Citizens speak out at millage rate hearing

Published 10:19 pm Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Several Decatur County citizens spoke Tuesday evening at a public hearing to discuss the proposed millage rate increase. Following that 6 p.m. hearing, and during its regularly scheduled 7 p.m. board meeting, the Decatur County Board of Commissioners voted 4-2 to increase the millage rate by 1.75 mills.

Ted Snell said that he believed the county needed to “break bread” with the Bainbridge city government, and determine a way that the county’s 23 Industrial Park customers could connect with the city’s existing sewer system. This would allow the county to eventually close the wastewater treatment plant at the industrial park, saving money on needed improvements, Snell said.

County Administrator Gary Breedlove told Snell that the county’s wastewater treatment plant engineer and previous county administrator, Tom Patton, did not believe that was a viable option. Breedlove said that problems cited included the length of the pipe that would be required, as well as the difficulty in connecting the city’s pipe to the county’s pipe, because the diameters are different.

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“I suppose that we just have to trust the judgment of those who were involved at the time,” said Breedlove, noting that the idea had been discussed two years ago but deemed an impractical solution.

Snell also remarked that the county needed to seriously consider selling the landfill.

Dewey Robinson also spoke before the board, noting that he did not envy their position because they had some difficult decisions to make. However, he also stated that the county “can’t borrow itself out of debt.”

Robinson said he still believed the county could find ways to cut expenses.
“It’s your responsibility to go back to the drawing board,” he said. “We have too much government, and too many giveaway programs. We have got to bring common sense back to this country, and we can start it right here in Decatur County.”

Board Chairman Russell Smith responded that the county had already made cuts, and that this year’s budget was smaller than the 2012-13 budget, which in turn was smaller than the 2011-12 budget.

“It’s to the point where you’ve got to cut services,” he said. “Those are our only choices. Either cut services, or raise taxes.”

Smith also said that the county had met with at least two companies about potentially selling the landfill, but had not been given any estimates or quotes to that point.

Bill Nichols, a former county commissioner, said that he did not understand why Decatur County’s population has remained steady over the years, and yet the county’s budget and government’s size have ballooned.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county had a population of 25,495 in 1980, and a population of 27,694 in 2011, the last measured year.

“The county’s population hasn’t gotten any bigger, and yet the budget has,” he said. “That doesn’t make much sense.”