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Growing tax base draws attention of Dougherty Commission
  • Updated

ALBANY — The Dougherty County Commission looked at ways of revving up revenue without increasing the tax burden on property owners Monday as commissioners look toward the next budget year.

Some methods to accomplish that goal would include increasing the county’s tax base through adding new industries and increasing homeownership, the county’s financial consultant told commissioners during a Monday work session.

Another option is performing an extensive audit to ensure that the property values on the books accurately reflect the actual value, said Edmund Wall of Piper Jaffray.

“It just takes time to go through all the parcels to compare,” said Wall, who is an advisor to a number of governments, including several in the metro Atlanta area. “You have the ability to levy and pledge up to one mill for development. The only way you’re going to grow is to spend money to attract those folks.”

Commissioner Clinton Johnson, who requested the report from Wall, said he heard some positive comments.

The county has no debt and does a good job of limiting spending to cash on hand and also helps lower the burden on taxpayers through a 1 percent special-purpose local-option sales tax and transportation special-purpose local-option sales tax, Wall said. As a shopping destination for the region, that means when out-of-town customers make purchases in the county, they are contributing toward roads and other capital outlay projects.

“I want to find ways to incentivize and raise (revenue) through development opportunities to bring some of that burden off taxpayers,” Johnson said during a telephone interview following the meeting.

During the lengthy, free-wheeling discussion, other topics brought up included that about 25 percent of all properties in the county are tax exempt. Also, in a community that has a high rate of poverty that limits homeownership, residential housing often goes decades without being sold and thus does not experience an increase in home values that accrue from regular sales.

One way the county could make a difference is in promoting the construction of more homes and promoting them in neighborhoods and near large companies where people work, Johnson said.

The commissioner said as a member of the Georgia Department of Community Affairs board, he is hearing some different ideas that he plans to bring to the commission.

Veterans Day program will honor 99-year-old World War II veteran
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ALBANY — American Legion Post 30 will honor a living part of history on Thursday during its annual Veterans Day program.

The 8 a.m. program at the 2916 Gillionville Road post in Albany will recognize Reba Alexander Moncus, known as “Mama” to local veterans at the post, a World War II veteran who has been a member of Post 30 for nearly 50 years.

“We’re excited Congressman (Sanford) Bishop’s (office) is going to present a proclamation honoring her service,” post Commander Dan Brewer said. “That’s what the program is about, her and honoring her. Mr. Ted Wright is going to emcee and will be going over her history.”

Moncus, 99, enlisted in the newly formed U.S. Navy Women’s Naval Reserves, known as the “WAVES,” in March 1943. Initially placed in recreation, Moncus got her desire to help with the war effort when she was assigned in January 1944 to Naval Station Lakehurst in New Jersey for training as a parachute rigger.

After completing training, she was assigned to Naval Air Station Melbourne (Florida).

Metal of any kind was at a premium and recycled, so part of Moncus’ duties, in addition to inspecting and packing parachutes, included salvaging harnesses from parachutes from planes that had been crashed.

“She smelled smells of burned flesh on the harnesses she had to clean up,” said Moncus’ son, Denzel Harrell. “During World War II, they didn’t waste anything. PTSD (Post-traumatic Stress Disorder) is real.”

At one time Harrell, his mother and his son, Jeremy Harrell, were members of Post 30, but the two Harrells are now members of the Leesburg-based Post 182.

The Thursday program also will celebrate Moncus’ 100th birthday, which will be Nov. 30. The 2020 event was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“She’s been a member of this post since 1972,” Brewer said. “I’m quite sure she’s our oldest member.”

The post commander also encouraged the public to take time out to reflect on what the holiday means.

“Freedom is not free,” he said. “Every veteran put his or her life on the line to defend this country against all enemies foreign and domestic, up to their life. I think people ought to honor veterans, honor their service, the sacrifices they made and for the risks they took.”

Brewer requested that veterans planning to attend the free program call (229) 881-9426 in order to gauge the number to expect.

Air Force veteran making his mark at UGA
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ATHENS — Caleb Ray slides into the cockpit of an F-16 at the Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas. He pulls his helmet down and adjusts the GoPro mount facing him — one that he helped engineer in his first year as an aircraft technician and welder for the United States Air Force Thunderbirds.

Special Photo: UGA 

Caleb Ray, a third-year financial planning major at the University of Georgia, enlisted in the U.S. Air Force in 2013.

Even though Ray isn’t a pilot, the familiarization flight is one of the perks of joining the Thunderbirds crew.

He practices the breathing techniques the team doctor taught him to combat the effects of peak G-force he’s about to experience for the first time. The aircraft taxis around the airstrip. Ray pulls his arms in tight and presses up on the balls of his feet. The engines roar and the fighter jet rushes down the runway. In seconds, Ray is airborne.

The takeoff pulls 5-Gs, which is about what you’d feel on a rollercoaster. Mid-flight, the jet accelerates into a 9-G maneuver, the equivalent of 2,000 pounds of pressure on the body. Ray is jammed into his seat.

“They can tell you all about it, but there’s no prepping until you experience it,” he says.

His training holds up, and he remains conscious the entire flight.

Ray, a third-year financial planning major at the University of Georgia, enlisted in the U.S. Air Force in 2013. Surviving 9-Gs was one of many extraordinary experiences throughout Ray’s seven-year military career. Before joining the Thunderbirds in 2017 for his final three years of service, Ray was stationed in Minot, N.D., where he worked as an aircraft metals technologist servicing B-52s.

That’s where he decided on another experience he wanted to pursue: Becoming a Georgia Bulldog.

“I remember very clearly sitting in my dorm room in Minot,” Ray said. “I got a Military Friendly magazine, and I looked at it, and it’s like top careers and top schools for military vets. And the University of Georgia was right there in the top 10.”

The Tampa native knew it would be a good fit. With family in north Georgia, UGA was an ideal location. When he enrolled in fall 2020, Ray realized that UGA’s commitment to veterans went beyond the Military Friendly ranking.

“It’s all about making connections,” Jon Segars, the director of UGA’s Student Veterans Resource Center, said. “We want to be a constant asset for our student veterans.”

Transitioning from the military to college presents unique challenges. The SVRC focuses on making that transition easier and helping student veterans find resources to complete their education and embark on their post-military careers.

“I was dumbfounded when I attended orientation in summer and they said you have to get your resume right if you want an internship, if you want to get experience,” Ray said. “[The internships] go fast in August, September, October at the very latest. That woke me up.”

The SVRC offers a readiness program to help veterans translate their experience into a resume, explore academic and internship opportunities, and meet mentors. Ray knew he not only wanted to connect with the SVRC, he also wanted to get involved.

Photo by Andrew Davis Tucker/UGA 

Caleb Ray, a third-year financial planning major at the University of Georgia, served in the U.S. Air Force for seven years.

During his first semester, Ray landed a job as a student worker with the center. While university instruction remained virtual due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Ray was able to work in the SVRC office in person, once that was permitted.

“Working at the Student Veterans Resource Center was very crucial for me,” he said. “Coming to campus every day to get a feel for what it’s like, even though there was hardly anybody on campus. To know what to expect when I was going to be in person. I knew that this day was going to come around soon, so I just wanted to prepare myself.”

Through the SVRC, Ray learned about the Student Veterans Association, UGA’s chapter of Student Veterans of America. And when a position opened on the SVA’s leadership team, he jumped at the opportunity.

As the SVA president, Ray’s says his goal is to create a student-centered home for veterans on campus to help them find their purpose and be a listening ear.

“I really take it upon myself to try to get to know everybody that comes through our doors,” he said. “I want to learn their story and see how I can help.”

Whether they need help with VA certification, navigating the G.I. Bill, connecting with a tutor or mentor, or just getting to know other student veterans, the SVA and the SVRC are there to point veterans in the right direction.

Special Photos 

Caleb Ray (right) and Nicholas Sesing stand before 650 flags planted in honor of Veterans Day in 2020.

Finding unity through diversity

About 220 student veterans currently engage with the SVRC. But for Segars, it’s not about the numbers.

“It’s about engagement,” he said. “Problem-solving begins with listening to every veteran’s story, easing the transition and then helping our student veterans make the most of their experiences at UGA.”

And it’s often within those different stories that many student veterans find common ground. That shared life experience is what drew Ray to want to get involved.

Special Photo 

Caleb Ray gets his first military haircut in April 2013.

“I am incredibly honored to have served and to now serve the veterans here at the University of Georgia,” he said. “Doing something that’s not just for yourself, but to help other people, is huge. And that’s what the world needs, people helping other people.”

Jennings C., Lake Park Elementary School