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Issues around James property dominate discussion

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Issues around James property dominate discussion

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DEBBIE LURIE-SMITH/EDITOR Members of the Jones County Public Library Board of Trustees speak with Board of Commissioner members at their Aug. 7 meeting about releasing funding for furniture acquisition.

JONES COUNTY COMMISSIONERS

Complaints about construction taking place in a Jones County neighborhood on Joycliff Circle were once again at the forefront at last week’s Board of Commissioners meeting.

Martha Branson and Bub Lister represented their neighborhood at the Aug. 7 meeting to voice their concerns about a large house being constructed by Mark James, an accessory building in front of the house, and a cross that he erected near the roadway.

The accessory building was addressed at a meeting of the Board of Appeals and Adjustments held Aug. 8.

Branson noted that she was before the commissioners for the third time and had already presented a petition containing 66 signatures objecting to the construction of the structures.

She said James claimed the accessory building was a bus stop, and in her opinion, the cross was inappropriate for the front yard.

“A cross is holy and should not be there,” she said.

Branson said the cross should be considered a roadside memorial and should not be allowed. She said the large size of the cross and its location in the curve of the road could be a danger to drivers.

“He’s done exactly what he wanted and has been in total disregard of the rules,” she said.

Lister told commissioners that the construction was a terrible thing for their community.

“I’d appreciate it if you would listen. This is bothering people,” he said.

County Attorney Frank Childs said the issue with the house involved planning and zoning and would be handled by Jones County Zoning Officer Tim Pitrowski.

Childs said he had been researching whether the cross in the front yard was in compliance with the county code. He went on to say that, in his opinion, the cross was not in compliance.

The attorney’s argument was that it was not exempt from the county sign ordinance because the cross was not an official flag, emblem, or insignia of the U.S., State of Georgia, other country or state, religious group, civic organization or nonprofit service club.

Childs assured those in the audience that rules would be followed in the permitting process for all the structures involved.

“I know you are frustrated, but I assure you it’s being looked at. If Mr. James complies with the code, he’s going to be permitted,” he said.

Pitrowski suggested a 180-day moratorium to the permitting process to allow for an update to the county code.

Commissioner Daylon Martin said he would be uncomfortable with changing the code at this point in the process.

“I think we just need to make a decision,” he said.

Commissioner Sam Kitchens said he agreed.

“We need to deal with this one first,” he said.

Childs asked if it was possible to add the question of the compliance of the cross to the variance request to be considered Aug. 8, but Pitrowski said it was too late.

Kitchens did make a motion to start the text amendment process, and it was approved unanimously.

New business

Members of the Jones County Public Library Board of Trustees came forward at the meeting for approval of the purchase of furniture for the renovated library. County Administrator Jason Rizner explained that the total cost of the furnishings was $335,347.65. He said $130,000 would be paid out of the state grant with the remainder to be taken from the library’s portion of the 2009 and 2015 SPLOST and impact fees.

The motion to approve was unanimous.

Clerk of the Board Margie Tyson spoke about the need for board approval for required policies pertaining to criminal background checks and fingerprints for beer and wine license applicants.

The new policy is necessary due to new legislation and requires the results of the checks to be kept under lock and key. Tyson said she and Rizner had completed the security training necessary under the new regulations.

Comments

Rizner asked board members if they would be interested in Jones County becoming a Purple Heart community. The commissioners agreed by consensus to pursue the designation.

The administrator announced the beginning of budget meetings and told the board a good meeting was held with Schneider Electric to begin their energy audit. He said they started by looking at all the lighting in the county.

Rizner brought up the fact that the main air conditioning unit for the Government Center is 43 years old. He said it is a 20-ton unit and was going to need to be replaced soon. Board members agreed to put the A/C unit out for bid.

Rizner spoke about a meeting with Jones County High School officials about the setup of the Georgia Civic Awareness Program for Students developed by the ACCG and options for funding the jail expansion.

“We will have to take that under consideration during our budget process,” he said.

Commissioner Jonathan Pitts talked about promoting economic development in Jones County by adopting opportunity zones and participating in a revitalization incentive program, possibly in southern portions of the county.

“We want to make Jones County more attractive for business,” he said.

Pitts also announced the receipt of a $10,000 Wellness grant from Blue Cross/Blue Shield.

Kitchens said he would like another clean up day.

“Our first one was great, but we need to do it more than once a year.”

The commissioner suggested working with neighborhoods to adopt streets in their area. He also brought up the problem of tires.

“It’s a shame people don’t care. When the recycling centers for tires closed, people started dumping them,” Kitchens said.

Public Works Director John Lowe said his department had picked up tires in several locations. Chairman Chris Weidner said the county might need to look for grants that would help with tire disposal.

Kitchens said it could be time to up the fines for littering.

“We need to make them steep enough to make people care,” he said.

Other approved agenda items:

• Inclusion of the intersection of Cumslo Road and

State Route 49 to the 2018

LMIG project

• Tractor and mower equipment for public works to

be purchased under state

contract price. Items to be

funded out of SPLOST

• Walking track for passive

park next to Government

Center put out for bid. Bids

to include labor only or

option of turnkey project

• Notice to proceed received

for the TE project for

expanding sidewalks

on Highway 18 and a

streetscape in Haddock