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Hall wants more control of library, its employees
Move may allow for eliminating furlough days, but could have other drawbacks
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Billboards will be going digital in Hall County.

In a 4-1 vote Thursday, county commissioners approved an ordinance to allow digital signage in the county, on two conditions.

First, each digital billboard will replace two static billboards.

Second, the advertisements will rotate on a 20-second basis, rather than the originally proposed 10 seconds.

The original motion by West Hall Commissioner Billy Powell called for a 12-second rotation, but failed when only Powell and Chairman Richard Mecum voted in favor of it.

Commissioner Jeff Stowe then moved to allow the billboards, but at a 20-second rotation. Craig Lutz was the sole dissenting vote.

Lutz called the LED billboards a “distraction to drivers.”

“I think it’s inviting an unsafe environment into our county,” he said.

Scott Gibbs agreed.

“If it were up to me, if I could, I would like to remove all billboards. I think they’re an eyesore to the roadways, and I definitely feel like the digital billboards are a distraction to drivers,” he said.

Fairway Outdoor Advertising representative Tim Hall said that, though the standards in Georgia are for digital ads to rotate every 10 seconds, other states call for only eight seconds.

He also said digital billboards allow public service announcements such as Amber Alerts to be distributed quickly.

The Hall County Board of Commissioners agreed Thursday to look at bringing library employees back under the purview of the county administrator.

“The county itself has been off of furloughs for a year, I think,” North Hall Commissioner Scott Gibbs said. “I would like the board to consider that maybe we could bring the (Hall County Library System) back underneath the county administrator (Randy Knighton) to where you can get the employees off of furlough. Get (the libraries) back open full time.”

The board approved the county attorney’s looking at how that could be done. It would need to be an issue taken up via state legislation.

“I would like to work towards (it) pretty quickly, because I know that the local legislative delegation is already meeting on legislation for the late January, early February term,” Gibbs said.

South Hall Commissioner Craig Lutz agreed that time is of the essence.

“I know there are different benefit packages; there’s different retirement things where we have restrictions,” Lutz said. Having more “hands-on direction” will be an asset, he added.

Library Director Adrian Mixson said he was unaware of the county’s decision.

He explained that the library operates under the library board, with each commissioner selecting two board members, and under state regulations.

“There are certain restrictions on how you can spend (state funding),” Mixson said.

“We have furloughs because we are required to maintain some kind of fund balance to pay bills,” Mixson said, adding there are currently 10 furlough days for library employees.

Mixson said several library employees participate in the state retirement system, which is the same retirement program as for teachers. He said he believed employees would rather have furlough time than lose those benefits.

“What that will do will drive away most of the employees who have a commitment into the teachers retirement system,” he said.

“The easiest way to get library employees off of furlough is to just give us a little bit of money.”

The library is financed mostly by the county, which contributes 80 percent of the system’s budget, according to commission Chairman Richard Mecum.

Mecum said there are a lot of questions behind how the county library system runs.

“I think through this whole thing we’re going to try to figure out, too, can the library be run more successfully?” Mecum asked.

“Could the budget be spent more effectively, more efficiently?” he added. “I think that’s what we’re about to get into. I think the people of Hall County deserve an answer.”

Gibbs said he thought there would be some “cost savings” with his motion.

“I do know the county’s insurance is cheaper than what we pay the state,” Gibbs said.

Gibbs brought up the motion at the end of the meeting, under other business to be considered. The actual motion itself was not included on Thursday’s agenda.

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