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Hall County Commissioners want signs only in English for next election
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The Hall County Board of Commissioners at its board meeting Thursday told the elections office to stick to English-only signs in the next election.

In the municipal elections Nov. 3, signs pointing the way to polling places read "Vote Here Today," as well as "Vote Aqui Hoy."

Commissioner Ashley Bell said he thought this was confusing because there were no ballots or other elections materials in Spanish.

The commission asked Hall County Elections Superintendent Charlotte Sosebee to answer questions and explain why Spanish signs were used.

Sosebee said the office ordered signs that they believed would only say "Vote Here Today." The bilingual signs came as a surprise.

"We started looking at our numbers as far as registered voters and realized that the minority (Spanish) speaking citizens who are also voters in Hall County could benefit with this sign so we used them in the last election," Sosebee said.

Bell asked Sosebee if the county was under any state or federal regulation to provide bilingual signage.

"We are not under any regulations right now," Sosebee said. "Federal law says that if more than 5 percent of the voting age citizens are members of a single language minority group and are limited English proficient, then we are required as a state to provide bilingual materials as well as ballots," Sosebee said.

Sosebee said Georgia served as a pilot site for Spanish-language ballots on touch-screen units in the 2004 election.

"Looking at the census we are kind of on the threshold of being considered a bilingual state," Sosebee said.

Other business

The Hall County Board of Commissioners approved waiving the adoption fee at the animal shelter for the month of December.

Hall County Animal Control Director Mike Ledford said people will have to meet strict standards before they will be able to adopt a pet.

People must fill out an adoption application, which includes information about the veterinarian they plan to take their pet to. A background check, interview and site visit also will be required.

"We’re not just going to be an open door policy," Ledford said.

Commissioner Billy Powell proposed a tax for short-term rental homes.

Powell, a member of the Lake Lanier Convention and Visitors Bureau Board, said the group believes the county is missing out on a potential revenue source.

"We uncovered that there is a huge industry in Hall County basically labeled short-term rentals, and most of it is lake property," Powell said. "The Lake Lanier CVB firmly believes if Hall County proactively opens the short-term rental homes for the tourist segment of the vacation lodging market, we will be able to attract many more visitors, especially those that stay longer and spend more."