Residents along Candy Kitchen Road in Haralson County will be the first beneficiaries of a $500,000 federal grant awarded to the county in late August, as their longtime request for water service becomes a reality.
The announcement of the Community Development Block Grant was made Sept. 4 at the end of the regular meeting of the Haralson County Board of Commissioners. Also during that meeting, the commissioners discussed problems encountered in building the new Recreation Center; took actions directed at combating vagrancy at two county locations; and listened to a strong appeal for more public participation in school board meetings.
The meeting was held in the absence of District 4 Commissioner Sammy Robinson. Commission Chairman Allen Poole, however, declared a quorum was present, and also that Robinson had authorized Poole to vote his interests by proxy on certain issues before the board.
Poole saved the announcement of the federal grant for the end of the meeting. District 2 Commissioner Jamie Bennett said afterwards that although many residents have requested county water service, water authority officials decided to prioritize Candy Kitchen Road because the project had been pending for some time and would benefit a larger number of people than other long-standing requests.
The funds originate through the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development and are administered in Georgia through its Department of Community Affairs. The funds are a grant to assist communities with certain development activities, including infrastructure improvement, and do not have to be repaid.
Bennett added that the $500,000, which was awarded on Aug. 31, was the largest amount possible through the program, and that government entities that apply for such a sum seldom get the full amount.
Poole told the crowd that it was likely the full amount of the grant would not be spent on the one project and that residents on other small roads may get water service as well.
During the regular meeting, the commissioners again discussed the issue of the recreational facility being built near the Senior Center. The project, which was originally designed to include three football/soccer fields and three baseball/softball fields, has been the subject of several recent commission meetings, with the process used for bidding portions of the work getting the special attention of some commissioners.
Greg Dewberry, county surveyor and a project manager for the facility, explained to the commissioners that public advertising for a single contractor was not sought so that portions of the work could be done by local companies. However, finding local contractors for some specialized work – such as the grading at the site – had proved difficult.
Athletic fields must be leveled to an exact degree for several reasons, not the least of which is to ensure the ground doesn’t interfere with ball roll. But the grade must also allow for proper drainage, which both prevents damage to the field when it is not in use and avoids standing water, which can cause rain delays and the loss of receipts.
Dewberry said that the effort to find a contractor for the field work had so delayed the project that the exposed soil must now be capped for the winter to prevent erosion during seasonal weather. He and the commissioners discussed several options, including seeding the fields with fescue, which will allow grass to take root in time for springtime athletics, or to seed the field only for the season and lay sod in the spring, which could delay the fields’ use until the fall of 2013.
District 3 Commissioner Vance Posey expressed concern that funds may be lacking to complete a building with concession stands and restrooms by the time the fields are ready. Dewberry said his main priority now was the ground work, and said that of the $400,000 remaining from the original budget of some $550,000, most has been earmarked for sub-projects already scheduled. But he said that closing the site for several months will allow time for sales tax revenues, a portion of which has been set aside for the work, to build back up.
Posey said he and county attorney Meng Lim had discussed the possibility of using the land as collateral for a bank loan to complete the work without further delay. Lim, however, pointed out at the meeting that such a deal was contingent on the bank’s acceptance.
In other business, the commissioners dealt with two separate cases of vagrancy and trespassing which had been of concern to some business owners and residents.
During a brief executive session during the meeting, the commissioners decided to file a nuisance suit against the owners of an abandoned motel in the Corinth community as part of the process of having the property condemned and razed.
The Summerville Motel on Highway 120 has stood vacant for some time, but has been used by vagrants and other transients. Greg Poteet, who owns the nearby Sister’s Superette, told the commissioners that “something needs to be done, and it needs to be done now” to prevent the “bad things” which were happening at the site.
In discussing the problem, the commissioners learned that the owners of the property had been contacted several times, but had been uncooperative and, as Commissioner Bennett said, had decided to “abandon” the structure.
After the executive session, Poole pointed out that current county ordinances “lacked teeth” enabling the commissioners to act without the courts, but said that situation would be remedied for future, similar situations.
The second issue dealing with vagrants involved trespassers who have been using a section of Garner Road to dump trash, start fires and cause trouble for pulpwood companies working in the area.
Poole said the commissioners had decided to block off that section of the road west of Harper’s Creek and would then begin the process of legally closing the road, which would require the permission of property owners. By only closing the road below the creek, most property owners will still have access to their land, Poole said.
The commissioners also dealt with an issue involving delinquent business licenses issued by the county, and voted to put the matter on their agenda for their Sept. 19 work session.
Some county business owners have let their licenses expire due to the economic decline. Poole said that if those business owners now seek to renew their licenses, they are currently liable for all the renewal fees they’ve left unpaid. For some businesses that have been idle for months, these fees could be hundreds of dollars.
County licensing employees have asked the commission for guidance as to how to handle such situations; whether, for example, the renewing businesses should pay all the money they owe, or if the county should require the businesses to pay only the past two years’ worth of fees.
County Clerk Alison Palmer told the commissioners that a uniform guideline needed to be set so that each license holder may be treated the same.
In other business, the commissioners voted to fill a vacant post on the Water Authority.
Former Haralson County Sheriff Ronnie Kimball had been representing District 2 on the Water Authority until his death on Aug. 16. Commissioner Bennett, who represents the district on the Board, said the only person who had put their name forward to fill Kimball’s unexpired term was Amos Sparks, who had served as the county’s sole commissioner from 1997 through 2000.
Posey had wanted to table the nominations for the post, but when it became clear the board was going to vote, he placed in nomination Haralson resident Ray Smith. The commissioners then voted, and Poole declared the results 3-2 in Sparks’ favor. Bennett and Poole voted for Sparks, and Poole exercised his proxy for Commissioner Sammy Robinson to also vote for Sparks.
The public participation portion of the meeting grew lively when county resident Joe Corley took to the floor to urge county residents to take as much interest in County School Board proceedings as they did in County Commission meetings.
“Take a look at your tax bill,” he challenged the audience. “Where does the biggest part of your tax money go? To the school board. OK, we hold our commission board accountable for their portion … We don’t bother to question what happens at the darn school board meetings.”
He said he and others were committed to having senior citizens receive a school tax break, but “the only way that is going to be considered” by the school board is if there is a higher public attendance at school board meetings.
Also, Donny Boswell, vice chairman of the Haralson County Development Authority, proposed that candidates for public office be required to post a bond at the time they register to ensure that they will pick up and dispose of their campaign signs once the election is over. Those who fail to pick up the signs would then forfeit the bonds and thus reimburse the county for doing the job.
During regular business, the commissioners also issued a proclamation recognizing the contributions made to the community by Native American Indians. It was also announced that several Cherokee would host an event on Sept. 15 at Helton Howland Park at which Haralson residents will get a chance to learn about the Native Americans who once lived in the area, and for individuals who suspect they are descended from Native Americans to explore their heritage.