Thursday, February 26, 2015

Commercial Development Leads To More Crime, District Attorney Told Oconee County Commissioners

Crime Costs Money

Commercial development has its downside, District Attorney Ken Mauldin told the Oconee County Board of Commissioners during a recent work session.

“The more stores you have out there, you’re going to have more shop lifting,” Mauldin said.

And it costs money to prosecute those who commit the crimes, he added.

It is a message that commissioners–and the citizenry–do not often hear as the county moves forward with its efforts to promote commercial growth.

More common is the simple message that commercial growth brings in more sales tax revenue.

Davis On Cheddar’s

In his County Talk column in the Feb. 12 issue of The Oconee Enterprise, Oconee County Board of Commissioners Chairman Melvin Davis commented on the impact of the opening of the new Cheddar’s restaurant on Epps Bridge Parkway in Epps Bridge Centre.

“Any time a retail facility opens of this size (over 300 seats), we would expect the volume of business to make an impact on sales and SPLOST revenue for the County,” Davis wrote.

“Also, the projected new growth in commercial property tax for this facility will increase the County’s revenue,” according to Davis.

SPLOST is a reference to the county’s 1 percent Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax. The county also collects a 1 percent Local Option Sales Tax, and the Board of Education collects a 1 percent sales tax.

Davis, a strong proponent of development, said nothing of the downside of the development in his column, which also appears on the county web site.

Congestion on Connector

The negative impact of development came up again on Monday night in the BOC's most recent work session.

The commissioners identified the intersection of the Oconee Connector at SR 316 and the intersection of the Oconee Connector at Epps Bridge Parkway as two of the county’s most congested.

Traffic from Epps Bridge Centre, including from Cheddar’s, feeds onto the Connector and onto Epps Bridge Parkway itself between these two intersections.

The Georgia Department of Transportation spent $13.5 million in 2009 to build that roadway to open up the land that is now the Epps Bridge Centre for commercial development.

Frank Bishop, developer of the Epps Bridge Centre, called this a kind of public-private partnership during his presentation to the Oconee County Chamber of Commerce last year.

Mauldin Explicit

No one has presented a balance sheet for the gains and losses from development, but Mauldin was explicit in his meeting with the Board at a work session on Feb. 18 in saying that growth and development has costs.

“The more people, you’re going to have more crime,” he said.

Commercial development particularly increases the costs to the county, he said in the video below.

OCO: Mauldin On Costs from Lee Becker on Vimeo

“I’m not saying you shouldn’t expand,” Mauldin said, “but as that happens, there will be a cost.”

Cases Estimated

Mauldin was joined by Chief Superior Court Judge David Sweat, Probate Court Judge David Anglin, and Clerk of Superior, Magistrate and Juvenile Courts Angela Elder-Johnson at that Feb. 18 meeting in making the case for more judicial space in the courthouse.

Mauldin said Oconee County currently has about 600 cases per year, about 150 of which are felonies.

He projected that Oconee County will have about 750 to 800 felony cases in 15 years, or an increase of four fold.

He based that on cases in Clarke County and the estimate by Chairman Davis that the county’s population will be 65,000 in 15 years. The county had 34,035 residents in 2013, according to the U.S. Census Bureau projection from the actual count of 32,815 in 2010.

For Davis’s projections to be correct, the county would have to nearly double its population in the next 15 years.

Even without growth, Mauldin said, his office needs more and better space than it has.

“Our space right now is really not functional or adequate in any respect,” Mauldin said.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Oconee Commissioners Discuss Daniells Bridge Road Projects During Primer On MACORTS

Cancel Final Session

The Oconee County Board of Commissioners tonight got a primer on the operation of the Madison Athens-Clarke Oconee Regional Transportation Study (MACORTS), the regional transportation planning body of which the county has been a member since 1980.

Next they heard from the county director of strategic and long range planning, who moved project by project through the county’s listings in the MACORTS planning documents.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

City Of Monroe Has Partial Solution For Oconee County’s Internet Problems

On Tuesday Agenda

Oconee County has found a fix to its Internet problems that bypasses the two commercial providers of Internet service in the county, AT&T and Charter.

The fix is not perfect–“not a silver bullet”–according to Brian Thompson, director of electric and telecommunications for the city of Monroe in neighboring Walton County.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Courthouse Needs Quick Fix, Judge Tells Oconee County Commissioners In Work Session On Space Needs

July 1, 2016 Deadline

Oconee County may have only a little more than a year before it needs to find space in the Courthouse for a Superior Court judge, the judge’s secretary and a law clerk.

That was the message Chief Superior Court Judge David Sweat delivered to the Oconee County Board of Commissioners last night in the second of four scheduled work sessions the Board is holding to deal with pressing issues before the county.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Three Historic And Scenic Sites To Be Presented To Oconee County Citizen Committee Tomorrow Night

Called Hidden Treasures

Russ Page, a tireless advocate on behalf of historic sites in the county, will get a chance tomorrow night to make a case for funding from current and future Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax revenue of three projects in the county .

The first is preservation of the historic mill on Rose Creek just downstream from the iconic Elder Mill Covered Bridge off SR 15 (Greensboro Highway) southeast of Watkinsville.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Oconee County Board Of Commissioners Confronts Long List Of Issues Needing Resolution

Three More To Come

The Oconee County Board of Commissioners spent 90 minutes last night reviewing a long list of issues facing the county with the goal of winnowing and prioritizing, but it had only limited success with the task at hand.

Jim Dove, executive director of the Northeast Georgia Regional Commission (NEGRC), began the Monday session by presenting a nine-page, single-space list of issues raised in the two-day planning meeting the Board held in January.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Oconee County Chairman Davis Raises Possibility of 50/50 Alcohol To Food Ratio In County Restaurants

In Weekly Column

Oconee County Board of Commissioners Chairman Melvin Davis has renewed his efforts to increase the percentage of revenue that Oconee County restaurants can earn from alcohol sales through his column in the Feb. 12 edition of The Oconee Enterprise.

Davis said in the column he writes that “I understand” that several chains have inquired about locating in Oconee County, but “some” question the existing ratio of alcohol to food.