Dougherty County Probate Judge Nancy Stephenson administers the oath of office to incoming District 5 Dougherty County Commissioner Harry James on Monday. (Staff photo: Carlton Fletcher)
ALBANY — After the pomp and circumstance, the applause and words of congratulations, new Dougherty County Commissioner Harry James settled into the mundane, everyday business at the commission table.
James, who ran unopposed in a May 20 special election to replace District 5 Commissioner Gloria Gaines, who had stepped down from her seat for an unsuccessful run at the commission chairmanship, was sworn in by Probate Judge Nancy Stephenson at the start of Monday’s commission meeting. After accepting the congratulations of Commission Chairman Jeff Sinyard and the other members of the board, James made his first vote on a call to accept a Byrne Justice Assistance Grant that will give county law enforcement $13,500 in federal money to spend on equipment.
James also sat through County Administrator Richard Crowdis’ overview of the Fiscal Year 2015 Solid Waste Enterprise Fund budget.
“This is what I expected it to be,” James said after the meeting. “I feel good right now, and I’m excited about being here, but it’s time to get down to the business of the commission. I’m looking forward to getting updated on my committee assignments and getting to work.
“I know for the rest of this month we’ll be working on the budget, but I’ve seen it. I think it’s a good budget, one that will serve the people in the community well.”
Crowdis and county Finance Director Martha Hendley plan to take the commission through the budget, section-by-section, over the next four weeks before the commission holds a called meeting June 30 to approve the $77,273,317 spending plan. That total represents a 3 percent increase over the county’s FY 2014 budget.
“Before we start, I’d like to say this budget comes with the unanimous recommendation of the Finance Committee,” that panel’s chairman, District 1 Commissioner Lamar Hudgins, said. “I’ll point out that it comes with no increase in the millage rate and with a one-time $600 disbursement for applicable employees.”
Crowdis said the county’s Solid Waste Fund is expected to add slightly more than $1 million to its “net position” at the end of the current fiscal year on June 30, bringing that total to a healthy $8 million. The spending plan for FY 2015 calls for a 3.4 percent budgeted decrease to $3,382,300, this despite a projected capital outlay (for equipment and improvements) of $879,500, up considerably from FY 2014’s budgeted $515,000.
Part of the cost for the new budget year includes $400,000 to refurbish the landfill’s scraper, $150,000 to prepare documents for construction of a new cell and $130,000 for a paving project on a road at the county landfill.
Also at Monday’s meeting, Albany State University Associate Professor Veronica Adams-Cooper, who teaches in the university’s Master of Public Administration department, gave the commission an update on the economic development initiative AMPP Up the Good Life.
Adams-Cooper told the board the mission of the initiative is to develop sustainable data sets and projects that creatively celebrate the strengths and positives of the community.
“So long, we in our community have operated on the basis that our glass is half-empty,” Adams-Cooper said. “We want to operate on a glass-is-half-full premise. We believe in the theory of self-fulfilling prophecy: If we keep saying good things long enough, they will happen.”
Adams-Cooper said AMPP Up the Good Life community planning meetings will be held Wednesday at the 230 S. Jackson St. Micro Business Enterprise Center and Saturday at ASU’s L. Orene Hall at 10 a.m., noon and 2 p.m. Other sessions are planned July 10 and July 12 at Albany State’s Lovett Hall.