The Union Recorder

January 24, 2013

County takes out line of credit to pay bills

Kyle Collins
The Union-Recorder

MILLEDGEVILLE — In the year's second Baldwin County Commissioners meeting, the board approved a resolution imposing a $1.50 per month per wireless connection charge for Phase II 911 enhanced service.

Capt. Lynnette LaRocque, representing the Baldwin County Law Enforcement Center's 911 facility, discussed the change from $1.

“Since we are Phase II compliant, we are allowed by state law to change the cell phone wireless fee,” LaRocque said.

LaRocque said the 911 center staff can see the caller's location on a physical map within 50 feet with the enhancement capabilities.

“It's a very big enhancement we have used since December, and it has come in handy,” LaRocque said.

Henry Craig, District 4, said he was impressed with the 911 center's capabilities.

“It's all automated and allows instantaneous, correct navigation to the person that needs it. I can't imagine any technology being better than what you have,” Craig said.

County Manager Ralph McMullen added that the county has supplemented the fees over the years because the old fees where not enough. He said the increase will help close the gap.

LaRocque explained that cell phones fees are collected based on billing address. Students with an Atlanta address get the 911 enhanced service, while the fees don't come to Baldwin County.

More than 60 percent of emergency calls come via cell phone.

Currently, Verizon is compliant. AT&T and T-Mobile have been notified and have six months, as of last September, to get up to par with Phase II.

The commission also selected a Tax Anticipation Note proposal from Century Bank for a $7 million line of credit at a 2.14 percent interest rate.

An estimated county cost of $102,661 is required. Craig wants the county to stop being addicted to borrowing.

“We have to stop the process of borrowing money to do business,” Craig said.

The county needs around $1 million per month to operate and must use the note to function until tax revenues come in toward the end of the fiscal year.

Johnny Westmoreland, District 5, said he understood the county needed the loan to pay bills, while mentioning the cost could be better allocated toward citizen services.

Sammy Hall, District 3, didn't disagree the board shouldn't be borrowing.

“For the record the county has been doing this for 10 years if not longer,” Hall said.

The commission agreed to have its first called work session next Thursday, Jan. 31 at 5:30 p.m.

For now, the board agreed to hold work sessions every fourth Thursday.

Westmoreland said work sessions are a vital component to increase community involvement and better all-around knowledge of the issues at hand.

“You have the ability to call as many meetings as you like. Let's start out and see how one works for everybody's schedule then we'll go from there,” Tommy French, District 2, said. “Test the water before you go out. We can always change.”

Work sessions are open to the public and set upcoming meeting agendas.

In other news:

• All the commissioners signed a letter asking the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities to postpone the scheduled Craig Center closing at Central State Hospital due to humanitarian and economic concerns. The Central State redevelopment authority, Milledgeville City Council and county legislative representatives' signatures will be included. The Craig Center is the last mental health facility at Central State.

• Tim Ingram from Ingram & Associates updated the commission on a $500,000 Community Development Block Grant for a sanitary sewer rehabilitation project in the Frazier Drive area.

• Ingram said a Georgia Environmental Finance Authority (GEFA) grant of $5.2 million for a 750,000-gallon elevated water tank on Highway 212 and a 2 million gallon ground storage site on Hopewell Church Road will greatly increase holding capacity. The elevated tank is on track to begin functioning in mid-February.

• County attorney David McRee said a bill supported by all major wireless carriers for mobile broadband infrastructure development has been introduced this legislative session. The bill would limit local ability to regulate tower location and modifications. Hall suggested writing a letter in opposition. The board agreed. 

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