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Fake news on social media strikes locally

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Fake news on social media strikes locally

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After a budget hearing in August, District 4 County Commissioner Daylon Martin expressed his opinions in a public Facebook post. That post, part of which is included below, led District 1 Commissioner Sam Kitchens to defend himself and the board in a public meeting.

Since the comments are at the center of a story in this week’s edition, Martin’s words are included below with some facts that will counter his claims. 

As a community newspaper that has followed these issues carefully, we have gathered some information that may illuminate these issues for residents of District 4 and the rest of the county. 

Posted Aug. 30, 2018 10:15 p.m.

I find the commissioners and the governance of jones county laughable!

I find the commissioners disrespectful to the voters, tax payers, and constituents of District 4!

I find the commissioners indifferent to the needs of Black, Impoverished and Economically challenged tax payers, family and children!

I find the commissioners malfeasance in the management and appropriation of resources to district 4 unacceptable and inexcusable!

Over the past six years in office I’ve observed both boards disregard the needs of the county, the tax payers, and its employees for selfish and self serving gains.

I’ve observed racial and sex discrimination with regard to disparities in pay, hiring, firing, promotion, and retention!

This board is no different than the last, we traded out two old guys, at least one that would see the big picture and work with you, for two younger versions that all but guarantee the same personal interests, favoritism and mismanagement of county resources!

Today we discussed our budget which had a million dollar surplus!!! Thanks to our tax assessors office and employees for cost cutting measures and maintaining a safe working environment!!!!

As most of the comments thus far have no facts or data to support them – nor should they, since they are directly discussing personnel issues that should not be broadcasted to the world – this offers the first chance to address the record.

The county’s tax digest grew by a little more than 1 percent. That did not create a substantial surplus. The way state road funds are spent created increased revenue and increased expenses in the 2018 and 2019 fiscal years to the tune of $1.2 million. Commissioners also had to cover an increase in employee health care costs totaling $500,000. 

Characterizing a $1 million surplus as ready to spend is not accurate as much of it was already earmarked. Further, Martin requested the entire $1 million to be spent on a competition running track in District 4 to serve 70-80 youths. To reach more, the facility would need bleachers, lights, concessions and parking to host competitive events. 

In fact, the total thrown around for the track has been $1.2 million. That was a track built in Baldwin County in 2005. Asphalt has tripled in cost since then.

The total expense for that project now would reach more like $3.5 million, based on increases in the cost of asphalt. The entire Morris Bank complex carries a price tag of $3.2 million to serve a host of sports.

As it stands, the Highway 49 complex averages 300-400 who participate in youth sports. The Morris Bank complex averages 1,650 participants in baseball, softball, football, cheer and soccer. Track averages 70-80 participants. 

Discrimination would be giving significantly more to one sport than all others combined instead of working to allocate funds evenly.

The travesty is that every district’s commissioner splost projects and personal interests have been addressed, funded or completed except district 4! What’s worse is that out of a $20,000,000 budget they allocated....$10,000 for the wells gym. I almost pay more in property taxes than they allocated to my district!!!

Recreation funds have mostly been spent in Districts 2, 3 and 4. District 1 has Liberty Park with an annual price tag of $6,850. 

The county spent $10,852 in 2018 on the Wells Gym. The department requested $11,150 for 2019. Other improvements that would be paid from SPLOST funds would not be included in the general fund budget.

One could easily argue that District 1 has gotten the short end of the stick when it comes to recreation. That district is represented by Kitchens, who has worked to improve opportunities for District 4 because it is more of a population center, as is District 3.

To the people in district 4 that deserve roads, water, sewer, sidewalks, street lights, blight cleared, staffing for fire stations, high speed internet, outdoor basketball courts, running track, playground equipment and mulch, clean streets and neighborhoods, investment in infrastructure and economic development, YOU GOT CHEATED AGAIN!

High speed internet is not a service provided by government. The county is currently working to expand water services. A loan in the amount of $1.887 million was approved in 2017 to provide sewer to residents in District 4 with raw sewage coming out of septic tanks.

That also includes money to provide sewer service to the industrial park, which has the potential to benefit all Jones County residents.

Basketball courts, a walking track and playground equipment are all projects being considered to be spent from SPLOST funds. The problem is that Martin opposes any project if it does not include the single track that would cost millions of dollars, so the other four commissioners are left to decide on those projects without his input.

The Boston Tea party demonstrated the power of the people to challenge and overcome the excessive taxation, tyranny and rule of an unscrupulous authority! If only our people had the heart, courage and strength to stand up and say no! To hold their taxes against the unjust rulers until our demands were met, you just might get some traction and reasonable investment in your community!

Until then, you will suffer under the foot of liars, thieves, and deceivers!

The enemy will ensure that you get your just reward! In Jesus name Amen!

According to Martin, the ultimate responsibility does not lie with the officials who were duly elected by the citizens of Jones County. Those citizens apparently lack the “heart, courage and strength to stand up.” 

What may be inferred from that statement can be left up to each person who reads this.

After Kitchens confronted Martin, the following statement appeared on Facebook.

Posted Sept. 5
8:44 a.m.

In last night’s jones county meeting...

They voted to approve the $3.5mil women’s addition to the sheriff’s facility. While I support the hard work of the sheriff and his department I objected becuase:

They only gave $1500 to 4H that serves over 700 youth. Theres a direct correlation between kids being engaged in afterschool and extracurricular activities and success. I shared with the sheriff and audience that an investment in Juveniles vs jails would help to lessen their propensity to be jailed.

The Jones County 4-H program requested $1,500 in additional funds from the 2019 budget. The commissioners wholly funded that request. The total amount budgeted for the county extension program and 4-H is $90,428. 

The original winning bidder for the $3.5mil loan to build the jail wanted us to pledge the entire jail not just the new addition as collateral. At that time we had the opportunity to revisit the bidding process and allow our local banks to renegotiate rates as terms. Unfortunately, this board only allowed BB&T, not Morris or state bank to participate. Who do you call on to support your local community initiatives and for sponsorships? Your local banks.

Bidding on bonds was opened to all banks in the country. Only four banks submitted bids. The interest rate on bonds can be around 3 percent, so small banks will not want to tie up $3.5 million at that low of an interest rate when they can make loans at higher rates.

BB&T was the only bank consulted to renegotiate terms because BB&T did not require the entire property to be held as collateral – only the addition. Further, BB&T reduced its terms to match the other offer that was less expensive to the county.

Why would a local bank want to bid on lower terms that were not attractive initially?

Good negotiation by leaders who understand finance led to a less expensive loan with less collateral while meeting the needs of our local law enforcement officers.

On the agenda was the replacement of the 20 ton hvac that may be on its last leg, it is 43 years old. We have an agreement with Schneider Electric to replace antiquated equipment across the county. We’re paying them approximately $50k for the evaluation and possibly $2mil to replace everything across the county. An annual payment on that loan would be ~$100k and would include the hvac system. Rather than use our contingency fund to address an emergency repair they voted to waste $20k now, one fifth on the annual payment for all of the equipment in the entire county.

Schneider Electric will not be paid $50k for the evaluation process so long as the county uses the company to complete some of the projects. Regardless, the $2 million will not be an expense to the county. The contract stipulates that Schneider will be paid from savings that result from more energy efficient equipment, like lighting, HVAC, even phone systems.

If the company does not save the county money, they don’t get paid. Further, the county will get a percentage of that savings on top of getting equipment replaced. The problem is that the plan may not go fully into effect until next spring. 

With the 20-ton unit with more than four decades of age sounding like it could fall through the roof of the government center at any time, the decision was made to go ahead and replace it. Waiting until the unit fails means the county will have to pay whatever necessary to replace it. By changing it proactively, bids can be taken competitively.

On GP for allocating $10,000 of a $20,000,000 budget to district 4, I voted no on 911 reauthorization.

Commissioners only need three votes to approve a budget. Attempting to deny other valuable programs based on the refusal of spending millions of dollars on a track devalues some other vital resources:

  • $1.27 million for courts
  • $5.3 million on law enforcement
  • $496,853 for fire and rescue services

Are we to believe that none of those services benefit District 4? Should no one respond to a fire call or a house being robbed?

During the executive session where we discussed personnel salaries.
1. We have an employee that took on an additional role in another department for over a year. It’s a rather tedious job that takes up a lot of time but helped to reconcile ~$100k and improved our collections. Previously, the board only allocated $1900 towards the employee’s salary ~$40/week, a slap in the face when other employees received 10-20% increases and benefits. And you wonder why people leave the county for better jobs.

Salaries are public information feel free to request a 5-10year employee salary history for the entire county to see how we and department heads give out raises. There are some inconsistencies, past and present, that speak volumes to my previous claims.

2. We have a department head in a similar position. Rather than letting their no’s be no’s and yes’s be yes’s, a number of commissioners agreed to allow the regional commission to do a salary study when they already stated that they didn’t want to give the employee a raise. Callous and wasteful use of tax payer dollars becuase we pay into the regional commission to do certain work for us. It’s wrong and unfair to the regional commission and the employee.

We do have a department head that consistently does excellent work. Saves the county hundreds of thousands of dollars, keeps us compliant and fiscally sound. But when the conversation steered in that direction a particular commissioner that’s had it in for this employee for years, prevented raises and attempted to have the employee fired, rose again for the occasion to distract and defray. Another commissioner said the employee should ask for the raise. Before I departed the foolishness, I stated that we have advocated and rewarded whom we wanted to give raises to and that particular employee has never had the support of the board.

The truth? Personnel issues are between employees and their department heads. They are not to be discussed outside of executive session. How many people would want their salaries and employment records discussed with the public?

So in response to Sam Kitchens defending his honor and his beloved county, is this what you call honorable, noble and true dispensing of one’s authority and duty to the county, tax payers, and employees? Cry me a river!

Wasteful use of tax payer dollars on irrelevant salary studies and equipment purchases, discrimination of salary pay towards women, underfunding youth and at risk communities, disallowing local stakeholders and community partners to participate in the revised bidding process...my previous statement stands!

Salary studies and consultation with the Regional Commission to make sure employee pay adjustments fall appropriately on the county’s pay scale creates a level playing field. Without independent consultation, what evidence exists to support an employee’s raise or the salary for a new hire?

Previously, Martin complained that commissioners handed out raises with no basis. Now that there is a basis, he doesn’t like it. The commissioner can’t have it both ways. Employee discussions should happen solely with department heads and commissioners as a board. If a sole commissioner is getting involved in personnel issues for a single employee, how is that fair to all other employees?

It’s not just what you say it’s what you do that makes a person a liar, a racist, a sexist, a thief etc. The proof is in the actions and in the manifestations of the evidence your decisions and policies create or destroy.

Can’t wait to see what ya’ll do in the next meeting!

Stay tuned!

Indeed, we will.