January 19, 2015

Mr. Jerry Cannady, of the Hart County Water & Sewer Authority presented a program on the Plans and Progress of water expansion in Hart County.  He explained the water authority was established by an act of the Georgia legislature in 1992.  Its primary mission is to provide water and sewer service to the unincorporated areas of Hart County.  He made the following points:

. Hart County Water Authority does not treat drinking water or waste water;

. All water is purchased; and two employees manage the water needs for 1400 customers;

. An accounting of water authority accomplishments since its inception was shared.


Mr. Cannady introduced Pat Goran, Water Authority Director, and Mr. Goran advised the process to acquire funding and grants to extend water service.  This included necessary permits, bid requests, and Notices to Proceed, as required by State of Georgia laws which dictate the bid procedure and awarding of same.  

Other specific points made were:

a. The Water Authority is not a part of Hart County Government; 

b. New water service is dictated by hardship needs or by requirements from grant awards;

c. Economic development and progress of the Water Authority is dependent on funds allocated to them   by the County through SPLOST revenue and grant awards.

The presentation continued with a lively discussion of all aspects of costs, future funding and expansion plans.


President Hamilton explained County EMS entry appearing on 2014 County & School tax bills.  This charge is related to Ty Cobb Hospital defaulting and deferring on a $269,000 payment from July 2014 against their 5 year commitment to the county as related to the hospital sale.  Due to this default, the county cannot purchase a needed new ambulance or expand service without the addition of this new EMS charge on our tax bills.

 March 16, 2015

Ms. Sandy Campbell, Savannah District Army Corp of Engineers Natural Resources Program Manager, was introduced by Mr. Hamilton.  She explained to members her main responsibilities are shoreline and land management which include all the parks, marinas, and rights of way for utilities.   Using visual maps and graphs, Ms. Campbell presented a program updating members on major projects in the Savannah River Basin.  She began with the bigger basin issues: 

A) The Savannah Harbor Expansion Project will deepen the harbor from 42’ to 47’ and lengthen the channel from 33 miles to 40 miles.  The purpose is to accommodate the girth of new post Panama generation 11 cargo vessels.  The first contract has been awarded and deepening will begin from the ocean end.  Environmental monitoring and studies are being conducted; monitoring will continue for 10 years post construction.  She advised as related to Lake Hartwell, operating principles as currently designed are in effect and this should not impact Hartwell lake levels.

B)  Plant Vogtle has been permitted by the GA DNR to withdraw a monthly average of 62 million gallons of water per day for their increasing needs for the 2 new nuclear reactors.  Noting members’ concerns of how both projects will affect water withdrawals from Lake Hartwell, Ms. Campbell assured that current regulations will be followed and those parameters govern water allowances.

C)  Clemson University Intelligent River Project is a real time data acquisition system used to monitor water quality and quantity.  Ms. Campbell defined the role of the Corps is to manage the basin rivers per Federal and State regulations and the storage of water from dams.  States own the water and govern water releases per a permitting process.  The Corps dams generate electricity from the mandated water releases.  As it has not been funded, the Corps cannot subscribe to River Project data at this time.

d)  Duke Energy has applied for another 50 year operating agreement for their hydroelectric station.  The new updated licensing agreement allows Duke to release water at a slower rate during drought periods.  Should the lake fall to level 3 & 4 drought stages, the slower release means Duke would still have water to release helping the Basin below them. 

e)  Hartwell Lake Management’s goal is to minimize personal impact on the lake by maintaining necessary natural filters to keep the lake water healthy and clean.  Hartwell Lake is consistently in the top 3 of the most visited  Corps lakes.  76% of shoreline is open and each ranger manages approximately 200 permits and inspecting 35% of all renewals.  2014 brought several serious cases of abuse of shoreline permits.  A review and update of the shoreline management plan and regulations should begin next year.  Concluding she reminded all property owners to be familiar with the management plan and contact her or their ranger with questions or concerns.

Ms. Campbell welcomed questions after each topic and this exchange also proved to be enlightening. 

​​ April 20, 2015

Mr. David Seagraves, CFO of Hart County Schools, presented a program on the status of the new high school construction projects since inception in August 2014.  Using copies of construction plans and visual aids, Mr. Seagraves expanded on several key points:        

A.  Hiring of a Construction Manager at Risk.  The CM will collaborate with all parties involved in the project such as the architects, contractors and Hart County BOE officials hopefully eliminating design errors, cost overruns and minding project time tables. 

B.  Permitting for site work has been approved.  A full set of site plans and permits are available to anyone on the BOE website. 

C.  Project time table to completion is expected to be 2 school years and 3 summers.  Bid requests for site work will be issued in early May.  Requests for building bids are expected to be released this August.  He explained there will be 2 phases to the project:  destruction of existing buildings and the construction of the new wellness/gym and career college academy. 

D.  General Obligation Bonds. $8.5 million in bonds have been sold at an interest rate of 1.3% to the school system to provide construction funding.  The school system will pay interest only during the construction phase, hopefully allowing them to incorporate some pay as they go procedures into the construction plan. These are short term bonds whose coupons become due in August 01, 2017 and 2018 at 3% and 2019 & 2020 at 4%.  He advised the financial plan as structured is expected to allow the county and school to be debt free at the end of the bond period. 

F.  Site Plan for new buildings improves security within the campus; parking will be safer and facilitate traffic flow.   Faculty members have had opportunities for input and all aspects of new construction including classrooms must meet all State of Georgia requirements and approval.

G.  Design of the Ag Center has not yet been finalized.  It will be a pre-engineered building and will not be included in the CM at Risk program.  It will be a general contractor and bid process governed by internal BOE and school management.

Mr. Seagraves answered members’ questions throughout his explanation of each construction topic and a lively discussion concluded his presentation.

 May 18, 2015

Mr. Wayne Patrick, Hart County Chief Appraiser presented a program on the importance of conducting a complete county review of all property classes.  He defined the difference between reviews and re-valuations adding the purpose of reviews is to assure accuracy of all property records and define problems.  It is mandated strongly in the GA Dept. of Revenue and Appraisers APM manual the need to maintain accurate real property characteristics sufficient to classify and value property every 3 years. 

Using visual aids and color coded maps, he explained land characteristics, design, and field inspections to ascertain additions, improvements or teardowns.  Physical reviews provide clear data resulting in accurate sales ratios.  He defined and explained the terms ratio and uniformity and co-efficient of Dispersion for members.

Mr. Patrick closed by stating all is purposed for mass appraisal procedures, and to assure complete property owner trust, and that appraisers can accurately defend their data.  He welcomed property owners to discuss issues and resolve questions with the appraisers.  A lively question period concluded his program.

Board Member Mike Buckel updated members on several BOE matters:  a.) the Board voted to use the same search firm as previously employed, King, Cooper Associates, to conduct the new superintendent search.  B.)  9 farmers attended the BOE meeting urging that 4H and the Extension service be housed at the AG Center.   After a lengthy discussion, the BOE approved this move; but would not finance it.  Additional monies will be needed to realize this move.

 June 15, 2015

Mr. Parks White, Northern Judicial District Attorney, presented a program on personal home security and the need to be cognizant of the dangers of burglary as well as fire damage and loss.  He defined burglary as the unlawful entry into a home with the intent to commit a theft or felony inside.  Burglars gain entrance into homes quickly and usually depart in minutes.  This requires the home owner to be pro-active and make their home burglar resistant. 

His advice was to install a home security system and indicate that you use such a system, install motion sensor lights and use blue lights as they are associated with police.  Install smart deadbolts; secure rear doors to avoid “kick-ins.”  Use a small safe bolted into concrete to secure valuables and firearms.  If a firearm is considered for home protection, the homeowner should become proficient in safe handling and regularly practice to use it as a deterrent.  Most important, Parks advised that homeowners confirm they indeed have an intruder to avoid an accidental shooting.

Mr. White addressed the need to replace smoke detector batteries and check them periodically.  He strongly suggested that all household items be photographed, especially serial numbers of any expensive items.  A copy of these photos should be backed up in a safe manner.  Other suggestions included the use of outdoor game/wildlife cameras and interior motion cameras.  Concluding his address, Parks welcomed questions from those attending.  

​July 20, 2015

Mike Cleveland, Hart County Sheriff, gave an update on crime most affecting Hart County.  He stated drug arrests have significantly increased in the last year and, unfortunately, violators continue a drug cycle.  Drug trafficking is considered 28 grams or more.  Drugs and monies are seized during apprehensions.  They are used in paying informants and other drug related enforcement activities.  

He reported burglaries are down; but DUI arrests have increased from 26 in 2014 to 63 to date in 2015.  The Georgia State Patrol is also reporting increased DUI arrests.  Responding to increasing DUI violators and 9 fatalities, both the Georgia State Patrol and the Sheriff’s department increased their efforts to deter and apprehend DUI violators.

Sheriff Cleveland advised he has successfully contained expenses under budget 14 of his past 15 years in office.  He reported the county jail houses 50 bodies and it is full.  The need to house prisoners at other neighboring county facilities has stressed the 2015 budget.  He also advised the county has an excellent well trained drug dog.  He supports the Georgia Sheriffs’ Association policy on the legalization of medical marijuana in ‘oil’ form only.  Leaf form for recreational use is not supported. 

Other specific points were:

a.   Crack cocaine and meth use are the most prevalent drug offense in our county;

b.   Children are exposed to drugs in school and drug use is across all income levels and households.

c.   Gang activity in Hart county is moderate; and loosely organized.                                                                                                      

A question and answer period provided lively discussion and concluded his presentation.

 August 17, 2015

Mr. Jeff English, Interim President of St. Mary’s Sacred Heart Hospital in Lavonia began his program with a brief history of the founding of St. Mary’s Hospital in Athens.  St. Mary’s is currently owned by Trinity Health; and, St. Mary’s Sacred Heart will now have access to the resources and buying power of Trinity Health.  He advised the Lavonia hospital was named in honor of the founding sisters and the proximity of Sacred Heart Church in Hartwell.  After acknowledging the difficulties the former hospital experienced, he stressed that a prominent goal of the new operating team is to earn our trust and inspire employee pride in the facility.

The past 2-1/2 months brought many changes beginning with identifying and triaging the most serious problems in patient care.  These included hiring a new emergency care coordinator, addressing care quality in the emergency room; adopt better organization and registration procedures to timely move patients through the care system, and better communication between hospital care providers and patients’ primary care provider.

Jeff advised they can stabilize heart patients for transfer to another facility and hope to improve their protocol to become a rural heart specialist.  They are implementing and enforcing the core values and policies of St. Mary’s in Athens.  In particular he noted that our community needs will dictate what services this hospital will provide

He concluded by stressing their goal is to create a healthy community in all nearby counties.  Jeff believes the transition is progressing well and they intend to provide high levels of professionalism and care.

 October 19, 2015

Regular October meeting of the Hart County Property Owners' Association was held on the 15th.  It was a lively meeting with varying points of view expressed

The mission of HCPOA is to keep you, our members informed on important issues within the County and to help resolve relevant problems as they arise.  To that end, the Board has unanimously voted to oppose the proposed ESPLOST initiative of the Hart County School System.  Our goal in the meeting was to provide you with information regarding the five proposed amendments and the three referenda, one of which is the SPLOST that will appear on the ballot.  You will not find this material anywhere else as it is the result of extensive research into publications on the amendments and the actions of the school system.

Amendment 1 - Creates the Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Trust Fund to protect water quality, wildlife habitat, and parks.

Amendment 2 - Creates a state-wide business court to lower costs, enhance efficiency, and promote predictable judicial outcomes.

Amendment 3 -  Encourages the conservation, sustainability and longevity of Georgia's working forests through tax subclassifications and grants.

Amendment 4 - Provides rights for victims of crime in the judicial process.

Amendment 5 - Authorizes fair allocation of sales tax proceeds to county and city school districts.

Referenda A - provides for a homestead exemption for residents of certain municipal corporations.

Referenda B - Provides a tax exemption of certain homes for the mentally disabled.

Continuation Special Purpose Local Option Education Sales Tax. 

Hope to see you at our next regular meeting on January 21, 2019.

November 16, 2015

David Seagraves, Director of Operations for the Hart County Charter School System, greeted all those in attendance and advised his program was a synopsis of construction progress to date on the high school multipurpose health & wellness facility and college and career academy.  He noted the absence of Jay Floyd, Hart County Superintendent of Schools, was due to mandatory training with BOE members.

Mr. Seagraves advised construction was hampered by the October and November heavy rains but progress has been steady.  Charles Black, construction manager at risk, has been retained.  Dr. Mark Crenshaw is the new College and Career CEO and he is committed to growth and education in Hart County Schools.   

Using a power point program containing artist renderings, Seagraves gave an overview of the interior and exterior design structure of the new facilities.  He advised the campus layout is unified and the appearance improved.  The presentation included a table of projected costs by building trade and the total GMP, or guaranteed maximum price, has been determined at $17,931,777.00.  There have been a few unforeseen problems with water and gas lines and that plumbing, electrical, heating and AC are the biggest ticket costs.  

Regarding the new AG Center, there have been major improvements to the building concept to accommodate the needs of showing animals.  This includes a need to enlarge parking flow to assist in turnarounds for parking of large vehicles and trailers.  The AG building size has been increased and the presentation included layouts of unloading, washdown and preparation spaces.  It also includes a new banquet room with capacity for 300, restrooms, arena with seating, and a room for changing of working attire to that suitable to showing animals.   A revised cost estimate for the new plan is now $2.4 million, an increase over the original estimate of $1 million.

A plan configuration has been drawn for the inclusion of the extension office and 4H at the AG center.  However, a firm decision has not been determined if their facility will be a separate building or may only be roughed in for completion later.

A change in the custodial practices has been established with a manager in place to oversee all the custodial needs, supplies and procedures.  Improved maintenance procedures, training and performance evaluations have been adopted to properly care for the assets of the school system.

Mr. Seagraves concluded his presentation by expressing his willingness to continue sharing new updates on the construction progress.  He feels the new construction should serve the needs of Hart County students well into the future; and graduating students should be employable at well paying jobs right out of high school.