Agritourism sign ordinance presented, Sheriff says staff level is low

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By Nick Nunn staff writer

During the March 1 meeting of the Morgan County Board of Commissioners (BOC) Morgan County Planning Director Chuck Jarrell presented a draft for an agritourism directional signs ordinance The ordinance would create or modify definitions for “agricultural tourist attraction,” “directional signs,” “illegal sign,” “official signs,” and “public utility signs,” would also create a qualifying procedure for agritourist businesses be able to put up directional and official signs. Jarrell stated that, in order to put up a sign for an agricultural tourism attraction, the applicant would first have to obtain proper approval from the Department of Agriculture (DOA) and the Department of Transportation (DOT) before approaching the BOC.

Once qualified with the DOA and the DOT, the applicant would then have to provide the BOC with a map with the locations of the signs including the quantity of signs, copies of the state approvals, a copy of their current tax certificate, a written description of the operation, and a general site plan of the operation, in addition to completing a site inspection.

The BOC had no comment on the draft, which will have to be passed through a public hearings process before it can be voted on. Morgan County Sheriff Robert Markley gave the BOC a general overview of the Sheriff’s Department operation during 2013.

Generally, Markley noted that the department suffers a lack of depth of staffing, which causes the department to be understaffed when employees take sick days or vacation days.

An additional agency issue that Markley pointed out was the restoration of eight department vehicles, which he described as a “band aid.” Markley also stated that the average daily census of inmates dropped from 83.7 in 2012 to 68.9 in 2013, largely because of state policies, which decrease the amount of time prisoners stay in Morgan County’s facility once convicted before they are transferred out.

Andy Chase, Morgan County representative and chair of the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Diseases Region Two board, discussed the possibility of having mental healthcare workers come to Morgan County one or two days per week to give mental healthcare.

Commissioner Ellen Warren said that she thinks that in-county mental healthcare is something that the county “deserves.” Ainslie asked Warren if she would meet with Chase and officials at the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities to look into the feasibility of providing one or two days of care per week locally. The BOC also approved:

•The purchase of two Cisco 4500x fiber switches and two Cisco 48 port 1GB POE devices for $48,380, which will be covered by the county’s insurance, to replace damaged equipment from Jan. 10, 2014.

•A budget amendment in the amount of $10,500 for the Board of Elections and Registration to cover the cost of the 2014 general primary, which was shifted into this fiscal year by the General Assembly.

•An expense of $22,380 for the annual landfill monitoring cost to First Environment, Inc.

•The section 5311 application for Morgan County Transit for the fiscal year 2015, which will demand a total of $93,174 from the county in addition to the federal input of $120,745 and the state input of $3,939.

•The appointment of Karen Robertson, Madison, to the Morgan County Family Connection Board.

•The staff reports for January 2014

•An amendment to a conditional use permit granted to Ryan Taylor in August 2013 regarding parking and curbing requirements.

•The February 2014 payables from the General Fund in the amount of $1,286,197.87 and from SPLOST in the amount of $288,342.30

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