Madison County commissioners began the 2009 budget process Tuesday afternoon, meeting with department heads in building inspections, the transfer station, the recreation department, planning and zoning and code enforcement/animal control.
Chairman-elect Anthony Dove was also present.
At the beginning of the meeting, District 2 Commissioner John Pethel told those present that the county is in a “much bigger” budget crunch than the state, reminding them that Gov. Sonny Perdue has just ordered a six percent decrease in the budgets of all state agencies.
“We’d appreciate any help you can give us,” Pethel told department heads.
Following that, current chairman Wesley Nash tried to turn the meeting over to District 3 commissioner Mike Youngblood so that he could leave the meeting.
“I’m not comfortable being a part of this, this is not my budget,” Nash said, referring to the fact that he will be out of office on Jan. 1, 2009, when the 2009 budget will go into effect.
“But you’re hired until the end of the year – that’s your job and I’m not the vice-chairman. If you want to give me your salary I might consider it,” Youngblood told him, adding that it was his (Nash’s) decision on whether or not to leave the meeting, but that he would not be taking the podium in his place.
Nash remained at the podium.
During a discussion with Sandra Webb about daily bank deposits for her department and who makes them, several commissioners questioned county clerk Morris Fortson on all whether county employees who handle money are bonded. Fortson replied that they could be, but weren’t.
“They should be,” Youngblood replied, then turned to District 5 commissioner Bruce Scogin and asked him how he felt about the issue.
Scogin replied that “in lieu of some of the things that have happened recently” he felt it would be a good idea for employees handling money to be bonded.
Fortson was instructed to check on the price of obtaining a “blanket bond.”
Planning and zoning director Linda Fortson asked commissioners to allow her to assume the role of department head and to allow her hire an additional person for the planning and zoning office. Currently there are only two employees in the office, Fortson and Tracy Patrick, who mans the front office. Mrs. Fortson said since the previous county planner left, she has taken care of zoning administration, any planning issues as well as managing the office.
Mrs. Fortson said that the planning and zoning budget would still be $21,572 less than it was last year, even with the changes, since the county has not rehired for the planning position.
Commissioner Stanley Thomas said the commission must consider the fact that they will need to hire another planner sometime in the future, when growth picks up again.
He added that though they were saving money from the vacant planner’s position now, they wouldn’t be if they made these changes and then hired another planner when county growth picks up.
Code enforcement/animal control department head Jack Huff requested an additional officer and a truck for his department.
He said he hoped to be able to cut down on overtime if another officer is hired, since either he or officer Andy McLendon are on call seven days a week.
The BOC planned to meet with EMS, E-911, the road department and the senior center the following day, Wednesday, Aug. 20.