Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Rep. Quick Tells Oconee County Government Leaders She Questions The Need For Additional Funding for GDOT

Local Maybe Better

It is unlikely that Rep. Regina Quick won any friends at the Georgia Department of Transportation last week with the comments she made at the special session with local governmental leaders organized by the Oconee County Chamber of Commerce.

But it was clear she was not trying to curry favor with the state’s transportation leaders.

“I have some concern that there is a great sucking sound coming from Atlanta, from the transportation office,” she said.

In Quick’s view, the need for additional money for transportation has not yet been demonstrated, and she is not certain that giving any new funds to GDOT is the solution to the state’s transportation problems.

January Meeting

The Chamber called the meeting, as it does each year before the General Assembly starts its January session, so that Quick, Rep. Chuck Williams and Sen. Bill Cowsert could discuss issues likely to come up in Atlanta and hear the concerns of local officials.

Quick represents three of Oconee County’s precincts–Athens Academy, Malcom Bridge and Bogart–while Williams represents the remaining 10 precincts.

Cowsert represents all of the county, but he was unable to attend because of a meeting he was having with the governor in Atlanta. Cowsert was elected last month as majority leader of the Senate.

In the audience for the 90-minute session on Dec. 11 were members of the Oconee County Board of Commissioners, of the county’s Industrial Development Authority, and of the Oconee County Board of Education, and representatives from the county’s city governments.

Brief Introductions

Williams mentioned transportation in his opening comments. He said a joint Senate and House study committee on transportation issues is expected to release its report soon and he expects that to influence what happens when the General Assembly meets in January.

Quick said in her introductory comments that she mostly was interested in hearing from the audience.

Rick Waller, chair of the IDA, was the first person to ask a question, and he wanted to hear more about transportation, and whether the need for roads was going to increase taxes.

Quick said she was “not going to assume that giving more to the DOT to administer is necessarily the answer to anything.”

The alternative, she said in the video below, is to keep that money in the hands of local officials.

OCO: Quick On Transportation Options from Lee Becker on Vimeo.

More About Roads

Williams and Quick responded to questions about school funding, about communications infrastructure, about policies of the state Department of Revenue, and regarding a variety of other topics.

But transportation was an issue the group returned to, with Oconee County Commissioner Jim Luke asking Quick late in the session to clarify her position on the need for additional tax revenue to meet needs.

Quick said she would consider raising the gas tax only if it is clear about how the money available now is being spent.

“If the DOT is running efficiently and that money is not being spent on excessive engineering fees and other consultant fees and administrative bureaucracy, and is actually being spent on road building, and repair work, and we need it, then the gas tax may have to be raised,” she said.

She expressed doubts that these conditions were being met, and the video below provides details of her response.

OCO: Quick on Gas Tax from Lee Becker on Vimeo.

Defense Of GDOT

Williams followed Quick’s response with a defense of GDOT.

GDOT is a little like Congress, he said, in that everybody loves their representative in Congress but hates Congress.

“We’ve got a great working relationship here locally with the district engineer and his staff,” Williams said. “They’re real responsive.”

Williams didn’t give names, but Brent Cook is the engineer in charge of GDOT operations in the 21-county Northeast Georgia District.

Full Video Of Session

The full video of the session is below.

I was seated at the rear of the room, and movement of people in the room is obvious in the video.

No microphones were used by the speakers or those in the audience who asked the questions.

The video does pick up the responses of Quick and Williams to the questions.

Oconee County BOC Chairman Melvin Davis (standing in video image below) opened and closed the session.

OCO: Chamber Of Commerce Legislative Session from Lee Becker on Vimeo.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Oconee County Commission Chairman Davis Suggests Revisions To Draft Alcohol Ordinance

Next Reading In January

The Oconee County Board of Commissioners tonight agreed to consider over the next three weeks changes in the draft ordinance presented to it that will allow for the sale of liquor by the drink in county restaurants.

Commission Chairman Melvin Davis recommended that the Board review the requirement in the draft ordinance that no more than 25 percent of the gross income at the restaurant be from the sale of alcoholic beverages.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Oconee County Planning Commission Recommends Against Recreational Vehicle Storage Facility

Positive Votes On Two Other Requests

The Oconee County Planning Commission tonight voted unanimously to recommend to the Board of Commissioners that it turn down a rezone request for a recreational vehicle storage facility at the corner of New High Shoals Road and Union Church Road.

The Planning Commission took the action after hearing from 19 people who spoke in opposition to the rezone request. No one other than the applicant’s agent spoke in favor.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Liquor-By-The-Drink Ordinance Scheduled To Get First Reading By Oconee County Board Of Commissioners Tuesday Night

Cheddar’s Opening Soon

Liquor-by-the-drink legislation is now on a fast track, with the Oconee County Board of Commissioners scheduled to give an ordinance its first reading on Tuesday night and approve the law on Jan. 6.

County Clerk Jane Greathouse released the agendas for both meetings just before 4:30 on Friday, and the county web site contains a notice of the meetings and a draft of the ordinance commissioners will consider.

Oconee County Planning Commission To Discuss Medical Complex, RV Storage, Tenant Farm Dwelling

Big Project Not Controversial

The Oconee County Planning Commission is scheduled to take up three rezone requests tomorrow night, the largest of which in terms of financial impact is likely to prove the least controversial.

After asking that its request be tabled in October, Oconee Medical Holdings LLC is seeking approval tomorrow of a rezone of a little more than 14 acres at Jennings Mill Road and Virgil Langford Road for construction of Phase III of Three Sixteen Professional Quarter.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Watkinsville To Hold Special Election In March On Liquor By The Drink

Cost: $3,500

The Watkinsville City Council voted unanimously last night to put a referendum allowing the sale of liquor by the drink in the city’s restaurants on the ballot in a special election on March 17.

The Council took the action after Mayor Charles Ivie informed the five council members and the public that he had concluded that the city could not determine precisely how city voters had cast their ballots in the county-wide referendum on Nov. 4.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Solutions To Space Needs Not Discussed By Oconee County Commissioners At Meeting Called For That Purpose

Nine Presentations Made

Anyone who turned out at the called meeting of the Oconee County Board of Commissioners last night expecting a discussion of how the county is going to address future space needs would have been disappointed.

What the small group in attendance heard instead was presentations by an elected official and by representatives of eight county departments of what their current space use is and what they think they will need in 2035.