By Patrick Yost
The Morgan County Board of Elections and Registration on Thursday agreed to manage a Special Purpose Local Option Educational Sales Tax (ELOST) election for the Morgan County Board of Education. According to BER Chairman John Milliken, the BER has been approached by the Morgan County Board of Education to hold the election in November 2009. Milliken estimated the BER could complete the election for approximately $14,500, a figure he will present to the Morgan County Board of Education.
The current ELOST is set to expire in 2010. The Board of Education could hold the referendum in either July or November 2010 to coincide with primary and general election issues. However, Milliken said the board was eager to have the election this November.
“They say it is very difficult for them to marshall their resources to get education tax issues passed when school is out. They are adamant to not have it when school is out,” Milliken said.
Since the issue could be asked during either the primary or general elections next year, the county has told the BER it would not fund the ELOST election in November. “The county manager has taken the position that since it could be held in July or November the county will not pay for the election.”
The election would coincide with several municipality elections this November including the City of Madison and Rutledge. Several city council positions are up for election in those cities the City of Madison is expecting a mayoral election. If the Morgan County Board of Education holds a special election in November, voters in affected municipal elections will have to vote twice. In the City of Madison, voters would have to vote for the council and mayor race at the city’s fire department and then go to their respective county polling places to vote for or against the ELOST.
By Colby Dunn
The Morgan County Hospital Authority voted unanimously at their Tuesday, August 11 meeting to select Dougherty Mortgage LLC as their funding partner for the proposed new $35 million facility. Dougherty's proposition will marry a 40-year USDA direct loan with Build America Bonds to build the new two-story facility.
The board also welcomed a new member, Ron Milton, who was sworn into office at the meeting, along with Dr. Ken Lewis and Dr. Dan Zant, who retook their oaths. Terry Morgan was also named as the hospital's legal counsel and Terry Evans, Sarah Burbach and Calvin Whitlock were unanimously re-appointed to their roles as chairman, vice chair and treasurer. Betty Allen was given the post of secretary, replacing John Milliken, who no longer sits on the board.
By Colby Dunn
The City of Madison will soon add nearly $163,000 ($162,852.70) to its coffers after snatching up a state sales tax rebate on pollution control equipment at its Indian Creek water treatment facility. The rebate is thanks to a state program that removes sales tax on machinery that reduces or eliminates pollution in air or water.
Mayor and council granted a temporary power of attorney at their Monday, August 10 meeting to law firm Jordan, Jones and Goulding, giving them the go-ahead to claim the money, which hasn't yet been assigned a specific purpose, although City Manager David Nunn says it may go to pay for the out-of-pocket extras the city paid out for the facility.
"The city had to pay on some overruns," said Nunn, "The project cost more money than expected."
The council also changed its rules on pensions for elected officials, opening the door for several former mayors to bid for the seat again without penalty to their pensions. Under the new regulations, elected officials with more than 20 years of service can fill a post again without losing their pension benefits, but only if they forgo the stipend for the position and haven't been serving as an elected official for at least two years.
The impetus for the change was former mayor Bruce Gilbert, who professed interest in running in the upcoming mayoral election, but would have suffered the loss of his pension for his 31 years of previous service. In light of the change, Gilbert has thrown his hat into the ring for the mayoral race.
The new rules took effect following a unanimous vote by the city council and could affect more than just Gilbert, including long-time council members Bobby Crawford and Barry Lurey.
By Dianne Yost
Enchantment, magic and small-town nostalgia were celebrated in style this weekend as mega-crowds – about 500 Friday and 1,000 Saturday – descended upon Madison’s new Town Park for the first-ever two-day, night-time event, the Firefly Festival. It was also the first public event staged in Town Park.
“In our expectations, it was a huge success. We were thrilled! It was exactly what we wanted it to be and we want it to be even bigger next year,” said Madison Main Street Director Ann Huff.
“It was wonderful seeing the children play like we used to and people coming together in friendship like we did in Madison as children, when times were simpler. The Firefly Festival is all about creating memories for our community’s children, for generations to come – memories of Madison in summer, catching fireflies, running around barefoot in the grass while everyone watches out for everyone else’s children. That’s a community,” she said.
The two-day festival was the culmination of more than two years of planning by a host of volunteers who dedicated hours of their time to produce a twinkling wonderland and top-rate entertainment and children’s activities.
Festival attendee Leah Weldon summed it up this way: “We loved it! We really liked that it was staged in a clean, beautiful, safe place where the children could run and play. We are already waiting to hear the dates for the next one!”
By Chantel O'Neal
Morgan County Commissioners voted Tuesday to implement a purchasing card program for county employees, getting rid of various vendor credit cards now in place.
“For me, I think it's a better option to have one credit card rather than have two or three issued,” County Finance Director Mia Wilson said in the meeting, where she presented the idea to officials.
The purchasing cards, or p-cards, which are fee-free and operated through Visa and Bank of America, will allow easier low-level purchasing and better control of purchases, according to a proposal submitted to commissioners by Wilson last week.
"The p-card program, with a comprehensive policy in place combined with the security features built into the product and the liability coverage provided from Visa, create a method of payment with an unparalleled level of security," Wilson said in her proposal.
Commissioner Ellen Warren expressed worry over security and misuse, especially in the wake of several high-profile p-card abuse allegations in the state, but Wilson assured the board that safeguards in the form of education, controls such as purchasing restrictions and credit limits and internal audits would keep the county safe from misappropriation.
The City of Madison has demonstrated the value of a well-managed purchasing card, or p-card, system since the establishment of their own program, also through Bank of America, approximately eight years ago.
“We saw this system at the Georgia Municipal Association's annual convention…and thought it would be more efficient,” City Manager David Nunn said.
By Colby Dunn
Morgan County Commissioners voted at their Tuesday, August 4 meeting to approve a contract with the Boys and Girls Club of Madison-Morgan County for a mini-bus purchase. The county will accept donation of the mini-bus, purchased by the Boys and Girls Club, keep up maintenance and provide a driver, with the club paying fees for the driver and fuel. The bus will also be available for needs within the county, such as 4-H programs and recreation activities.
Commissioners also heard from County Finance Director Mia Wilson, who promoted a purchasing card system for county officials to replace various vendor cards currently issued to the county, and the board voted unanimously to institute Visa P-Cards for the county.
Also approved was a proclamation making the county an official partner in the 2010 decennial census. The designation opens pots of federal funding to the county which are allocated to raise awareness and publicity ahead of the census, which happens each decade.
Following the meeting, some recently paved county roads will be getting new rumble strips, hopefully increasing safety at four-way stops.
"A lot of roads have been paved in the county and rumble strips haven't been put back down," said chairman Mack Bohlen, who was concerned about the danger of crossings that lack the plastic strips.
Up to 22 county roads will now receive the strips in coming days.
Commissioners also entertained a late-hour request from Morgan Memorial Hospital CFO Darlena Kinnett, requesting reinstatement of the $120,000 county funding cut from the hospital earlier this year. Kinnett's request would bump the county contribution back to $1 million.
Since the request arrived the afternoon prior to the meeting, the issue was tabled until the August 18 work session.