Written by: Tucker Green
The General Election is upon us. Early voting will begin on October 13th and end on October 30th. Voting takes place at The Board of Elections (Pioneer Road) weekdays from 8am to 5pm. One Saturday vote will be held on October 24th from 9am until 4pm. Absentee ballots can be mailed in or returned via dropbox in front of the Board of Elections. Election Day will be November 3rd with local precincts open 7am until 7pm. Please call the Board of Elections at 706-253-8781 for any questions.
During the month of September, the 911 Operations Center received 1,700 total calls, 713 were medical responses or fire related. The Water Department installed 17 new meters. The Department of Planning and Development issued 48 new building permits. The Pickens Animal Shelter brought in 55 new animals, and 51 went out through various forms of adoption. Animal control responded to five cases. Public Works is expanding the parking area at the Jerusalem Community Center and performing other routine maintenance. Subcontractor crews will begin resurfacing 28 roads across the county in the next few weeks. PCRD basketball registration is now open until October 14th. Youth football is ongoing through the end of October. If you have any questions concerning PCRD give them a call at 706-253-8863.
The Pickens County government departments continue to stay busy working for the citizens of Pickens County. The Pickens County Board of Commissioners continue to do a great job of leading these efforts. As work progresses, and projects continue, I will do my best to keep you informed of these developments.
Until the next time, stay safe, and shop local!
Candidates for the Pickens County Board of Commissioners Chairman took their turn on FYN’s Morning Show to discuss their reasons for running, what they envisioned for Pickens County and other nuances of the chairman. Both candidates said they would be willing to debate on FYNTV. Keep checking back for details.
Why did the candidates decide to run?
For Kris Stancil, the idea to run morphed from serving on the committee that formulated the Comprehensive 10-year plan for the county 18 years ago. The plan is a list of goals members of the community would like to see happen and aids the commissioners in making decisions based on that plan. He said the opportunity created an “air of excitement.”
He sat in on the most recent committee to plan the next ten years and was disappointed to realize the goals for the next ten years was the exact same.
“It was frustrating to see we had not been breaking that plan into pieces and going forward with it,” he said. He added at the time current chairman, Rob Jones had said he was retiring, but hadn’t made a public announcement about, so Stancil said after a lot of discussion, he decided to retire. Jones did not retire, but ran in the primaries, losing to Stancil.
“It’s a chance to serve in a different role,” he said.
For David Shouse, he saw first hand how cumbersome and complex government had become and wanted to simplify it. He credits his business career started by building a successful security company and then getting into developing and was able to see what it took to bring jobs into the community.
“Every time I’d want to do something, I would get ‘why do you want to that? We can’t do that’ That’s not my mentality. Where there is a will, there is a way.”
Both candidates stressed the importance of transparency in government.
Shouse said he works to answer every questions whether he likes it or not. When asked how he plans to do something, (my opponent) doesn’t answer. I answer how. Shouse said he learned a lot about the problems people face by meeting them while collecting signatures.
“I hear ‘my road hasn’t been cleaned in six months’ or ‘my road hasn’t been paved in nine years,” he said. “I want an online system for residents to create their own ticket, allowing an easy process to follow process.”
He added that social media has created a new influx of ways to open communication and he’d like to find ways to use it.
Stancil said transparency is critical for trust and also believes in creating more ways for people to speak candidly about issues. He said town hall meetings are a good way to allow people. He said it was important for county meetings to follow Robert’s Rules of Order in order to get the business side of government done, but that residents should have a way to come speak.
“I’m not a big fan of closed door meetings,” he said. “I’d rather have it done in public.”
As for answering questions, Stancil said he will answer questions, but avoids getting baited into needless arguments. While he does promise to answer all questions, he said it may not be immediate due to his work responsibilities.
The candidates share goals for improving the animal shelter being a no-kill shelter and ideas for improving the county.
Stancil said he’d like to change the tone of the government by shifting from a political force to professional services. One thing he wants to do is support the animal shelter as it becomes a no-kill shelter and to help animal control, which are related but provide services.
“We have to have a big conversation and start being open about these issues,” said Stancil adding that he’d like to see the parks and recreation department offer more services and he believed the Special Local Option Sales Tax would help move the department in that direction.
As far as budget, he said starting the task sooner, rather than later, with the comprehensive plan guiding them will help move the county to being proactive rather than reactive in their decisions.
Shouse, too, wants a new animal shelter and while he means no offense to the employees of the shelter, he’d rather see the animals in a nice facility with big runs, which could be built on some of the government land currently not being used.
“We also need to improve our roads and create better infrastructure. We don’t have sewer so we are still dependent. I want a reservoir, not just for water, but recreation. We’ve also set ourselves up to be a retirement community, but the accessibility is atrocious, from what I hear from our seniors,” said Shouse.
He said that while he wants sewer, not having it shouldn’t stop jobs from coming to Pickens County and said some large companies, like UPS, didn’t need infrastructure but would employ several hundred people at $25 per hour. Those jobs should go to residents first.
“Bring in good jobs and suddenly unaffordable housing is affordable, buying a car is affordable,” he said. “I’m a deal maker. I can get us the amenities without raising taxes.”
The candidates have 61 days until election an both plan on speaking to people. . .and listening.
Shouse said campaigning is like a job interview and while he doesn’t like negative politics, he will say what he’s heard and what he has experienced.
“I’ve had people tell me they would vote for me but didn’t want to sign the petition because they didn’t want the sheriff to be able to see it because they were afraid of backlash,” said Shouse, adding he didn’t know if they experienced backlash. He said on a personal level, he’s had people tell him to “get his wife on a leash” because they wanted his opponent to win so the sheriff’s department would have an open check book.
“I have confirmed it was Stancil’s co-workers. Like my opponent, I get negative stuff. I don’t like using it, but it’s like a job interview.”
Stancil said campaigning for the next two months will be focusing on what Pickens County wants to accomplish.
He said he wants to run a campaign that is focused on what he can do for the residents, not mud-slinging.
“It’s a strategy I’m not willing to take,” said Stancil. “From my personal faith, I don’t think God honors someone who (attacks his opponent).”
Stancil said his goal is to be available and speak to as many people as he can to share what he can do as chairman. “Our community expects decency and respect and I’m focused on our county not a person.”
WATCH KRIS STANCIL'S INTERVIEW ON FYN. WATCH DAVID SHOUSE'S INTERVIEW ON FYN.
The candidates each realize the voters have concerns about each of them and they want to put the voter’s at ease.
Stancil said residents have asked if his employment in the sheriff’s office, where he has been the last 12 years, will make him partial to that office if he is elected as the board chairman.
“The sheriff’s office gets about 25-percent of the budget but it’s just one of many parts and it won’t receive any more attention or more focus, but I’m not going to ignore them because public safety is important for community growth.
Shouse said one concern people have about voting for an independent is that, if elected, he will come in and fire everyone.
“PIckens County has hundreds of employees,” said Shouse, saying he wanted to have a meeting with employees to introduce himself and find out what their job is and how it can be done better.
“I take care of my people,” he said, pointing out that any employee who left his security company eventually came back. “If we see someone needs a promotion or someone does something better, we’ll make adjustments. Firing is the most difficult job, it affects families and you really have to think about that.”
While he understands the concern, Shouse said there are some aspects of county jobs that should be addressed. “We should hire based on ability, not based on if their grandfather had that position.”
How to contact the candidates
CARES Act funding, an airport lift, and safety verification brought the Pickens County Board of Commissioners together in a called meeting on Tuesday.
The board approved signing the application for a $525,000 loan from GEFA with a 20-year payout to combine with a grant for $125,000 to replace the lift at the airport.
The Board also approved signing the acceptance of payment and provide necessary documentation to receive CARES Act Funding, which was enacted to assist communities impacted by the corona virus pandemic. According to Faye Harvey, finance director, Pickens was allotted $1.54 million of the $1.88 billion given to Georgia for cities and counties. Georgia received $4.1 billion.
Harvey said the county recently received $146,391 from the fund and they have submitted a claim for $1,018,000. She said that salaries and benefits for first responders have been approved from March 1-September 1.
The board signed a form to receive a workman’s compensation discount of 7.5% discount, which would save the county $43,000. To get the discount, the county has to complete one-day training yearly and have a safety liaison.
COUNTY COMMISSIONERS TALK TO NEW TAX COMMISSIONER, READ THE STORY HERE.
For the first time in recent history, an independent candidate reached the required signatures needed to get on November’s ballot.
Local developer David Shouse turned in 103 pages, with the average page having 10 signatures names, to the Pickens County Board of Elections and Registration office at 11 a.m. today. Shouse said he left several more pages at his office and that his total is about 1,200 signatures.
Shouse, who said he is “absolutely” a Trump supporter, decided to run as an Independent rather than as a Republican or Democratic candidate.
Shouse said he felt like there was some conflict running Republican. Republican Kris Stancil defeated incumbent Rob Jones during the primary election and will be on November’s ballot along with Shouse’s.
DAVID REEVES TAKES HELM OF TAX COMMISSIONERS OFFICE AHEAD OF SWEARING IN. READ STORY HERE.
“If you recall in Washington’s farewell address, he talks about the two-party system will eventually be so enamored in tic-for-tac that they forget the people they serve,” said Shouse. “My job is not to serve Republican or Democrat, it’s to serve the people of this county.”
“Thirty-eight percent of Americans identify themselves as independent and of those 68-percent lean Republican,” said Shouse.
The signatures have to be verified against voter registration roll to verify them, said Julianne Roberts, Supervisor of the Board of Elections and Registration. Poll workers will be tasked with that responsibility and she said Shouse would be notified via email next Friday.
Continue to check back as this story will update.
To see the below video on YouTube, click here.
Although Daniel Reeves won last night’s run-off election for Pickens County Tax Commissioner, the former Chief Deputy Tax Commissioner has taken the reins of the department early, following the resignation of the Darrin Satterfield, who held the position for one term. He was sworn in on August 7.
Satterfield resigned his position as tax commissioner following a scalding review by an independent law firm specializing in human resource matters.
“I received notification on August 5, it went to originally sent it to Governor Brian Kemp, Judge David Lindsay, probate of Pickens County and me,” said Rob Jones, Chairman of the Board of Commissioners. He added that Lindsay appointed Reeves to fill the term.
Jones was quick to point out that, as an elected office the Tax Commissioner does not report to the commissioners.
“The only thing the county and the chairman of the board of commissioners do is supply him with a place to work and help doing their budget,” said Jones. “They don’t have to go by the county handbook or use the county insurance.”
Satterfield served one term, but had been hired by former tax commissioner Sharon Troglin.
According to a press release from the board of commissioners, they hired the independent law firm to investigate and analyze operations in the office after receiving multiple complaints.
The result was a 500-page report, including exhibits, along with specific recommendations.
Jones said the details of the report are protected under client-attorney privileges and only a few people have seen it.
“I can say we are extremely disappointed with the rampant mismanagement in the tax commissioner’s office,” Jones stated in the press release. “We are deeply concerned about the employees, and deeply concerned about the office’s ability to serve the residents of Picken’s County.”
The next steps is a financial audit of the office “ensure compliance with state and federal financial requirements and the appropriate use of taxpayer funds.”
Reeves said he’s very grateful for all his supporters to helping him and was ready to get to work.
“I want to get the office restored, set policies and procedures,” he said. “I want to put people before politics, once you do that, everything falls into place.”
Reeves with 2,503 votes narrowly defeated Amy Gibson, who had 2,348 by 155 votes in the August 11 run-off. Because no one is running as a Democrat in the November electionn, Reeves, who has worked in the tax commissioners office for nine years.
Reeves said earlier, if elected his priority would be to make the tax commissioner’s office a place of integrity.
Some employees express concern the county is “going backwards.”
The Pickens County Board of Commissioners Rob Jones and Jerry Barnes, voted to cancel all county credit cards immediately and move to a purchase order/reimbursement system. Commissioner Becky Denney was absent.
Faye Harvey, finance director, asked for the change at Thursday’s called meeting. The move would mean employees making purchases would use their personal debit or credit cards, then submit paperwork through their department to get reimbursed.
It was met with concern from several employees from the Pickens County Sheriff’s Department.
“So, if we have to pay for something like a new blue light, we’d have to wait weeks to be reimbursed?” asked Lt. Mitch Yeargin with the Sheriff’s Department. “It seems like we are going backwards.”
Harvey defended the change saying that the Pickens County Board of Education and school system does not have any credit cards and that the move would put the responsibility on employees.
Lt. June Blackwell expressed concern saying the move came after an employee abused the privilege and was terminated.
“It’s ridiculous,” she said after the meeting.
Sgt. Jody Weaver also expressed concern saying that many county employees work for $13 per hour and can’t afford to wait on reimbursement which could take weeks. “They can’t afford to finance the county,” he said.
“If it takes weeks, you need to contact me,” Harvey assured them. “It shouldn’t take that long at all.”
She said the county would keep credit cards for Home Depot, gas cards and have accounts will local merchants which would cover most expenses.
“If it goes on the county credit card, the county is liable for that charge, even if it isn’t authorized,” she said as the reason for the change.
Board Chairman Rob Jones agreed. “If I were you, I’d cancel the cards after the meeting.”
Harvey said she would wait until Friday to cancel the cards and the county would honor the debts.
TRENDING: See who is in the August 11th run-off election here. Check back for candidate interviews.
Most of the board’s agenda dealt with minor business that accumulated during the shut-down. In other board news, the board:
Recognized employees Robert Olsen and Jackie Hendrix, both with the sheriff’s department for 10 years of service.
Recognized Becky Hammontree with 20 years service to the county.
Approved purchasing a used surplus bus from North Georgia Community Action for $5,500. The bus has a working wheelchair ramp and the purchase is contingent on inspection and good working order.
JASPER, Ga.–The Pickens County Board of Commissioners awarded a bid to Farmers Bank of Greensboro, Georgia for a loan of $2.175 million for the recycling center. Farmers Bank offered the county a fixed 10-year loan with a 2.175- interest rate that can be pre-paid in part of full with no penalties. There was also no legal review fees.
Truist Bank, formerly BB&T, was the other bid, with a 10-year fixed rate of 2.28-percent, the ability to pre-pay in full with no penalties and a $5,000 legal review fee.
In this project, the Association of County Commissioners of Georgia will be the lien holder. The county will transfer the property to ACCG and make payments through them. However, the county will maintain all control and responsibility of the property. Once the debt is paid in full, ACCG will deed it back to the county.
Trending Now: Pickens honors seniors with a drive by. Read story here.
This isn’t an unusual process, said Rob Jones, Chairman of the Board of Commissioners.
“We’ve gone through them several times, including on the jail and it was a good experience,” he said.
Pickens County declared a state of emergency in an emergency called meeting on Tuesday. This allows the Pickens County Office of Emergency Management to activate the emergency operations plan, specifically, Chapter 22, Civil Emergencies, located in the Pickens County Code of Ordinances to be put into place.
“What this document will do,” Rob Jones, chairman of the Board of Commissioners, said, “is to remind people of the condition we are in.”
Four people in Pickens County have contracted COVID-19, according the Georgia Department of Health. So far, 1097 people in Georgia have been infected and 38 have died while 361 are hospitalized.
We are the only hospital for several counties,” said Jones. “We have to do something to not get overrun.”
What it means
The declaration states that “all individuals currently living within unincorporated boundaries of Pickens County, Georgia (the “County”) shall shelter at their place of residence.”
“All persons may leave their residences only for Essential Activities, Essential Governmental Functions, or to operate Essential Businesses.” These functions are described in section 10 of the document and states these are activities or tasks necessary for health and safety.
According to a press release, the “shelter in place” directive will limit personal contact. The Centers for Disease Control and the Georgia Department of Health encourage people to shelter in place and to practice “social distancing”– remaining six-feet apart for others.
All businesses, except Essential Businesses are required to stop except “Minimum Basic Operations.” The declaration clarified this businesses may continue to operate if their employees and contractors work at home.
What are Essential businesses
Essential businesses include:
Healthcare, including pharmacies, drug stores.
Grocery stores, certified farmers markets, produce and farm stands, food banks, convenient stores, any store selling canned, dry or fresh foods.
Food cultivation including farming, livestock and fishing.
Businesses that provide food, shelter, and social services and other necessities of life for economically disadvantaged or needy individuals.
Newspapers, television, radio and other media services.
Auto sales, gas stations, auto-supply, auto-repair and other related services.
Banks and related financial institutions.
Construction and maintenance service providers.
Mailing and shipping services.
Educational institutions for distance learning.
Laundromats, dry cleaners and other laundry services.
Restaurants and other that prepare and serve food, restricted to carry-out.
Businesses that supply products for those working at home.
Businesses and manufacturers that supply other essential business with the suport supplies neccessary to operate.
Services that ship goods directly to residences.
Airlines, taxis, car rentals and private transportation providers.
Home-based care for seniors, adults, or children.
Retail liquor, beer, and wine stores.
Food manufacturers and distribution centers.
“We’re wanting to keep as many businesses open as possible,” said Jones.
Jones said the decision to declare an emergency comes after meetings with health officials. He said Piedmont Mountainside Hospital reached out to several civic leaders in phone meetings, including administration, public health, and the sheriff’s department to update each other’s respective offices.
“It’s worked out very well,” said Jones of the system.
While Jones doesn’t think it will be necessary to involve law enforcement–he is confident the residents of Pickens County will continue to do their best to adhere to the suggestions, the measure does give the county the power to step in.
“I don’t think it will come to that. The public is already doing the best they can in this particular time of history,” he said. “Maybe this will be a helpful- little wake up call.”
Observations from the campaign trial
One candidate doesn’t agree with the move, saying it’s just reiterating with Governor Brian Kemp said earlier.
“I think it came across as a fear tactic,” said David Shouse, who is running against Jones in November’s election. “It caused a lot of confusion and anxiety with the citizens. I would have handled it in an entirely different way.”
For instance, Shouse said he wouldn’t have “waited weeks into this pandemic to address my community.”
Kris Stancil, another candidate for Chairman of the Board of Commissioners, said that while he may not agree with everything that has or has not been done “a time of crisis is not the time to jump in and criticize.”
Stancil also said he isn’t privy to the information current commissioners have when they make decisions but his focus is helping people, so if the declaration helps, then he supports it.
“The more we can all stand united in difficult times, laying opinions and politics aside, the more we can accomplish in my number one objective, taking care of the people.”
Jones said the move was necessary. “We’ll do what we can to keep our lifestyle sustainable, but we have to start right.”
“As precarious as this time is, we are trying to keep people safe,” Jones said. “Common sense must prevail. Don’t panic.”
He said departments such as roads and building inspectors are still operational, but have separated into teams so if one team gets sick, they will have someone available for necessary county work.
“All the government entities are running, there is just no public access to the building,” he said.
On Thursday, February 16, 2017 the Pickens County Board of Commissioners met for their regularly scheduled board meeting. Once the meeting was underway, amendments to the agenda were made. These amendments included the Rotary Proclamation being added to the Consent Agenda section. After this, the agenda was approved, employees were recognized, and the finance report was given.
The Consent Agenda consisted of two parts. First, the Board signed forms pertinent to the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council’s approval of application for funding and sub grant award of $11,250 for palm print machine for sex offender registration. Second, the Board signed the Rotary Has Heart Proclamation. Old business was conducted, then new business, before beginning the action items. These items included approving the minutes from the January 19, 2017 regular board meeting and the February 2, 2017 work session. There were also two rezoning requests. The first was for Toby R. Miller, who requested a change from Rural Residential to Highway Business. The second was Rock Creek Manor, who requested a change from Industrial to Highway Business with the addition of 4.37 acres. Both rezoning requests were approved.
The Fox Environmental Annual Water quality monitoring contract was then discussed, and employee handbook updates were made. The updates included a change which now allows a supervisor to request a doctor’s excuse from an employee after missing one day of work instead of the previous rule of three days. Differ Compensation Plan 457 was removed from the handbook, and there was a clarification made on whether the county offices close on the weekday before or after a holiday that falls on a weekend. The rule is now that if a holiday falls on a Saturday, the offices take off the Friday before, and if the holiday falls on a Sunday, the offices close on the following Monday. There were two text amendments: the first being the re-adoption of Chapter 6 (Alcoholic Beverages), and the second being the re-adoption of Chapter 67 Land Use Intensity Districts and Map. Guest comments were made, and then the meeting was adjourned.
See full video below:
The Pickens County Board of Commissioners met on February 2nd for its monthly work session. The only item on the agenda was employee handbook updates.
The discussion mainly focused on the requirement for employees to present documentation when using sick days. Currently if the sick days exceed 2 concurrent days then the supervisor may require documentation from the employee. This could be updated to change this requirement to 2 days, of course it would depend on the discretion of the supervisor.
There was also discussion regarding comp time, holiday pay, and retirement. The changes, if made, could effect all County employees if they opt in on the terms and agreements.
FYN will follow up after the board’s regular meeting at which time changes could be implemented.
In an effort to bring you all the information on the candidates up for seats in Tuesday’s primaries, FYN has compiled a list of stories, videos and pictures from the races beginnings to now. Please take the time to educate yourself about who is running in your district before voting Tuesday. (more…)
FYN will be running a series of interviews with local candidates from the county commissioners and school board races. Each interview will be published separately and run again before the primary elections May 20.
Jerry Barnes, Incumbent, Pickens County Board of Commissioners, District 1