain zoning district. To open in a new location would require rezoning in its own rezoning case.

9. Citizens Wishing to be Heard Please State Name And Address

This was a work session, so this item was skipped over.

10. For Consideration

a. Utility Department Standard and Specification Update

b. ACCG IRMA Liability Program Renewal

A: $39,500, no increase over last year's contract

Evans: Were there any accidents last year?

A: No.

c. Georgia Department of Corrections Inmate Labor Contract

d. Road abandonment of unopened ROW Chug-A-Lug Road

Fletcher: Langdale and somebody else wants the road closed. Lot of trespassing issue; people dumping, riding 4wheelers in there, and like that.

Lee: Don't anticipate paving?

Fletcher: Not for that group of roads.

e. Request to withdraw from the former Lowndes County Board of Elections Property

Board of Elections has withdrawn their request.

f. Sprint Nextel Amendment Three for 800 MHz Reconfiguration

Aaron: Rebanding for public safety radio system. Sustainability during testing and changeover.

No questions.

g. Proposal from Hulsey, McCormick, and Wallace, Inc. for Groundwater Sampling and Analysis at Clyattville Landfill

Fletcher: $32,500 for the year.

Lee: Any change?

Fletcher: No, been the same as long as the five years I've been here.

Lee: Says 34 in the book.

Fletcher: It says 34?

Lee: We'll verify it.

11. Reports

a. County Manager

Pritchard: You've received a letter from Ms. Crow about ? Have had numerous conversations. She would like to talk to commission. Jim Elliott, who is in the audience, has at her request and at my request researched some requirements of constitutional officers.

Prichard: Jim, could you come comment?

Jim Elliott: I've prepared a little short memo that outlines our research. [hands it out] I've given a copy to Ms. Crow.

Walter Elliott: Within our office, I've asked Jim to look at this. Jim has been involved in matters in other counties where there was a question between a board of commissioners and a constitutional officer. For experience and efficiency purposes he did the followup.

Jim Elliott: As you can see from the memo I've handed out, there are 4 constitional officers in Georgia:

  • clerk superior court (Ms. Crow)
  • clerk of probate court
  • sheriff
  • tax commissioner

Board of Commissioners has original and jurisdictional control over property, yet at the same time has to make reasonable arrangements for constitional officers.

This is about information technology for clerk of superior court to perform her duties as required by law.

What the laws says is the board of commissioners has to make "reasonable and adequate" technology available to the clerk.

Crow: Clerk of superior, state, and juvenile courts Ray City address, but resident of Lowndes County. 48 years. Have served state and superior court 26 years. Clerk of Superior Court, 7 years. Worked with many boards of commissioners. Have never had an issue with the board of county commissioners or a county manager. Never had to pull the rank that I am a constitional officer of Lowndes County. Two former sheriffs on the board: Paul and Carter. You served as constitional officers. When you served as co and moved into a new phase of the county jail, and somebody told you a food service provider you had used would not be going into the new county jail, what would have been your response? You've put me into the same position. Not happy about being here, but I'm here. The other two of you have served many years, and you're aware of that. I've shared the superior court's needs with other judges and prominent att. All have offered to come today to show support for me, my office, and the need for tech in my office. I was one of the first in the county to use computers, in 1986. I contacted Vance Roberts who came and helped implement, starting with jury program. Sat down, discussed, and outlined what we needed. RDC programmers wrote the programs, and we put them in place. Next child support, which was a state mandate. Next the sheriff's dept., magistrate court judge, and I put together a warrant tracking system. RDC had a part in that. Also ? Reeves? who was with UGA. Garnishment program next; RDC practically lived in my office. Complete court management system. Had other vendors from throughout the U.S. that was selling court management systems. Again, at my request, RDC came to my office, worked until we had what we needed. Through the years, the RDC has worked to supply the needs of my office.

Seven years ago assumed clerk of juvenile court. Called RDC; programmers came over; we studied needs; they wrote programs; works well.

Sending traffic citations to driver's services in Atlanta. RDC got certified to write, and certified to "put the program in place". Some delay because pilot program had to be tested. Timeframe as mandate from the state is July, so this week that program will go live.

Through the years when I've needed an upgrade, RDC has been ready with an update.

They come within 15 minutes when I call, and out in record time.

Yes, I have other vendors, several. Real estate, UCC, liens, plats, scanning program, other state programs. Those vendors have an agreement with RDC that they maintain the programs I have with them.

Not so much an issue with board and county manager as with your IT director. I do not have anything personally against Mr. Aaron.

Paulk: I will not allow you to attack county employees; he has no ability to speak to you personally.

Crow: Thank you. Any questions?

Lee: Every respect, flawless, sterling relationship, etc. Not about personalities. About provision of a service the county provides to all other constitional officers. Security, uniformity. "I work in another state agency, and we have an outstanding IT dept. there. But they have some pretty strict guidelines." You can use other packages, but they have to support it. Compatability, security. They have hundreds, maybe thousands of people who call on them for support and they are very responsive.

Certainly everything I've heard from other cos is raves for our IT dept. I think some of the issue here is the unknown. I'm getting ready to transition to another software platform, and I'm nervous and uncertain. I know in the "final analysis" it's going to be a good thing. It will help me interact with depts I haven't been able to before.

"The unknown is always challenging." "I appreciate your response." "The fact of the matter is we have a highly skilled information dept. that is only going to grow." Can add more if needed. But the point is security of data, compatibility of infrastructure. And somebody we can put our finger in their chest and have accountability. And we don't have that with an outside vendor. Also upfront cost. We hope you will come along and come on board with us, as have other cos.

Paulk: You know we've worked together for years. WHat is it that RDC provides that you think we can't provide?

Crow: Support and response time. I had a very unpleasant meeting a few weeks ago with Mr. Pritchard, Aaron, and people from RDC. A question I asked was what can you do that RDC can't do? Answer was upgrade, replenish, replace equipment. I asked about response time. They said 8-24 hours, but I would be on a priority list and they played no favorites. You heard me report that I could call on RDC, they're just around the corner, and they can be there in 15 minutes. I just don't understand why, when that building was going up, and the lines for technology were going up, why nobody came to me and asked, what are your needs for technolgy? It was only through a happenstance that I learned about this because I was called to come over and look at the telephone system. At that meeting it was mentioned that "I would be your IT provider." I said "Excuse me, I didn't know you would be my IT provider."

Dollarwise, my expense with RDC is not that great. I could point out several programs the county pays for that have not been delivered. I don't think money is an issue.

I was told it would come out of my budget to pull fiber optic lines and whatever else was needed over there. I'm not sure why I'm being penalized for being with a vendor for many years that knows what to do, vs. the county IT what would have to learn all this stuff. Something that's not broken, that does not need to be replaced. I know for a fact that lines will have to be run from this building to the judicial building. I've received another bill for $500 totalling up to about $8,000. I would really like for this issue to be resolved today. I've been told "yes ma'am, your needs will be met" and then I'm told I'll have to go before the county commissioners. I don't want to keep losing (?) over this.

Paulk: So your answer is response time.

Crow: Yes, and that they've worked with me for many years. They have Apple support. I was told not to ask for new ? Two techs were budgeted at this meeting I was at. Got two salaries plus benefits that are coming into place. I know another co who requested a part time position: denied. I have a part time that I need to be full time. Being the nice lady that I am, abiding by requestion from commission and manager, I did not pursue the matter.

Paulk: You're aware RDC is going to be combined? 27 member board?

Crow: Yes.

Paulk: But your key issue is service?

Crow: And support.

Paulk: They go hand in hand.

[jocular interplay]

Paulk: My primary issue is security. Somebody from RDC identified themselves as a county employee at one of our facilities.

Crow: That's not my issue.

Crow: DA has access, public defender, probation office, etc. It's a service, more than just one office.

Crow: I strongly request resolution today that I continue with RDC. Glad to talk with you one on one, meet with you whenever. I don't believe any of you have let me explain to you what I've got and how it's set up. I don't know all the years you were sheriffs that I ever had a conversation in my office, although Sheriff Carter likes to sell poinsettias and I like to buy. I realize I'm a public servant. No monetary interest, interests of Lowndes County. Have to answer not only to you, also to team of judges and state mandate.

jsq note: It seems to me the County Commission is still having difficulty with the difference between telling everybody what's going to happen and discussing issues with stakeholders before making decisions.

b. Valdosta/Lowndes County Chamber of Commerce

Paulk: Any questions?

Pritchard: Request for executive session for real estate.

Paulk: Somebody wants to talk to us?

Somebody from James Road comes up. Sent something recently about conditions adjacent to her property being changed without her knowledge. Esp. after seeing what was in the paper on Saturday night, I didn't know that the people couldn't come in and ask y'all quietly change something. Prop. at James Rd. and 84 W. Owned by Mr. Patel. Don't know if it's been brought up and you changed some of the things. I left y'all a list last month, and I didn't know what happened. Is there some way that we could be notified, rather than constantly coming up here and bothering y'all?

Lee: Any time there's a request, there will be signs and a notice. The concerns you sent are on file.

Carter: The one in Lake Park was advertised and nobody came up to talk about it.


12. Executive Session