Apparently one person with a lawyer can persuade the Lowndes County Commission that hundreds of people are just an unruly mass, not the public it's supposed to represent. For whatever reason, not clear to the public, the Commission voted 3 to 1 with 1 absent to close the end of Old State Road to Hotchkiss Crossing, thus barring the only public access to the Alapaha River in Lowndes County. We shall see whether they will follow through with their hint that they might make a park on the Alapaha River at another location. Congratulations to Commissioner Demarcus Marshall for speaking up for due process and for voting for the public!
The Commission reappointed J. Glenn Gregory to the South Regional Joint Development Authority and appointed Commissioner Joyce Evans to the Southern Georgia Area Agency on Aging Advisory Council. They are applying for a grant for the county's MIDS bus system and reapplying for a CDBG grant for Second Harvest.
LOWNDES COUNTY BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS
WORK SESSION, MONDAY, FEBRUARY 25, 2013, 8:30 a.m.
REGULAR SESSION, TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 26, 2013, 5:30 p.m.
327 N. Ashley Street – 2nd Floor
- Call to Order
It mentioned "open government". That would be a fine idea.
- Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag
- Minutes for Approval
Chairman Bill Slaughter praised the rain and even mentioned farmers positively. He commended Robin English and Public Works for dealing with road conditions during the recent rains. Then they approved the minutes of recent meetings.
- Work Session — February 11, 2013
- Regular Session — February 12, 2013
- South Regional Joint Development Authority
J. Glenn Gregory reappointed for a 3 year term. The Chairman did open up for other nominations, but there were none. This Authority was mentioned by Andrea Schruijer at the most recent VLCIA board meeting.
- Southern Georgia Area Agency on Aging Advisory Council
Apointed Commissioner Joyce Evans to the position formerly held by former Commissioner the late G. Robert Carter. The Chairman did open up for other nominations, but there were none.
- Public Hearing — Abandonment of a portion of Old State Road (CR 16)On January 22nd the Board of Commissioners made a determination that a section of Old State Road which is approximately .17 miles in length, had ceased to be used by the public to the no extent that no substantial public purpose is served by it, and that by its removal from the county road system is in the best interest of the county.
That's curious, because at the 22 January 2013 Regular Session, this was heard:Chairman: That's all this is doing: putting that process in step.
Engineer: Yes sir. This takes us back to a public hearing in three weeks.YOU ARE HEREBY NOTIFIED that pursuant to O.C.G.A. 32-7-2(b)(1) the Parcel 0259 030A Lowndes County Board of Commissioners has determined that a section of Old State Road (CR # 16) has ceased to be used by the public to the extent that no substantial purpose is served or by it that its removal from the county road system is otherwise in the best public interest.
See the difference? The law and the public notice say "or", while the engineer this time said "and". Is this merely a case of someone mis-speaking in a public meeting? No; see the Attorney's remarks below. And Commissioner Evans' and the Chairman's reported statements after Monday morning's Work Session indicate that the Commission had already determined before this sham of a public hearing that only "the unruly", not the public, used this road. Nevermind what the public actually does or thinks.
April Huntley spoke against, delivering a petition of approximately 330 signatures.
Brett Huntley spoke against, saying County Road 16 is still used by citizens, and is the only access point to the Alapaha River in Lowndes County, meaning a lot to the community.
Thomas Reedy spoke against, saying as long as he could remember, and he's 46 years old, that people had used that road, which is the only public access to the Alapaha River in Lowndes County.
Nobody spoke for the closing. The Chairman asked the County Attorney to clarify. The Attorney said they'd looked at river protection corridors and determined they had nothing to do with the road closing. He seemed to indicate there was no other new information, which is puzzling.
The Chairman talked about baptism pools, and said the owner had said he would let any churches use the road for that purpose. So apparently the Chairman has no problem with privatizing a public good, as long it's for religious purposes.The county, they are currently pursuing, just in the very infant stages of it, but they're pursuing with the owner of some property that also is adjacent to the river, really at a better location possibly, to put in a landing in another location. Now that's all premature, it's all working with the owner, we've just started in discussions with him. It's something that will done through Parks and Rec if we're successful with doing that. I just want you to know that your County Commissioners are doing everything that they can. We certainly appreciate and understand your concerns, but also we understand the deeds and the issue with the legal side of it as far as the owner is concerned.
I congratulate the Chairman on saying that about the park in public so everyone could hear it. Regarding "the deeds and the issue with the legal side of it", it's good that he understands, because the public doesn't.
The attorney attempted further clarification, saying the county didn't own the road, rather having an easement, as with most county roads. Everyone knew that already, although the attorney couldn't even say how the county acquired the easement; he merely listed various ways the county might have acquired it, and continued:When any county road for which easement is abandoned under the statutory procedure being followed that extinguishes the easement and the owner's underlying fee simple title to the property is no longer burdened with the easement.
When was such statutory procedure followed? Would it not require a public hearing according to O.C.G.A. 32-7-2(b)(1)? When was that hearing held? The Attorney didn't say.
The Attorney then emphasized the "or" in the statute yet claimed on 22 January the Commission had already determined both sides of that disjunction were satisfied. Why were they bothering to hold a public hearing, then, if they had already decided? Perhaps they should have called it a public telling.
Commissioner Marshall wanted to know how many people used the road. Brett Huntley answered that 330 people did. Chairman called for order. Commissioners voted to close the road, with only Commissioner Marshall voting against (Commissioner Powell was absent).
One Commissioner revealed after the hearing that the property owner had threatened to sue the county. If that's true, apparently "otherwise in the best public interest" means the county government CYA. Don't they have Directors and Officers insurance? Perhaps the Sheriff, who was sitting in the audience, could tell them insurance covered the recent settlement of a lawsuit against him. I suppose they'd have to ask him before they'd listen.
- For Consideration
- Grant Re-Application for Rural Transportation Program and Associated Resolution
This is the county's MIDS on-call bus system.
- FY 2013 CDBG Grant Submittal Resolution and Declaration Establishing No Conflict of Interest — Second Harvest of South Georgia Renovation Project
They didn't get the grant last time, so they're trying again.
- Reports-County Manager
- Public Works Director Robin English spoke about road conditions
As of 5PM they had completed 38 roads, and would continue to work until dark Friday and Saturday.We have a great working crew; all the guys are always willing all the time. We're very fortunate.
- Emergency Services Director Ashley Tye spoke about Local weather conditions,
- Citizens Wishing to be Heard Please State Name And Address
Here's a video playlist:
Videos: Commission voted against the people
Regular Session, Lowndes County Commission (LCC),
Video by Gretchen Quarterman for Lowndes Area Knowledge Exchange (LAKE), Valdosta, Lowndes County, Georgia, 26 February 2013.