By Kathryn Purcell
No, it's not the original saying. At this point, however, an adaption seems most appropriate - "As the economy goes, so goes sales tax."
Local sales tax collections in Morgan County, specifically ELOST (Education Local Option Sales Tax), seem to be in decline.
The current ELOST, scheduled for five years, is set to raise more than $21.2 million for projects within the Morgan County School System. These projects include a gymnasium at Morgan County High School, to cost more than $5.2 million; a Central Office building, to cost $1.3 million; and a gymnasium at Morgan County Elementary School, to cost $700,000. This ELOST also includes the building of a new school, set to cost $9 million.
As of the last Board of Education meeting, January 2008 ELOST collections that arrived in April (checks are always two months behind), totaled $230,774.54. Compared to collections of $284,927 in January 2007 and an average collection of $308,573.83 per month in 2007, the outlook isn't good.
"The check we got two or three weeks ago was off $100,000 based on the average of previous checks," Morgan County Schools Director of Operations Bob Monk said. "February and March may be off even more."
If the worst was to happen, however, and the school system not collect the more than $21.2 million needed, Morgan County Superintendent Stan DeJarnett feels that some of the projects could be delayed until they could be paid for.
"If we don't collect it, we don't collect it," DeJarnett said. "We may have to shift some projects into the next ELOST."
By Tara DeRock Mahoney
Senior Staff Writer
The deadline to qualify for various county elected positions is tomorrow at noon, but as of Tuesday only a handful of people had qualified to run in a number of races.
Incumbent Clerk of Superior Court Jody Moss qualified to run again for her position; Terry Evans, the chairman of the Morgan Memorial Hospital Authority, qualified to run for Tax Commissioner; Keith Howard qualified to run for the Board of Education District Three slot; and Sammy Cathey qualified to run for a full term as District Five County Commissioner. (He is currently completing the unfinished term of the late Chester Thomas.)
“Currently and officially, Sammy Cathey is the only one to qualify [for the commissioners’ races],” said Morgan County Election Superintendent Bobby Howington on Tuesday morning. Beyond that, the fields are wide open.
County commissioners from District Three (incumbent Mack Bohlen), District Four (incumbent Ellen Warren) and District Five (incumbent Cathey) will be up for election this fall, as will Board of Education representatives from District One (incumbent Minnie Peek), District Two (incumbent Nelson Hale), and District Three (currently Jimmy Paxson, who has declared that he will not run again).
Elections for Morgan County Sheriff, Coroner, Probate Judge, and District Attorney will also take place in November, but no one had qualified for any of those races as of press time. Morgan County resident Keith Fitzgerald has previously stated his intention to run for Sheriff, but as an independent qualifier he will not register with the Board of Elections and Registration until late June. Commissioner Ellen Warren has also stated her intention to run for the District Four seat, but as an independent candidate she is not required to qualify this week.
By Tara DeRock Mahoney
Senior Staff Writer
Morgan County Planning Commission members recommended approval of a re-zoning of 94 acres of AG land near the county’s one-time “mega-site” last week.
Once upon a time, a large tract of land just south of the City of Madison was ear-marked for a possible Ford Motor Company plant. Plans for the plant tanked, but the assembled acreage, dubbed the “mega-site,” has been labeled as land appropriate for industrial use. A portion of that land—currently zoned Agricultural—could be re-zoned as I-1, or industrial use land, in coming weeks.
“It’s the area surrounding the City of Madison’s new [wastewater reclamation facility],” said county senior planner Allison Moon. “It’s adjacent to 240 acres that are already zoned I-1.”
The land, if re-zoned, would be purchased by the Patillo companies for use as the site of 500,000 square feet of warehouse space. The project, which has been designated as a “Development of Regional Impact” because of its size, was determined to be in the best interests of the region by the Northeast Georgia RDC. The Morgan County Conservancy commented on the project in recent weeks as well, and noted that the amount of impervious surfaces and the width of stream buffers should be of concern to the county.
Because the land is adjacent to existing I-1 property, as well as the railroad, county planners had no substantive objections to the re-zoning. The area is also marked as appropriate for industrial on the county’s future land-use map.
By Tara DeRock Mahoney
Senior Staff Writer
Morgan Memorial Hospital reached an important new milestone in its financial growth last month, reported Hospital Authority member Sarah Burbach at last Thursday’s regular meeting.
For the first time ever, the hospital is $12,716 in the black for the year—without taking into account the county’s $1 million subsidy.
“There was a lot of laughing and smiling at the finance committee meeting the other night,” said Burbach. “We seem to have turned a corner.”
For the month of March, gross patient revenues were $2.254 million, or 17 percent over budget for that period—the second highest month of revenue ever, after February.
The good news continued as Morgan County Commissioner Ellen Warren shared with the Authority the news that EMS personnel currently transport 67 percent of local patients annually to Morgan Memorial.
Nursing director Sherry Vaughn reported on the inpatient nursing department orientation process for new hires. “Seasoned nurses spend at least two weeks in orientation, one week on Med/Surg, one week on TCU,” said Vaughn. “Newer nurses could spend two weeks or more on each side…by the end of orientation, they’re caring for a full load of patients.”
New nurses also have a mentor whom they shadow while learning how Morgan Memorial operates.“ “The shadowing-mentoring program has already paid us back ten-fold,” said Burbach.
Two Madison businesses were victims of armed robbery last week.
According to Det. Carl Jones, City of Madison Police Department, the two incidents were not related, but cash was taken from both businesses.
Jones said, on Thursday a woman entered RaceTrac convenience store at approximately 11 p.m. and waited in line to pay for an item. After paying for the item, the woman handed a clerk a note that stated “This is a robbery. Give me your money or get shot.”
The suspect received an undisclosed amount of cash, $25 in pennies and several lottery tickets. She then walked out of the store and left the area on foot. Several officers and Morgan County Sheriff’s Office deputies searched the area surrounding the store but could not locate the woman. The woman is described as being an African–American wearing a red hooded sweatshirt and light colored pants. The suspect’s image was captured on the store’s security camera. The clerk said he did not see a weapon during the robbery.
On Saturday, three men wearing black ski masks burst into EZ Bottle Shop on West Washington Street and demanded that the clerk open the safe and give the men money. One man pointed a pistol at a clerk. The men also shoved a clerk into a potato chip rack.
The men fled from the store on foot with an undisclosed amount of cash and checks taken from the safe. The robbery occurred at approximately 11 p.m. Officers and deputies searched the area around the store with no results.
At 5:40 a.m. on Sunday, an officer located a black ski mask on College Drive believed to have been used in the robbery.
By Matthew Burgoyne
Teen pregnancy is still a concern for the citizens of Morgan County, according to a survey completed by Family Connections.
Beginning in 1996, the Morgan County branch of Family Connections has strived to help the community combat issues that affect children and families, including teen pregnancy, drug use and high school drop out rates.
“Family Connections is a collaborative of all social and human service agencies in Morgan County,” said Family Connections Coordinator Karen Robertson.
As part of their protocol, Family Connections began a series of surveys and discussion groups in January of this year to assess what the needs of the community are. Robertson organized numerous different discussion groups to hear what the citizens of Morgan County have to say. She and her colleagues met with grandparents that are raising their grandchildren, the Leadership Morgan class and the Boys and Girls Club. The students at the Boys and Girls Club, ranging from ages 11 to 15, said that marijuana use, drug sales and teen pregnancy were the three biggest issues impacting their peers.
The purpose of the surveys is to help Family Connections decide what issues need to be focused on for the next three years. The organization works in three-year increments, with 2008 being the first year in a new three-year set. The information gathered these past three months will help the group create its comprehensive plan for the next three years.
The results of this survey found an increase in teen pregnancy, a large percentage of students not in school or at work and an increase of high school dropouts.
“The collaboration has taken on the challenge of finding out who these are and helping them,” said Robertson.