MINUTES OF THE CRISP COUNTY BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS
MEETING HELD ON FEBRUARY 8, 2011
Chairman Wallace Mathis called the meeting to order with Commissioners James D. Harris, Authur James Nance, William Culpepper, and Clark Henderson in attendance. Others present were County Administrator Lester E. Crapse, Jr., County Attorney Rick Lawson, Financial Director Sherrie Leverett, and Secretary Linda Finch. Rev. Dwight Bishop, First United Methodist Church, gave the invocation, and the Administrator led the audience in the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America. Chairman Mathis welcomed all in attendance.
Motion was made by Mr. Culpepper to approve the minutes of the meeting of January 11, 2011, seconded by Mr. Harris, motion carried unanimously. Mr. Culpepper also thanked the Commissioners for the Resolution honoring him as being named President of the Georgia Young Farmer Association. Chairman Mathis presented it to him in Savannah last week.
APPROVE SPECIAL USE PERMIT FOR COPELAND FARMS
Connie Sangster, Planning Director, reported that she has a request from Copeland Farms (with the property owner's authorization) for a Special Use Permit to locate a Roadside Stand, Fruits and Vegetable Market in a GC (General Commercial) zone district. Property is located adjacent to 2289 Ga. Hwy. 300 South. She advised that in their packet they have the plans and location of the strawberry field. In the GC zone district, if the property has every been used as agricultural, it can continue to be used as agricultural, but a Roadside Stand requires a Special Use Permit granted by the Board of Commissioners. Chairman Mathis opened the Public Hearing, and asked for any comments in favor of the request. Stanley Copeland passed out handouts telling who they are, what they do, and what they expect this to do for them. He advised that he and his wife have been farming for 40 years and growing strawberries for 17 years, and they think this will be a good thing for Striplings. Chairman Mathis asked for any other comments for or against the proposal, and there were none. Commissioner Henderson reported that he has been to the Copeland's business in Wilcox County, and they bring something to the public that is unavailable. He thinks they are very conscience in what they spray on the strawberries, and it would be a good addition to what is available in our county; we need more things like this as the public likes to go and do things like this. Mr. Copeland advised that in the 17 years they have been in business, they have not had one food safety issue. Ms. Sangster read the Review Checklist for the provisions in granting the Special Use Permit. Chairman Mathis asked when they were planning on harvesting the crop, and Mr. Copeland advised around March 10th until about the end of June, plus this will be their first year growing blueberries, so they may extend the season until after June. Chairman Mathis advised that Commissioners look forward to having them in our community. Motion was made by Mr. Henderson to close the Public Hearing for the Special Use Permit, seconded by Mr. Harris, motion carried unanimously. Motion was made by Mr. Culpepper to approve the Special Use Permit for Copeland Farms, seconded by Mr. Henderson, motion carried unanimously.
ADOPT RESOLUTION RECOGNIZING JAMES NANCE FOR HIS YEARS OF SERVICE AS CHAIRMAN AND ALSO AS THE FIRST AFRICAN-AMERICAN CHAIRMAN
Chairman Mathis advised that Commissioners have a Resolution Recognizing James Nance for his years of service as Chairman of the Board of Commissioners and also as being the first African-American Chairman. Administrator Crapse read the Resolution. Motion was made by Mr. Henderson to adopt the Resolution Commending County Commission Chairman Authur James Nance, seconded by Mr. Harris, motion carried unanimously. Chairman Mathis presented the Resolution to Mr. Nance in honor of Black History Month, and thanking him for the great job he did as Chairman. Commissioner Nance stated that he was speechless as he wasn't expecting this, he is deeply humbled, and he served at that capacity at the pleasure of the Board and without the Board's support, he couldn't do anything so he thanked each for their support.
Mrs. Leverett reported that included in their packets today is a report on the fiscal status of the County's three major funds. This month's meeting date fell quite early in the month so, although the numbers are being reported as of January 31, 2011, they are preliminary. In the General Fund, monthly revenues are $953,692; YTD, $9,715,158; monthly expenditures of $1,972,787; YTD; $8,459,632 leaving the General Fund with a positive position of about 8% or $1.2 million. Property tax collections seem to be running ahead of last year by almost 10%. The numbers here include about 86% of the 2010 Property Tax Revenue, whereas last year at this time we had only collected about 77%. For the Landfill Fund, monthly accrued revenue of $130,396, YTD $1,400,315; monthly expenditures of $82,944, YTD $652,741, leaves the Landfill Fund with a net gain of $747,574, $548,000 of that being the settlement from Merchants Bonding. Operating income net of that payment would be $199,574 and is running ahead of last year's position at this time by about $100,000. The total tonnage received for the month of January was 3,906.65 tons with approximately 29% of that being delivered under the Veolia commercial contract and 14% under their residential contact. The GEFA Loans are current at $2.7 million and we have drawn $1.3 million on the new construction loan. In the Water Fund, we recorded monthly revenues of $38,130, YTD $277,093. January expenditures totaled $43,536; YTD, $273,201 leaving the Water Fund with a small net gain of $3,892. Customer usage for the month was 5,528,000 gallons and the USDA Bonds are current at $1,643,766. Next is the cash on hand report. In the General Fund we have $7.8 million; Landfill Fund, $1.4 million; RLF, $354,000; the SPLOST Funds, $3.9 million; and the Water Fund ended the month with $1,172,516 leaving us with a county wide total of $14.7 million. Of that $14.7 million $4.5 is reserved or restricted for specific uses and/or purposes. In the budget to actual report for the 2000 SPLOST Issue, we have spent almost $16.6 of the $17.6 million dollars collected, leaving us with $989,199 to complete the various projects associated with this issue. Following that is the SPLOST budget to actual by category summary report for the 2005 Issue. This month's distribution is up $11,000 over last month and $38,000 over January 2010. This receipt of $326,371 brings our total collections under this issue to $19,566,827b but it was not enough to maintain or increase our monthly average. It dropped another $302 down to $344,228; we ended 2010 with a 12-month average of only $302,000. Although things seem to be slowing improving, it's important to note that neither of these numbers are sufficient to generate the total $25,275,000 budgeted for projects included in the new 2012 SPLOST. Next is a monthly detail listing of SPLOST Fund expenditures for both issues. Disbursements for January totaled only $18,878 and went out in support of projects for Crisp County Public Works, County Buildings and County Roads. For the LOST revenue, we ended 2010 with an increase in our monthly average of $153,781. This is up over the 2009 average by about $16,000. Following that is the CDBG RLF report as of January 31, 2011, which includes the balance and status of all our CDBG Revolving Loan Fund Accounts. We remain with a total of eleven outstanding loans with a balance due of $2.1 million. Six are current and five are delinquent. The final report is the revenues by fund and expenditures by department. All departments/divisions expenditures should be within 58%; overall for our three major funds, the General Fund ended the month at 59%, the Water Fund 43% and the Landfill Fund 58%. Commissioner Henderson reported that we started out with a 2000 SPLOST and it generated $17 million, the 2005 SPLOST has generated $21 million, and things benefiting from SPLOST funds are the airport, coroner, county buildings, courts, detention center, EMS, fire department, health department, public safety, recreation department, sheriff's department, and of that money $12.7 million benefited this county; we need SPLOST. He doesn't want anyone to get the impression that SPLOST is just for the Darton College Project or for the Inland Port, and as a community we need to come together and make up our minds that we are going to support the SPLOST. If we don't approve the SPLOST, these projects that are funded by the SPLOST expenses will have to be cut. He advised that he made a commitment that before he voted to raise property taxes on the property owners of Crisp County that he would find other ways to pay for it; SPLOST is the way to do it. He advised that the state is cutting their expenses, and they are shifting the burden to counties. Chairman Mathis agreed and advised that the city had to shave some of their projects like the county did to allow other projects to come on line, like Darton College and the Inland Port, and we look forward to getting this SPLOST passed so we can start working on these projects. Commissioner Culpepper advised that SPLOST is a fair tax, everybody pays, and about 60% of the revenue comes from out of town people.
Administrator Crapse reported that 1) He attended several meetings and events last month; 2) There was one new SPLOST purchase approved this month, which was for new carpet in the old assessors office that we are preparing for the Commissioners; 3) Buddy Harrison, DNR, told me no later than mid March on the delivery of the floating docks for the Go Fish boat ramps. They should be able to get them installed by the end of March, possibly earlier, if they deliver as early as the end of February or first of March. 4) As of today, there are 36 days until our 2012 SPLOST vote. I put in a plug on the Mid Day Show, and Chamber representatives have been making the rounds with their presentation. We must all talk it up and turn out the vote for March 15th! Absentee/Advanced voting began last Thursday, so if you haven't voted, today is a good day; 5) Caroline Fielding reports that the Darton Downtown Cordele Campus has received no new donations since last months report; 6) There continues to be a lot of activity around our landfill as a result of the SWMA agreement with EFO, supported by FSA, and the LMOP Conference and PROJECT EXPO. We have received an update to the unsolicited proposal to manage and operate the landfill that includes the LFG component. I would like to have a work session with the Board on the 15th, 16th or 17th to go over the options that the Board would like to move forward; 7) Remember the Atlanta Fishfry is on March 2nd and we have rooms for March 1st & 2nd; and 8) The Community of Character Trait for the Month of February is CHEERFULNESS. Happy and friendly to others. Good humored; bright and pleasant.
GIVE PUBLIC OPPORTUNITY TO SPEAK
Motion was made by Mr. Henderson to give the public an opportunity to speak, seconded by Mr. Culpepper, motion carried unanimously. Greg Turton thanked the Commission for the opportunity to address them. He cannot understand this Commissions recent discussion and deeply feel that better decisions could have been made and would like to know why and how they came to the decision to replace Bob Evans on the IDA. He is concerned that someone may be stating things in private to them as Commissioners that are untrue and those untruths may be based on ill will, envy, or jealousy of which you Commissioners are not aware. Someone who knowingly fails to tell you and provides the full range of information that you need for your discussion making and your decision-making should be removed as an advisor. On October 17, 2010, The Cordele Dispatch published a letter to the editor by Ritch McCutchen alleging wrongdoing on behalf of the Executive Director of the IDC and on behalf of the IDA. On October 24, 2010, all 7 of the IDA Board Members including one Commissioner signed a response to Mr. McCutchen's allegations. After this, Commissioners transferred funds to the IDA for the purchase of property, which was on the east side of Cordele, and this was the exact subject matter that McCutchen allegations were about. He advised that if you as Commissioners had felt that there was any truth to Mr. McCutchen's allegations, you would have stopped this money transfer. In January, this Commission did a similar transfer of money. Mr. McCutchen offered his service as a Board Member of the IDA, along with three other people, including long-standing IDA member Bob Evans. We as citizens are concerned that during the process of this appointment, this Commission went into Executive Session to discuss this appointment. Because this discussion went on in private, we as citizens are very limited to our ability to know what untruth may have been said or what truth but not the whole truth lies could have been told. They feel this was very much out of retalation over Bob Evans pushing for the Darton College budget. It has been stated to him that this was orchestrated back in November, and it was said we need to teach the IDA that we control them, and they need to answer to this Commission. This Authority does not have to come before the Commissioners to spend the money that came from the Power Commission. Today we stand on the brink of landing what to him seems to be the biggest industrial development project during his lifetime, the Inland Port.; however, these people in state government at the highest level are concerned about why this community is not united to support this project. He heard a rumbling of people trying to upset this because their property was not purchased on the west side of Cordele. Other communities are using Mr. McCutchen's allegations to push back against this community's request to state agencies for state funding. This Commission needs to express today that it does not agree with Mr. McCutchen's allegations, and could best do that by rescinding this appointment. They feel that the Executive Session to discuss appointments of unpaid volunteer board members was improper and think it was a very bad judgment call on the Commissioners. He and many other citizens feel Mr. Evans was pushed off the IDA Board because he led an effort to this Commission to shift the SPLOST funds towards the development of a campus for Darton College in Cordele. It is wrong and retribution against one that has done so much for Cordele and Crisp County. Mr. Evans has worked hard for this community for over 30 years and has shown his willingness to contribute his time, effort, without compensation for the betterment of this entire community. They would ask that Commissioners rescind this appointment today, terminate Mr. Crapse' contract as soon as possible, and be open to in-put from the entire community to help them make the decisions in the future. Mr. Turton stated that it does not make sense to put somebody on this board and kick Bob Evans out of office when he has tried to do everything in his power for this community. Commissioner Henderson advised that he spoke to Buddy Hardin yesterday, and he told him that the Governor has already heard about this situation, and the Governor is not going to support a community that can't come together for the Inland Port. When the community hears this they say they are not going to vote for the SPLOST as they are giving all the money to the Inland Port or to Darton College, and we have an opportunity to have a state accredited university in this little town and we need to get it. Greg Turton stated that they are together on the east side of Cordele and there are a few people on the west side of Cordele that want it over there. Commissioner Henderson advised that it is not going to move to the west side as he has talked to Mr. Hardin about that. He stated that he made the motion to appoint Bob Evans to the Board, he didn't get a second to his motion, and there was a motion made by another commissioner and a second and the vote was taken; it was a legal vote. If he had not thought Mr. Evans was the proper person for the board, he would not have made the motion to put him on the board. He intends to do everything he can to see that Mr. Evans is back on the IDA Board, but if we rescind the motion we made, we are basically saying that three members of this Board did something wrong. Mr. Turton said when you put down the credentials for both of these men, there is no question that Mr. Evans is the best one to be on this Board or put somebody with the credentials that Bob has if you think we have too many bankers on that Board, it doesn't exactly have to be Bob. Don't put somebody that was a slap in the face that just put a lie in the paper about Bruce Drennan, Bob Evans, Bobby Sheppard, and everybody on that IDA Board and said as many negative things about the community. If you can't see that, something is wrong. William Turner reminded Commissioners that the people here are taxpayers, and they need to think about their vote and what the people think. Carden Summers said he had sat where the Commissioners are sitting, and they are the Commissioners and can change any time they want to change and vote anytime they want to vote; if it is wrong, let your attorney deal with it, and if it is not wrong, don't worry about it. He hasn't talked to Bob Evans in a year, he considers him a friend, but that is as far as it goes, but you don't throw away a man who has trusted himself for this community for 30 plus years and put somebody on this Board that has never done anything for this community. Change your vote and put Bob back on the Board. Commissioner Harris advised that he didn't know how it got on the east side of town, it starting out going on the west side of town as the land was purchased. His opinion is we just need to get the Inland Port in Crisp County as he doesn't care which side of town it goes on. He did make the statement that he thought this Board should have authorized and known where the IDA money was coming from and where it was going, as we have to account for that money. Mr. Turton stated the IDA Board has to work and not let everybody in the public do it, Bob Evans and other citizens that are good up-standing citizens of Cordele are the ones making that decision. They decided to go on the east side of Cordele and have purchased the land, and he trusts them 100%. After you have worked so hard on something for so many years you don't take Bob's contacts and the things he had worked on in that committee, this close to doing something like the Inland Port, when he had done nothing wrong. Chairman Mathis advised that the Board of Commissioners has made a decision, it is a binding decision, and need to proceed on with our Executive Session, and we will ask our attorney about where our grounds are as we were threatened publicly in the paper with a possible lawsuit, and a letter in hand. Commissioner Culpepper reported that he keeps getting blamed for the way he voted, he has talked to Mr. Evans personally and whatever repercussions he had, they talked it out, he is a family member of mine, but he will not vote today to rescind the vote because of legal matters. John Gordon asked for each Commissioner that had voted for Ritch McCutchen to say why they did this. Chairman Mathis stated that this is a personnel issue because we do not want to disparage anyone pro or con, and he thinks we owe it to our people that we already have on Boards and those we are trying to put on Boards not to get into an open discussion about whether or not things that will be said here will be pleasant or not.
GO INTO EXECUTIVE SESSION
Motion was made by Mr. Culpepper to go into Executive Session to discuss personnel, seconded by Mr. Henderson, motion carried unanimously.
COME OUT OF EXECUTIVE SESSION
Motion was made by Mr. Henderson to come out of Executive Session, seconded by Mr. Culpepper, motion carried unanimously.
APPOINT MENA WEST VONIER TO CRISP COUNTY ANIMAL CONTROL BOARD
Motion was made by Mr. Henderson to appoint Mena West Vonier as the primary member and Grace Mullen as an alternate to the Crisp County Animal Control Board for a three-year term ending December 31, 2012, seconded by Mr. Culpepper, motion carried unanimously.
APPOINT EMILY THOMPSON REID AS 4-H AGENT
Tucker Price reported that Crisp County has a strong 4-H Program, and we have been without a 4-H Agent for the past 2 1/2 years, and everyone in their office has picked up the slack to keep the program going. We now have an opportunity to bring in a quality 4-H Agent, and he introduced Emily Thompson Reid, a native of Dooly County, former 4-H'er, and a graduate of Georgia Southwestern University. She has been a 4-H Agent in Dooly County for over 3 1/2 years, so we have an opportunity to hire a top-notch 4-H Agent in Crisp County. He asked the Board's approval to hire Mrs. Reid as the new 4-H Agent. Motion was made by Mr. Henderson to appoint Emily Thompson Reid as Crisp County's 4-H Agent, seconded by Mr. Culpepper, motion carried unanimously. Mrs. Reid thanked the Board and advised that she is excited about working in Crisp County. Mr. Price thanked the Board for their support, and we will keep an active and strong 4-H Program going.
VACATE IDA POSITION FAILED TO PASS
Commissioner Nance stated that he has listened today to all sides, he supports giving anyone an opportunity express their opinion to the Board, but he thought in the conversations today that they kind of blamed Mr. Harris and himself for the vote. He does not apologize for any vote he makes, he thinks that he looks at the situation and facts and tries to make the most informed decision based on the information he has. He does appreciate the opportunity for citizens to come together and let the Commissioners know, as they are the Commissioners voice, and we represent the people and the entire community. He thinks the Board owes it to them whether we are for or against the situation to put it on the table and let you know basically where we stand, and a lot of times the decisions are unpopular. We can't make everybody happy, but the Board tries to do the best that we can. He has some additional information from both sides and some information that he was not aware of at the time, and with that being said, Mr. Nance made the motion that we vacate the IDA position and re-advertise for a Board member, seconded by Mr. Harris, Commissioners Mathis, Culpepper, and Henderson voted no to the motion due to legal ramifications, and the motion failed. Wayne Martin stated that regardless of the outcome of that membership, he asked that the Commissioners do everything they can to bring those two projects here that we are all concerned about, and one of the best ways to keep some influence there is to someway have Mr. Evans involved because of the relationship that he has built and the process that he has been through. Chairman Mathis stated that they look forward in keeping Mr. Evans included in the loop of information as he is invaluable to this as we are looking at expanding our horizons as we now have three bankers and a person of a little bit of international business knowledge on this Board. We are looking at locating warehouses and shipping freight containers, etc., and somebody on this Board with that knowledge will be good service. He advised that they are still looking to Bob for information on our higher education and other boards that he serves on, and we look forward to adding in more people as we go along in the years to come from different areas of business expertise and background. We want people to bear with us as we think we made the right decision, and we look forward to letting it progress on and let's see if we made the right decision. Chairman Mathis thanked all the people for coming. Larry Felton asked how they expect Bob to work 100% if they removed him from that Board. Chairman Mathis advised that there are a whole lot of other duties that we look for him to do well in, and if he wants to continue to lend information, I am sure they will be receptive to his views and ideas. Commissioner Henderson stated that he made a commitment to Bob Evans when he was not appointed, that he would do everything he could to get him back on that Board, and he intends to try to get this Board expanded through the Legislature and get him reappointed to fill one of those positions.
Motion was made by Mr. Culpepper to adjourn the meeting at 11:51 a.m., seconded by Mr. Harris, motion carried unanimously.