More News & Features
By Stephanie Johns
Members of the Morgan County Board of Elections and Registration continued their discussion of precinct consolidation during their April meeting.
Consolidating from the county’s current 11 down to five precincts could save $18,000-plus during a presidential election year and $13,000-plus during mid-term election years, as shared by Morgan County Elections Supervisor Bobby Howington during previous meetings.
Following the March meeting Hownginton and one board member, David Moore, visited the Georgia Reapportionment Services Office in Atlanta.
Based on data they gathered there Moore created a spreadsheet showing the breakdown of whether voters in each of the current precincts would be farther, closer, or have no change in distance to the proposed precinct locations.
He determined that 63 percent of voters would be closer or would have no change.
“It’s not a bad situation,” he said. “As many people benefit as are disadvantaged just by distance from the poll.”
Madison City Councilman Michael Naples, who attended the meeting, later pointed out the flipside to this: “That means 37 percent could ostensibly go farther and be inconvenienced.”
“No one complained about the 2012 elections,” he said. “Why mess with success?”
As noted in the data Moore provided, two of the current precincts – Bostwick and Buckhead – would not change.
Board member Avery Jackson said, “No change appears to me to be an advantage.”
He acknowledged that cost is important and added that they also must consider what’s optimum for the voters.
By Kathryn Schiliro
Six hundred netbooks – small laptop computers – have been implemented at Morgan County Elementary, Middle and High schools as of the systemwide spring break in mid-March.
There are about 60 netbooks per grade level, broken down into carts of 10 each, with 180 each at the elementary and middle schools and 240 sent to the high school.
In total, the netbooks and carts came in underbudget, at about $420,000.
Most classrooms have five computers already, so with the addition of the netbooks – the carts of 10 are checked out by teachers as needed – the ratio of computers to students is about one computer to every two students. There aren't more than 30 students in a classroom, Director of Technology Jay Cawley, who oversaw this initiative, said.
The netbooks are convertible– they can go from being a traditional laptop to touch screen tablets, with or without the use of a stylus. Cawley said this format was chosen over a tablet because the netbooks will eventually need to be used for assessments, which will require writing, in which case a keyboard is most helpful.
"Many of the teachers we talked to wanted students to use the netbooks for writing," Cawley said.
Students log in to these netbooks and work just as they do the computers already in their classrooms. Teachers are being trained on the many uses and functions of the netbooks, Cawley said.
Bids were taken from multiple companies but Cawley elected to go with ByteSpeed out of Minnesota for their price, warranty and customer service.
Cawley is also encouraging a move to allow students to bring their personal devices to the classroom to further enhance learning. With the addition of these devices, the ratio of computers to students will be even closer to 1:1.
By Stephanie Johns
Members of the Morgan County Board of Tax Assessors have spent hours upon hours – first at work sessions and then at meetings – working through the 392 Conservation Use Value Assessment (CUVA) applications received this year.
During their regular meeting in April the board approved a total of seven continuation applications, denied eight renewal applications, and tabled one.
CUVA applications discussed and voted on that day included 24 that the board had requested more information about during their work sessions.
The board met three times averaging two to three hours per meeting beginning in January to discuss renewal applications and view pictures of the properties.
As for their meetings, their regular meeting lasted about three hours and their first special called meeting went for more than four-and-a-half hours.
The remaining applications acted upon at the regular meeting were only the beginning: they received 333 renewal applications and 52 new applications as well as the seven continuation applications.
At the group’s special called meeting held Tuesday morning they approved all but 45 of the remaining applications.
Two new applications and 43 renewal applications were tabled so that staff could contact the applicants and request the amount of money the properties are leased for.
Chief Appraiser Chuck Anglin noted that CUVA started in 1992 but “most jumped on it in 1993.”
The first 10-year renewal for that group was held in 2003; this is the second major renewal period.
The board must act on the applications prior to mailing out assessment notices, he said.
By Stephanie Johns
Morgan County Commissioners discussed zoning for Madison Lakes during their April work session.
County Planning Director Chuck Jarrell said that the current development agreement will expire in November of 2014.
He explained that the economy has impacted this project, which began as a planned unit development (PUD): several tracts are in foreclosure or have changed ownership.
“Everybody that is with a bank or buying these tracts of land that are in foreclosure are wanting to know what they can do with the project,” he said. “My standard answer has been: you’ve got to follow the master plan or come back before the Board of Commissioners and request an amendment to that plan.”
He explained that in 2005 the county replaced PUD with community mixed use district (MXD3) because of problems with PUD.
Jarrell identified four options: leave Madison Lakes grandfathered in as a PUD, renegotiate the development agreement, change the whole thing to MXD3, or break it up into agricultural, agricultural-residential, residential or commercial zones.
He suggested commissioners decide by the early part of next year.
“Start thinking about how to handle this,” he said. “It will depend on how it progresses in coming months.”
County Manager Michael Lamar suggested a meeting with the homeowners’ association, Jarrell, and County Attorney Christian Henry so as to give the residents a voice in what happens after the agreement expires.
“Let’s facilitate an ongoing dialogue between the parties,” he said.
Printed in the April 25, 2013 edition
By Patrick Yost
A 57–year–old man Buckhead man was scammed out of more than $8,000 by a man who told him he had won $2.5 million and a new Mercedes in the Publisher's Clearinghouse Sweepstakes.
According to Morgan County Sheriff's Office reports, the man reported that he received a phone call at his Apalachee Road home notifying him of his alleged win and was told that to process the win, he had to pay a 1 percent fee on the prize winnings.
The victim, reports state, said he purchased 17 $500 Green Dot cards and one $250 Green Dot card, per the caller's instructions, and then called the scammer and gave him the security and account numbers from the 18 cards. The victim said after he relayed the numbers to the caller he later realized that funds from the cards had been drained.
The disabled victim said during the initial phone conversation he told the caller that he did not need a new Mercedes and the caller told him he would receive an additional $80,000 instead.
In total, reports state, the man sent $8,839.10 to the scammer.
Capt. Chris Bish, Morgan County Sheriff's Office, said the scam is a reoccurring fraud and he warned citizens to be aware of persons calling with unsolicited prize money. Bish said the phone number traced during the call came from a Jamaican area code and a majority of phone fraud attempts originate outside the United States.
Bottom line, Bish said, scammers prey upon people, especially during rough economic times with the promise of something large for something little. "If you did not enter into a contest you are not going to win a prize," Bish said.
Printed in the April 25, 2013 edition