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Hall County officials offer legislative wish list

Delegation meeting discusses civil service board, funding

POSTED: December 5, 2014 11:00 p.m.

With a new Georgia General Assembly session around the corner, Hall County commissioners and officials met with state legislators Friday morning at the Gainesville Civic Center to present their concerns.

State Sen. Butch Miller and Reps. Carl Rogers, Emory Dunahoo and Lee Hawkins, all Gainesville Republicans, met with commissioners for a discussion of the various issues facing county government.

The two-hour meeting in the civic center’s Chestatee conference room kicked off with a discussion of the Civil Service Act and the Hall County Civil Service Board.

“What we have today is broke,” Commissioner Craig Lutz said. “It’s hurting taxpayers.”

Board of Commissioners Chairman Dick Mecum warned of different interests on the civil service board, saying “a lot of politics enter into it.”

The incident referenced by commissioners and county attorney Bill Blalock was two terminations of Hall County deputies involving a 2013 inmate escape that later were rescinded by the board.

In July 2013, an inmate hid in the alcove of the Hall County Courthouse during transport, having escaped in a nearby vehicle. Hall County Sheriff Gerald Couch fired Deputies Jack Dodd and Larry Henslee following the incident, claiming they acted negligently.

The civil service board has voted twice to overturn that decision after the first vote was nullified due to violation of open meeting laws.

The suggestion was made to model the county after a system similar to that in Athens-Clarke County and others by having a judge hear such issues instead of a board.

Throughout the meeting, commissioners brought up issues of annexation between Gainesville and Hall County. In certain areas, fire stations are surrounded by a majority of Gainesville property with islands of Hall County-serviceable property.

Another issue raised was tax structure, focusing around the mood surrounding the special-purpose local option sales tax.

Lutz said he believes if SPLOST fails when it comes up for a vote in March, property taxes will increase as a result.

Following the first round of the Re-entry Accountability Court Transition this year, commissioners asked for continued financial support of the program aimed to decrease recidivism. The program, run through the Hall County Correctional Institute, offers vocational training to help prevent low-level, nonviolent offenders from returning to prison.

While examining the juvenile courts, County Administrator Randy Knighton mentioned the high costs of attorneys representing children and adults. Each child has six hearings within a nine-month period due to the new juvenile code rewritten for this year.


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