At the opening of the meeting, Chairman Allen Poole announced the long-anticipated recreational facility being built near the Senior Center was moving forward, but his statement prompted questions from District 2 Commissioner Jamie Bennett about the process used to bid on that contract.
“I was told that two people bid on the project, and I don’t think that is fair,” she said. “I don’t think the project was advertised, and it needs to be. It’s a pretty big job, and I think everybody who has a business in Haralson County deserves the opportunity to bid on that project.”
District 3 Commissioner Vance Posey also told Poole he wanted to be present when those bids were opened.
After the meeting, Poole declined to identify the companies who had submitted bids and deferred all questions on the issue to Greg Dewberry, county surveyor and a project manager for the facility.
Dewberry also declined to identify the two bidders, explaining that the bidding process has not yet been finalized with the sending of an award letter to the chosen contractor. He said that before accepting the bid, the county must meet with the chosen contractor to ensure they have proper workman’s compensation insurance, are bonded, and have other paperwork in order.
Dewberry explained that the work involved was very precise and that very few companies specialized in building athletic fields. Such projects, he said, require expert grading so that the playing fields are as flat as possible while still allowing for proper drainage.
“I do agree that two is a paltry number, but it’s the only two we can get. It’s the only two we can find,” Dewberry said.
The commissioners also discussed approving the Tax Anticipation Note.
A Tax Anticipation Note is a municipal bond issued on the assumption that the debt will be paid back in less than a year, and is essentially a line of credit to cover immediate expenses until tax revenue comes in.
Poole told the attendees at the meeting that, right now, the county “still has in reserve $140,000” that will carry it through the second payroll in August.
“By those (standards) we’ve done a good job, because I’ve seen years when the economy turned bad that we’ve had to make draws on the Tax Anticipation Note in July,” Poole said the board’s management of spending was responsible for the reserve funds and that new tax revenues will come in October.
But one audience member was critical of the bond issuance, saying that the commissioners were “going by the seat of their britches.” He said the commission should know how much money it needs before the tax revenue comes in and not have to rely on bonds to cover shortfalls.
That prompted an exchange with District 4 Commissioner Sammy Robinson, who pointed out with a county budget of $12 million, the cost of running the county on a 12-month basis was easily calculated at $1 million per month. “It really doesn’t matter if (the bond) is $5 million,” Robinson said. “You only get what you need. We’ve been doing this every year. It has to be done.”
Posey said that while he was not opposed to the measure, “people have a right to know about this loan.”
When Poole called for a vote on the measure, the vote was 4-1, with District 1 Commissioner Eric Robinson opposed.
In another split vote, the commissioners were divided on the issue of assigning the county’s animal control department to the Marshal’s Office.
Poole explained that the measure was designed to allow animal control officers to take action against dangerous animals or their owners without having to wait for sheriff’s deputies to be dispatched to the scene. But the officers would require certification, and Poole said transferring them to the Marshal’s Office would relieve the county of paying for that certification.
Posey wondered about the purpose of the move, since the Marshal would not have authority over the animal control personnel and because their duties would not change.
In the end, the commissioners voted 3-2 for the proposal, with Posey and Eric Robinson opposed.
During the public participation portion of the meeting, two citizens complained about the lack of notice given about commission meetings, information one of the citizens said could be given if the county had an adequate website or Facebook page.
Bennett addressed that issue, saying that she hoped to have a new county website online by the end of the year; one that she promised would be easy to navigate. Poole pointed out that the county was required by state law to have a website for the posting of budget and other information.
The commissioners also faced criticism from two audience members on issues involving the county jail. One citizen questioned the need for a new facility at all. However, another question about the disused Boot Camp brought about discussion of the fact that the ACLU has been communicating with Poole’s office about the state of the current jail.
Sammy Robinson told the audience that “we’ve looked at every aspect that you can imagine to get you a jail,” adding that the Boot Camp was built with the idea of raising revenues to construct a new facility. Those plans fell through when it was discovered the county had no deed to the Boot Camp.
“If any of you have got any better ideas, or you know where you can find the money to build one, then we’ll listen to you, because frankly I think we’re at the end of our ropes with this,” said Sammy Robinson. “I’ve said this for a long time: when we quit looking for ways to build that jail, somebody’s going to make you build it.”
Poole then announced that he had been in touch with the ACLU in Washington, where “for three days the topic … was about this jail in Haralson County.” Poole reminded the audience that the ACLU “will get on somebody’s back if you stub a toe wrong,” and warned that unless Haralson voters decide the issue, federal or other outside officials are going to “build (a new jail) and hand you the bill.”
In other matters, the commissioners approved the selection of Sherri Mobley as the new Deputy Tax Commissioner. Mobley replaces Dondra Taylor, who has retired.
Also, the commissioners approved a motion to make Aug. 17 “Vivian Holcombe Appreciation Day.” Holcombe is county treasurer and previously served as city clerk for Buchanan and as a school board employee. A reception in her honor will be held that day between 2 and 5 p.m. with refreshments served.