Pike County Times

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PO Box 843, Zebulon, Georgia 30295. Click here to donate through PayPal. Becky Watts: Phone # 770-468-7583 editor(@)pikecountytimes.com
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This online news website is owned and operated by Becky Watts. The Editor can be reached at 770-468-7583 or at editor(at)PikeCountyTimes(dot)com. Pike County Times is a website for citizens to keep up with local events and stay informed about Pike County government. It began on November 13, 2006 as a watchdog on county government and has turned into an online newspaper.

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Thursday, April 21, 2022 – 1:00 p.m.
Courthouse, Main Courtroom, 16001 Barnesville Street, Zebulon, Georgia

Click here to read a copy of the budget.

There were 2 department heads and me in the audience. All 5 commissioners, county clerk, county attorney, and county manager were also present.

Motion to approve the agenda. Approved 5-0.

The packets for the budget have not changed, but an update needs to be made.

Insurance premium. Potentially 39% increase. We only counted for a 10% increase. We are looking at the market. $1.2 million now. $1.7 million from Athem. Cigna $1.6. Aetna is at $1.6. Shopping HRA options as well. Hoping for lower numbers but probably around $1.3 or $1.4 million. Nothing concrete to give right now but actively shopping. Waiting on United and other options too.

Insurance change for the county manager. CM Brandon Rogers will no longer have his own insurance and will need to add this to the budget.

Ambulance service. Between Covid and inflation, etc. they are having trouble making payroll. Losing $100,000 a year right now. They have asked if their payment can be increased. They can increase for 2 trucks (what we have now) at $100,000. Possibility of adding a 1/2 truck to cover with an additional $300,000. We can rebid this. We also have the option of doing nothing. CM Rogers strongly advises not to do nothing. Increased fuel costs and pay to employees. He thinks that $100,000 is reasonable. Upson and Lamar are close to $400,000 per ambulance so he thinks we are getting a great deal even with adding $100,000. Can continue with this contract, but there will be some issues and he is afraid that they will not be able to serve our county. Businesses can only sustain loss for so long before it becomes a problem. Recommends adding an extra $100,000 to cover their payroll to make this $500,000. Don't have to make the decision today if not prepared for this. Can discuss this at the next meeting and/or the first reading. 3 year contract renewable annually. Contract says that this will stay the same, but they have a 90 day termination clause. Community is longer available here. Ameripro is serving Lamar and Upson and their prices have gone up. Anticipating 2 bids and both will be higher than the last bid process. If we rebid, Ameripro will keep the same people. What if they come back in 6 month and ask for more?

Info on non-emergency calls. Waiting to get these reports but don't have them yet. He saw a 911 report for January 2022. Running about 9 calls a day. Veterans' original assessment was for 80% transport rather than 40 or 50% transport rate. A lot of people are refusing transport to the hospital, and that affects their bottom line. If no transport, there is no bill? Not sure, but if they do, it is NOT what it would be for a transport. Chairman Johnson is concerned that they will step out of the contract. Thinks that we should go with $500,000 for 2 trucks now and roll through the last of this contract. Commissioner Tim Daniel said that he has had no complaints and doesn't have a problem with this. Commissioner Jenkins is good with it too. Commissioner Jason Proctor asked about them coming back in 3 months and asking for more. At this point, we can always go out to bid then. $500,000 will keep the service level that we have now with 2 full-time trucks. CM Rogers said that we don't need a vote and is just going to update the budget.

Extension Office. Missed adding in FICA and Medicare. $8,559.

Missed a line item for phones in the jail. $16,000.

Public Works. First National Bank loan is broken into 2 line items. Need to combine them. Overall number the same.

United Bank has a loan on of $132,322.

Going to sell a piece of equipment to Amwaste for $40,000 that needs to be added as revenue.

If there are any additional changes, let him know.


I was the only person there who spoke. I started out by saying that overall that the budget is easy to read and understand and put out a public thank you to the County Clerk, County Attorney, and all of the department heads who spoke with me about their budgets and answered my questions. [Note from the Editor: I went off the script a few times, but the basic information is included here with page numbers, departments, and bullet points.]

Page 5 – I like that Shawn Shoats’ restitution is split out on here.

Answer: CM Rogers thinks that this is completed. [Note from the Editor: This was before Rogers’ time and back before I had a newspaper. Part of the reason that I ask so many questions now is that I have seen money stolen from the county and would rather ask questions to find out that things aren't what I thought than to learn later that my questions could have kept someone from stealing or helped stop theft in our county.]

Page 9 – What is a firework tax? $125 from 2020.

Answer: Probably from where we had the fireworks show here because we don’t have any sales here in the county.

Department 13 Commissioners (Page 15)

• Why the drop on communications - phone?

Answer: They were in the process of breaking phones out into the individual departments around the county.

I like the addition of extra gas and diesel for those departments using it. Also for the price of rock.

I like how the leases, bank loans, and interest are split out individually in Public Works. Some of these changes were already starting before Brandon, but he carried them on in this budget, and it helps make things easily understood.

I like how LMIG is split out with all of the separate roads. Also started before Rogers was county manager, but I like that it has been continued.

Department 45 Solid Waste/Recycling (Page 56)

• Why is there a $15,000 jump from $50,000 to $65,000 for contract services for Amwaste? Answer: This is payment for the methane pipes in the landfill.

Department 65 Libraries (Page 61)

• The Library employees line says that $125,826 was requested and recommended, but according to my open records documents, the request is for $127,536 which is the same for the 2021-2022 year though the actual amount to date being lower because there was a retirement of a long-term employee, an employee who left because she got her training and could make more money elsewhere, and an employee who had some issues with following library policy and was let go.

• The library is now fully staffed, and the request listed in the budget proposal is almost $2,000 less than the amount requested for last year with two new employees being hired at $12 an hour in hopes that we can keep them here by paying them a rate higher than $10 an hour.

• The group insurance line says $19,379 was requested, but my documents say $15,514 and the amount for Fica and Medicare says $9,626 when the requested amount is the same as last year which is $9,758.

• Is there a reason for the different amounts? Could it have been a typo that just needs to be fixed?

I added that I like to see people coming in and working for $12 an hour because you can work for more than that at Burger King. We should be doing better than that as a county for our employees. I did an open records request where Rosemary asked for $129,193.96 by email yesterday to ensure that she has enough money for payroll because there are 3 employees who are working at $12 an hour for 29 hours a week, another at $15 for 29 hours a week, and Rosemary’s job is salaried at $43,704.96. Her numbers come up to $129,192.96. [Note from the Editor: This is all open records material. Nothing in city or county business is private. This is protection for the people and those who are working for us in positions of authority.]

Answer: CM Rogers advised that the numbers that are in the budget are the correct numbers. The person who left was making $17.65 an hour and her replacement is making $2 an hour less. That reduces the budget quite a bit. He said that when he and Rosemary Bunn met, that is not the number of hours that was given to him. He has different employees working for varying hours (20, 25, etc) rather than 29 hours per week which comes up to a lesser total than what has been asked for. He advised that he receive an email from Bunn but said again that this is not the number that she gave when they met. I said that this doesn’t matter and asked if he was going to fix the problem now that it has been brought to his attention. He said that he doesn’t think this is an issue.

Commissioner Proctor pointed out that the numbers come to one working 20 hours a week and another working 25 hours a week. So I said, she is telling the county that she is working her people 29 hours a week and that the current numbers are not going to support that. If she runs over her allotted amount, is the county going to give her a hard time paying her people? I told them that I want to make sure that we are taking care of our people, and there is enough money to pay them. CM Rogers was asked by a commissioner if she had contacted him before last night on this, and he advised that some of this was mentioned in the budget retreat but repeated again that the number in the budget is exactly what she asked for.

I asked if there are problems later and they don’t have enough money for payroll, what do they do? CM Rogers said that if they don’t make payroll later on, it’s because they are not managing their time based on the numbers that he said he was originally given. 2 years ago, there were less hours in the budget than there are this year. One of the commissioners said that if they don’t have enough money for payroll, they can put in a budget amendment like any other department.

Department 74 Planning and Development (Page 66)

• I talked with Jeremy this morning and verified some things about his budget proposal. Have any of y’all read it? It’s very thorough, but I gave him some of my concerns and complimented him for thinking outside of the box to raise employee morale and keep our employees long-term.
• First and foremost, I am ALL about taking care of our people, ensuring longevity for our employees. Increasing pay and rewarding them for staying here in Pike County is a big deal. Ensuring that those starting out are being paid a decent wage is vital to retention as well from the library to the courthouse to other offices throughout the county.
• My concern was the specific raises in this budget that would be $21,959 over last year for the regular employees line. My question was, will they also be receiving an across the board raise if the county gives everyone a raise? I was told no and that if the county receives a raise for all employees, this number would be within $300 of what y’all were going to be doing. I like to verify numbers and appreciate Jeremy talking with me about this twice.
• I like that there is a hard look being given to fee changes since those applying for these permits should be paying all of the costs associated with their various projects. Those numbers are in his budget proposal as well in case y’all haven’t seen them.
• And Jeremy proposed to give all of the employees in his department at least one week of paid vacation as a bonus for their hard work and dedication over the past year. While I applaud the thought, our current ordinance does not allow merit based rewards like this, but it might be something that y’all want to put in the back of your mind for the future. We can’t afford to pay employees what other jurisdictions are paying, but perks for staying close to home may be something that you want to review.
• I have only mentioned this because we had an issue with a former county manager changing benefits from what the county has written in our ordinances. This is a policy change that the county manager cannot grant without the commissioners voting on it according to what County Attorney Morton said in that 2020 meeting. I appreciate wanting to reward our employees for a job well done but need to be sure that we follow our ordinances… or change them as necessary.

Discussion and Answers: Are the raises that are built into the current budget going to be given on top of a 3% cost of living raise? No. CM Rogers asked department heads to think outside of the box what they would like to give their employees in a perfect world. Some departments such as public services have already made a decision on raises for their bottom line officer salaries in order to keep people here in Pike County. Anyone who didn’t already get a raise was included in raises unless employees were still in their probationary period.

I encouraged the commissioners to look through the documents that I obtained through open records if they had not already. I told commissioners that I liked thinking outside of the box and trying to bring longevity to our employees with the week of paid vacation even though we can’t do something like this with our current ordinances. I encouraged the commissioners to look at maybe including merit based rewards like this so we could keep our employees here.

I read current policy to commissioners when a question was asked on what we do now.

• Section 36.15(B) addresses vacation pay and sets the following:
(1) FT employees get one week’s paid vacation after completing the first 12 months of employment and each year thereafter as long as they remain in FT employment.
(2) After three full years, that FT employee shall be eligible for two (2) weeks of vacation pay on their employment anniversary date.
(3) After a five full years, that employee will be eligible for three (3) weeks of vacation pay on their employment anniversary date.
(4) After a full-time employee has been continuously employed for ten (10) full years, that employee will be eligible for four (4) weeks of vacation pay on their employment anniversary date.

CM Rogers explained that he asked all of the department heads to come up with an outside the box way of providing a benefit to the employees without raising salary line items. He said that Jeremy had some really good ideas. Chairman Johnson asked if this week of paid vacation was in the budget. CM Rogers advised that this is not in their budget because it is a policy change, and he can’t do this. Commissioners would have to vote on this in order to make it happen.

Departments 80-89 Fire Department

• I applaud the county manager and the commission for looking at ways to lower our ISO through changes to the fire department budget.

I told them THANK YOU! in the meeting itself.

• Page 76 – How soon are we going to know about rental income on the fire stations?

Answer: Hopefully before July. There are a couple more negotiations to walk through with the cities. LOST and Service Delivery Strategy (SDS) Contracts.

Department 91 Animal Control (Page 80)
• Tanya is salary, and Scott is part-time at 32 hours.
• Is part-time enough rather than full-time?
• Should there be overtime in the budget?

Answer: CM Rogers said that it is very unlikely that Scott will get overtime as a part-time employee.

• The public needs a timeline for the animal shelter. I ask y’all to have a workshop and work together to present something to the public so we know what to expect including when the cities will be contacted in intergovernmental discussions on helping pay for the Animal Shelter.

Commissioner Proctor suggested that this be included with the Service Delivery Strategy meetings with the cities.

Department 13 Commissioners (Page 16) Last line on the page.

• Brandon Rogers’ employment Agreement was signed on August 12, 2020 and runs through June 30, 2022.
• He is supposed to be evaluated at least once a year so everyone is on the same page as you work together for the good of the county.
• His base rate salary was $83,000 when he came to work for the county. That amount and the benefits such as a take home car or insurance can change at any time as long as it is in writing.
• According to the current contract, the commissioners and the county manager agreed in the contract that ongoing professional development through training and education is a part of his employment package.
• Termination for cause may occur at any time subject to all applicable laws, policies, and procedures as well as the employee terminating his own contract, and there is a 30 day clause for termination written into the contract.
• And, as you are aware if you read through our contract line by line, our county manager has written a raise for himself of $5,000.

I will end my comments by reading part of an email that I sent to commissioners on June 8, 2020 shortly before then county manager Ron Alexander resigned and then give a few thoughts.

“…My biggest problem in all this is that I don't see proper respect being given to the commissioners by our county manager. He should be keeping y'all in the loop with all that he does because he is acting in your stead.

When he speaks at a commission meeting, he speaks on the behalf of the Board of Commissioners. When he speaks at a City of Zebulon meeting or to the City Manager in reference to the Grady contract, he speaks on the behalf of the Board of Commissioners. When he speaks at an IDA meeting, he speaks on the behalf of the Board of Commissioners. Every time he speaks to an employee, department head, or elected official, he speaks on the behalf of the Board of Commissioners.

The question that the Board of Commissioners is going to have to answer is whether or not y'all are happy with his representation of you...”

Here are my thoughts.

• If the complaints about interactions with the county manager that I have heard from people working in this county as well as the public are true—and I have no doubt that they are because I have experienced some very unprofessional behavior myself—and IF y’all are willing to keep him here anyway, I ask that you write your evaluations in such a way as to express your disapproval and mandate that the county manager attend training needed to act in a manner that will reflect well on the Pike County Board of Commissioners and our county.
• In regard to the $5,000 raise, I ask each of you to please consider the message that you are sending to those who work in Pike County and any members of the public who have had a bad interaction with the county manager. If you give him this raise, you are condoning his behavior and telling him AND COUNTY EMPLOYEES that you are happy with his representation of the county.
• If you are going to continue his employment, I ask at the very least that you MANDATE him to attend several classes that would help him to learn the people skills that are needed to interact in a professional manner with both the public and all who work with him
• I look forward to reading these evaluations as soon as they are complete.

I thanked the commissioners for listening to my compliments as well as my gripes before I sat down.

There was a comment after I sat down. Commissioner Tim Daniel asked what cost of living raises the county gave to employees. CM Rogers said that he believes it was 3% last year and 2% the year before. So $5,000 is 3% per year he asked? That’s cost of living he stated.

Public hearing closed at 1:51 p.m.

Motion to adjourn. 1:51 p.m.

[Note from the Editor: If you appreciate being able to read information from county meetings for free on Pike County Times, please make a donation to Pike County Times through the PayPal link at the bottom of the page or by check to Pike County Times at PO Box 843, Zebulon so I can justify the amount of time that I am spending away from family. It may not seem like much but sitting in a meeting and then typing it up takes a lot more time than you might imagine! Thanks for reading Pike County's only FREE newspaper.]