2012 stories highlight a year of government changes
by Jason Lowrey
Dec 29, 2012 | 2093 views | 0 0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Bartow County Commissioner Clarence Brown and wife Carol listen to a presentation at a retirement ceremony held earlier this month in Brown’s honor. MATT SHINALL/The Daily Tribune News, File
Bartow County Commissioner Clarence Brown and wife Carol listen to a presentation at a retirement ceremony held earlier this month in Brown’s honor. MATT SHINALL/The Daily Tribune News, File
The past year was one of change for Bartow County and its municipalities. From the election of a new county commissioner and Taylorsville mayor, to the approval of tax increases and grants and a new countywide planning organization, many offices will have new occupants and some cities will be taking on new projects. Ranked by the newsroom of The Daily Tribune News, the top government stories are listed below, in no particular order.

@Bodycopy center bold:<*p(0,0,0,11.4,0,0,g(P,S))>Bartow County sees new leaders in top positions

After Clarence Brown announced his retirement as county commissioner, five candidates threw their hats into the ring for the first open county commissioner election in nearly 20 years. Steve Taylor, Mike Bearden, Mike Abernathy, Tony Tidwell and Tracy Lewis all ran for the position, but only Bearden and Taylor gained enough votes in the July 31 primary to make it to the Aug. 21 runoff. Taylor won the final election with 5,212 votes and 60 percent of the vote.

“We’ve had a good run. We’ve worked for seven months. We’ve worked hard, we’ve had a lot of support. Ran against four great candidates, great citizens of Bartow County and I appreciate each one of them offering themselves for service,” Taylor said after winning. “Mike Bearden called me and congratulated me and he was a perfect gentleman. He told me we’d be talking at a later date and offered me his support.

“Mike comes from a great Bartow County family ... and so did Tony Tidwell, Mike Abernathy and Tracy Lewis. I just appreciate all they did and all they gave for this race.”

After his election, Taylor selected Attorney Peter Olson to be his county administrator. Olson will replace Steve Bradley, who is also retiring.

The position of Bartow County tax commissioner also was open, as VaLenda Bailey did not run for another term after serving for 38 years. Steve Steward, Vicki Beck, Chuck Holt and Judy Kilgore all ran for the position, but it came down to Stewart and Beck after the primary.

Stewart won with 5,212 votes against Beck’s 3,305.

“I just want to say ‘thank you.’ I’m really humbled to be the next tax commissioner,” Stewart said. “Ms. Beck ran a real good race and had me on my toes the whole time this last 21 days ... there have been a lot of sleepless nights, but we came out on top.”

Other races included the tight defeat Melba Scoggins delivered to incumbent Clerk of Superior Court Gary Bell. Scoggins won 50.8 percent of the vote against Bell’s 49.2 percent.

Chief Magistrate Thomas Moseley also won re-election against challenger Paul Nally, with 76 percent of the vote versus Nally’s 23 percent.

Incumbent Bartow County Board of Education member Wanda Cagle Gray lost to Republican challenger Fred Kittle, who received 55 percent of the vote to Gray’s 44 percent.

On the state level, representatives Phil Gingrey and Paul Battles easily won re-election, while Trey Kelley defeated incumbent Rick Crawford 78 percent to 21 percent.

Those elected to county office will be sworn in during a 10 a.m. ceremony Monday, Dec. 31.

Bartow County and municipalities to form MPO

Bartow County and its municipalities will begin working toward forming a metropolitan planning organization, which will bring local governments, county officials and Georgia Department of Transportation officials together to plan and fund road projects. All federal transportation funding will flow through the organization.

The MPO — which is similar to the Atlanta Regional Commission, but on a smaller scale — will encompass all of Bartow County and include the seven municipalities within it.

Forming an MPO is required under federal law once an urbanized area acquires more than 50,000 residents after a census. As Cartersville has approximately 52,477 residents as of the 2012 census, it was required to start laying the groundwork to form an MPO.

Once approved by Gov. Nathan Deal next year, the Bartow County MPO will be the 16th in the state.

Although an MPO is based around the urbanized area that hit 50,000 in population, with its boundaries extended to areas where the city is predicted to expand in 20 years, Bartow County and local officials decided to make the county lines the borders for the MPO.

Radney Simpson, the assistant state transportation planning administrator, said it was a good idea to think ahead and make the entire county the MPO.

“Making a decision to go countywide is a great decision for the process — [the] travel demand modeling process. A lot of our data exists at the countywide level, so there won’t be a great deal of speculation that needs to be done.”

All seven municipalities and Bartow County have signed the necessary memorandums of understanding and resolutions to form the Cartersville-Bartow County Metropolitan Planning Organization, which will be maintained by the Bartow County Department of Community Development.

“This is a good thing,” said Cartersville Mayor Matt Santini before Cartersville approved the MPO. “This keeps us from being a small fish in a big pond with ARC and it certainly gets us out of that shadow a little bit. So [I’m] real happy to see that.”

Taylorsville elects new mayor

Cartersville Fire Department Capt. Mitchell Bagley became Taylorsville’s new mayor Nov. 12, when City Attorney Boyd Pettit swore him in.

Bagley won the Nov. 6 election for Taylorsville’s mayor with more than 40 percent of the vote, as the city’s charter allows an election to be decided by plurality rather than majority.

Lamar Cantrell, Eddie Newman, Michael Owen, James Ross and Jeff Rhodes were the other candidates running for the position.

The election was called after former Mayor Cary Rhodes pleaded guilty to computer and electronic child exploitation. He was arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigations in October 2011 and was sentenced to two years in prison in June 2012.

Bagley, who will serve out the remainder of Rhodes’ term, said he looked forward to improving public participation in Taylorsville’s government.

Kingston approves $1.3 million USDA loan

After months of debate, Kingston approved a $1.3 million loan and $981,000 grant U.S. Department of Agriculture package designed to repair and improve part of its water system.

The vote, held during the council’s Dec. 17 meeting, saw a split in the council. Louise Howell, Ed Miklas and Chuck Wise voted in favor of the approval, while Harold Posey voted against it.

During a later interview with The Daily Tribune News, Posey said he believed the city should attempt to fund the improvements with city money and Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax funds rather than taking on additional debt.

The city’s engineering firm, Sweitzer Engineering, has not drafted any final plans, said Vice President Trent Lard. Specific design elements will be chosen in the coming months, starting with the city council’s January meeting.

However, Lard said it was apparent that some water mains and valves needed to be replaced, as it is becoming difficult for Kingston to shut off some sections of the system to fix leaks.

In addition, Lard and Sweitzer said it was necessary to enlarge the water main running down Ga. Highway 293 to give Kingston water customers adequate fire protection. The only other option, Sweitzer said, was for Kingston to buy water from the county off a high pressure line.

The DTN will follow this story as it develops throughout next year.

Emerson approves 2 mill increase

Citing a budget deficit, the Emerson City Council approved a 2 mill increase to the city’s millage rate during a July 24 meeting. It was the first property tax instituted in Emerson in more than 20 years. While the millage rate was calculated every year, each city council would roll the rate back to zero.

Three different rates were proposed. Two of them were more than 3 mills and would have erased the city’s deficit and allowed the police department to hire another officer. However, many citizens believed those millage rates were too high, as no Emerson resident would be able to file any deductions on their taxes.

During a public hearing on the issue, City Manager Kevin McBurnett explained what the different millage rates would do for Emerson.

“Two mills will give you a balanced budget. We need 2 mills so we do not have to use anything else in our savings account because our savings account has gotten so low, if we were to have an emergency situation right now we wouldn’t have the money to fund it,” he said.

As of July, Emerson had approximately $430,000 in savings. That, McBurnett said, “does not go far at all.”

“I think it’s our responsibility as a mayor and council to keep this city vibrant, and if you want us to cut back and not provide what the city deserves, I think it’s a mistake,” Mayor Al Pallone said after discussion shifted to the 2 mill increase. “We’re making a sacrifice, I think, by not financing the police department.”

Some citizens wanted a millage rate that increased from half a mill to 2 mills over a period of time, but the council did not believe it would be enough to solve the city’s financial problems.

“We’re re-instituting something for survival,” said council member Charles Lowry.

The council unanimously voted for a 2 mill increase to balance the budget. All the council members hoped it would be possible to roll the millage rate back in the future once LakePoint Sporting Community & Town Center began construction.