Hart County Board of Commissioners
May 25th, 2004
The Hart County Board of Commissioners met May 24th, 2004 at 7:00 p.m. in the Hart County Administrative & Emergency Services Building.
Chairman Daniel Reyen presided with Commissioners R C Oglesby, Randy Banister and Joey Dorsey in attendance. Commissioner Ricky Carter absent due to his father’s passing away.
Chairman Reyen called the meeting to order.
Chairman Reyen welcomed those in attendance.
Chairman Reyen called for a moment of silence.
Everyone stood in observance of the Pledge of Allegiance.
Commissioner Oglesby entertained a motion to approve the meeting agenda. Commissioner Dorsey provided a second to the motion. The motion carried 4-0.
Commissioner Oglesby entertained a motion to approve the minutes of the meeting of May 11th, 2004 as amended. Commissioner Dorsey provided a second to the motion. The motion carried 4-0.
Mr. Combs addressed comments made by Chairman Reyen at the April 27th meeting. He referred to comments made about Ms. Crossley and staff not being helpful to a fee appraiser’s request for information over the telephone. He said that Ms. Crossley is not expected to do work for fee appraisers, according to Georgia Law and the Georgia Real Estate Commission.
He remarked that the Board of Assessors supports Ms. Crossley and that it is time for the allegations and verbal abuse to stop. He said, “If you are dissatisfied with Ms. Crossley’s service, or just don’t like her Mr. Chairman, use your majority vote and fire her or myself.”
Mr. Combs suggested that the Board of Commissioners hire a Public Information Officer to inform the public.
Chairman Reyen referred to the Peer Review of the Board of Assessors and the Assessors office. He said that the report said information should be more accessible to the public and that it boils down to customer service.
Commissioner Banister asked Mr. Combs to name the three majority of votes he referred to. Mr. Combs said the Chairman, Commissioners Carter and Banister. Commissioner Banister responded that this is wrong and that his vote is not owned by anyone and suggested that he check the voting records.
Pete Nagele, Board member of the Hart County Property Owner’s Association said he was deeply offended by Mr. Comb’s statements. He said that cases are being held in court and that the way the assessors' office is run is a poor way to run an organization.
Commissioner Banister remarked that the Board of Commissioners has supported both the Board of Assessors and Ms. Crossley. He said his position is to represent the people and keep taxes down. He said there are questions and things that need to be worked out.
Chairman Reyen remarked that the Peer Review was done at the request of citizens and the results pointed out shortcomings. He said he is trying to address issues brought up by the Peer Review Committee and that it takes cooperation. He said the taxation system needs to be transparent and if staff members cannot explain tax bills to individuals then something is wrong.
Commissioner Oglesby remarked that the decision to have a Peer Review of the Tax Assessors’ office was a 5-0 vote of the Board of Commissioners. Chairman Reyen responded that the vote was 3-2.
Commissioner Dorsey remarked that he did extensive research regarding a Peer Review and felt that it was a chance to get good feed back. He said issues were addressed from the results of the Peer Review and change will take time. He also stated that resources will have to be added and that it will take everyone working together.
Ben Fant remarked that less than 2% of taxpayers are not happy with their valuation of property. He said he does not agree with the Hart County Property Owner’s Association. He said that the State of Georgia directs how to appraise property. He encouraged everyone to remain calm and think about “the big picture”.
Mr. Nagele responded that there are 3,165 lake front property owners and that there were nearly 2,000 appeals, which was primarily lakefront. He said it is the Tax Assessors job to restore the intrigrity, peace and tranquility. He said he does not mind paying taxes when everyone is taxed equal.
Mr. Combs responded that if an individual does not agree with their appraisal then there is a mechanism in place for the appeals process.
Attorney Walter Gordon gave an update on the Public Defender program and that he will have the budget request ready for the board’s review at the first meeting in June. He reported that Joel Shriver has been appointed as the Chief Public Defender and that his salary will be picked up by the State effective July 1st.
Interim Administrator Jon Caime reported that the Peer Review meeting is scheduled for May 27th at 5:30 p.m. and the DOT STIP meeting is scheduled for June 3rd at 1:00 p.m. in the administrative building.
Commissioner Banister reported that the board and the public have heard the 2nd reading of the Landfill Ordinance and that it is still being reviewed prior to final reading.
Commissioner Dorsey entertained a motion to install a net at the Minor League field to prevent balls from hitting vehicles or individuals. Commissioner Oglesby provided a second to the motion.
After discussing the issue, Chairman Reyen called for a vote. The vote was 2-2 (Chairman Reyen and Banister opposed).
a) Second Reading – Exemptions to Subdivision Regulations for deeding to grandchildren
Commissioner Banister entertained a motion to adopt the second reading of the Exemptions to the Subdivision Regulations. Commissioner Oglesby provided a second to the motion. The motion carried 4-0.
a) Emmel Property Issue-Board of Assessors
Chairman Reyen remarked that Mr. Emmel presented the Commissioners with a packet of information at their last meeting. He said that Mr. Emmel’s requested a tax refund form on three different occasions. He further stated that when he did finally receive the form and submitted the completed form, no action had been taken on it from the Tax Assessor’s office for nine months.
Commissioner Oglesby questioned if Mr. Emmel’s case is in litigation. Attorney Gordon responded that Mr. Emmel has dismissed his appeal and that he did not feel comfortable to discuss Mr. Emmel’s case without his lawyer saying it has been dismissed. He said the primary issue is the valuation of a garage or basement and that the second component is the length of time to process a refund request.
Attorney Gordon reported that the Board of Equalization reduced Mr. Emmel property value in 2002 and that Mr. Emmel took the position that it should be reduced for 2000 and 2001. He remarked that the BOC is the only authority to refund tax funds. He said the BOC had developed a procedure for issuing refunds where the Board of Assessors approves the requested refund and then it goes to the Tax Commissioner for verification of payment before finally being presented to the BOC to determine if money is to be refunded.
Chairman Reyen voiced his concern that it took six weeks for Mr. Emmel to get a piece of paper and that once he submitted the form no action was taken.
Mr. Combs responded that the Board of Equalization granted a tax refund on Mr. Emmel 2002 valuation of $249 and he received a refund. He said the tax refund form does not exist. He also stated that Mr. Emmel did not file a tax return for 1999-2001.
Chairman Reyen responded that Mr. Emmel submitted a request for tax refund on five different occasions. He questioned why the application for a refund stayed in the Tax Assessors’ office for nine months without any action.
Chief Appraiser Crossley reported that Mr. Emmel did not report any errors on his 2002 revaluation. She said that when an issue went to Superior Court she could not discuss the matter with the property owner.
Appraiser Crossley reported the Mr. Emmel did not make a return for the years from 1999-2002 and that nothing can be done until a jury makes a decision on his case. She said that Kenny Carter built the Emmel’s house and the portion of the basement in dispute is used as a garage. She said she has done her job and done it well and that sometimes people want her or the staff to do something that is contrary to the law. She said the books are open to the public and that they have a computer on the counter for the public. She said she did not want to brag but the county would never find a more loyal employee than she.
Chairman Reyen asked why Mr. Emmel was not given a form. Ms. Crossley responded that she instructed Mr. Emmel to write a letter to the County Commissioners requesting a refund. She said that the tax refund request form was drawn up by her many years ago to cover her.
Chairman Reyen asked if anyone during this period received a refund. Ms. Crossley responded that the Tax Commissioners' office has issued refunds for boats in the amount of $8,500. She said that corrections made by the Board of Tax Assessors during the appeal process have received refunds.
Chairman Reyen said there has to be a mechanism in place for valid appeals. He clarified with Ms. Crossley that no action could be taken because Mr. Emmel's property was pending in court however he had a letter from Ms. Crossley dated April 6, 2004 saying that Mr. Emmel would be placed on the Board of Commissioners' meeting agenda. He asked why the issue is dragging out so long.
Ms. Crossley responded that the Chairman of the Board of Commissioners is responsible for placing items on the agenda and her letter was to let Mr. Emmel know that.
Ben Fant remarked that one month ago, Mr. Emmel appeared before the board and Ms. Crossley said that his case could not be heard because it was in court. He also stated that the Tax Assessor's office does not issue refunds and Mr. Emmel is not entitled to a refund, therefore it should be a mute point.
Mr. Emmel remarked that his tax appeal was a matter of uniformity.
Commissioner Banister asked Mr. Emmel if he is a part of a class action suit. Mr. Emmel responded that he has dismissed the case.
County Attorney Gordon remarked that Attorney Waserman filed a document in the Clerk of Court's office. He said that when counsel is involved he is mandated to discuss issues with counsel and counsel alone. However, Mr. Emmel filed a dismissal with notice to Attorney Waserman.
Attorney Gordon remarked that he would discuss the issue with Mr. Emmel and try to resolve it.
Mr. Emmel remarked that he is disappointed that the Board did not receive information from Ms. Crossley until tonight. He said his issue started 34 months ago and all he is asking for is action for someone to respond to his request.
b) EBT Food Stamp Issue-2nd Quarter 2004
Commissioner Oglesby entertained a motion to pay the invoice for period of January through March 2004 in the amount of $1,698.91. Commissioner Dorsey provided a second to the motion.
Commissioner Banister reported that he has discussed the food stamp program with the Department of Human Resources and that there is nothing in law that says the county has to participate. He said that it is a State program and if the county does not participate the State will have to fund it.
The vote failed 2-2 (Chairman Reyen and Banister opposed).
Commissioner Oglesby entertained a motion to invite DHR Representative Sartain to the next meeting to discuss the EBT Food Stamp issue. Commissioner Dorsey provided a second to the motion. The motion carried 4-0.
c) Addition of Private Road to County Road System-Seculsion Drive
Commissioner Oglesby entertained a motion to adopt Seculsion Drive into the County Road System. Commissioner Dorsey provided a second to the motion. The motion carried 4-0.
d) Discussion on Architect RFP's for Courthouse
Commissioner Oglesby entertained a motion to table the issue until further evaluation. Commissioner Dorsey provided a second to the motion.
Chairman Reyen remarked that the Architect RFP is important to get an adequate feel for the future of the courthouse needs and the study phase is the key part.
IA Caime remarked that the information is needed before the next SPLOST vote comes up.
Robert Rider remarked that the $35,000 was set aside in the current budget for the study and that four months delay is a lot of time. He reminded the board that the grand jury has made recommendations for several years about space issues in the courthouse.
Mr. Emmel addressed a question to Kenny Carter pertaining to the basement area of his home. Mr. Carter responded that the area was left open that he did not stub up walls in the basement area.
a) Litigation Matters
Commissioner Oglesby entertained a motion to go into executive session to discuss litigation matters as provided by Georgia law. Commissioner Banister provided a second to the motion. The motion carried 4-0. The resolution and affidavit is recorded in the minutes book.
With no further action taken during executive session, Commissioner Oglesby entertained a motion to convene the regular meeting. Commissioner Dorsey provided a second to the motion. The motion carried 4-0.
Commissioner Oglesby entertained a motion to adjourn the meeting. Commissioner Dorsey provided a second to the motion. The motion carried 4-0.
Daniel W. Reyen, Chairman Lawana Kahn, County Clerk