In a 3-2 vote the Long County Commission Tuesday chose Ludowici Police Chief Robert Parker as chairman for 2019.
Long County’s five district commissioners elect one of their members annually as chairman for a one-year term. Parker voted with Commissioners Mike Phillips and Clifton DeLoach for his chairmanship. Parker was the only nominee.
Commissioners David Richardson and Mike Riddle voted no. Richardson was chairman in 2018 and Riddle was chairman in 2017.
Since 2012 the Long County Commission has had six chairmen. Commissioner Bobby Walker was chairman in 2012 and he was succeeded by Commissioner Robert Long who served two terms, 2013 and 2014.
Commissioner Dwight Gordon chaired the commission in 2015 and 2016, and Riddle and Richardson followed in 2017 and 2018.
Public hearings on land use matters were held Tuesday and many citizens sat through the meeting in which the commission gave approvals to a motor sports facility ordinance, a conditional use permit for a solar farm, a subdivision preliminary plat and rezoning for a 2.54-acre parcel for multi-family residential.
The investment of more than $20 million in the large solar farm could generate an estimated $125,000 in tax revenue for the county but the developer is expected to ask for some form of tax relief for the project.
Chuck Scragg, interim executive director of the Long County Development Authority, explained one method of tax relief used in many counties including some neighboring Long.
Scragg said development authorities can take legal ownership of projects which makes them tax exempt as government property. Authorities then negotiate with developers to lease the property and operate the projects such as solar farms.
Commissioner Mike Phillips said it was time for the commissioners to undertake solutions of longstanding infrastructure problems such as roads and drainage in the Vickers Hill Subdivision. Long County was named as one of the defendants in a suit filed by landowners in the area; County Administrator Frank Etheridge said the case had been dismissed.
The Vickers Hill Subdivision was completed in 1996 by Bill Nutting’s Georgia Coastal Land Co. but Long County has never accepted the subdivision’s infrastructure for maintenance.
Phillips said finding answers for the homeowners’ complaints was, “the least we can do for those taxpaying citizens.” Etheridge cautioned the commissioners that other subdivisions were “just waiting for the decision on Vickers Hill,” to make their own claims for county assistance with infrastructure. Several commissioners noted that the county would incur considerable costs in undertaking repairs and maintenance.
The commissioners decided to consider relief for Vickers Hill residents at a work session on Jan. 22.
County Finance Director Bernice Johnson told the commissioners she had notified the county’s audit firm, Maulden and Jenkins, the county, “wants to see an auditor on site as soon as possible.” The firm is working on Long County’s annual audit for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2018; that audit was due in the State Department of Audits on Dec. 31, 2018, but has not been completed.
Etheridge said he had requested a time extension for submission of the audit but the department has denied the request. Long County requested and received extensions for the last two fiscal years.
In his request dated Dec. 17, 2018, Etheridge said, “Without our knowledge, KRT, our long-term auditor, sold their company to Mauldin & Jenkins, LLC, 300 Mulberry Street, Suite 300, Macon, GA 31201. Our first indication of an issue was when David Irwin of Maulden & Jenkins showed up in late August to let us know that they had bought KRT and would be doing our audit. As expected with a late notice of change the new firm is approaching our audit in a completely different manner than KRT. They were upfront with us that they were not sure they could accomplish the audit within the required time frame of December 31, 2018 because of their existing work load. They are attempting to have the audit completed by February 2019.”
Etheridge noted, “The Long County Board of Commissioners will be bidding out our auditor services for the 2019 fiscal year to find a firm that can work with us to complete the audits in a timely manner.”
Local governments that do not submit timely audit reports can be denied state funds.
Parker can be contacted by email at email@example.com.