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Animal shelter moving forward
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Forsyth County News

Other business

Also during its work session Tuesday, Forsyth County commissioners:

• Tabled consideration of changing the solid waste ordinance to institute reporting and basic vehicle requirements for trash haulers, as well as set infrastructure maintenance fees with discounted incentives.

The ordinance would have required two public hearings prior to a final vote.

• Granted a refund of property taxes for 2009 and ’10 to Martin-Marietta, which leases property for a quarry. Called a usufruct, the agreement for a specific purpose exempts Martin-Marietta from property taxes.

The company will receive about $167,000 plus interest from the date of the request, which was May 30. The refund will be proportional by the governments that received the funds.

• Agreed to hold public hearings on a proposed change to the alcohol ordinance that would allow license renewals to be handled administratively if there are no changes on the application.

Also, a proposed modification would reduce the requirement to submit a background check on the license holder from every year to every other year.

• Approved an agreement allowing the nonprofit Sawnee Artists Association to rent the Sexton Hall Enrichment Center for eight days for a photography exhibition in return for services provided to Forsyth County.

• Heard on update on the renegotiation of the local option sales tax revenue distribution agreement with the city of Cumming.

Senior staff from each government met in late June to discuss the schedule.

Commissioners granted approval to continue meeting to analyze data and determine a proposed split of the tax revenue between the governments.

Note: All votes were 5-0 unless otherwise noted.

— Alyssa LaRenzie

Forsyth County commissioners are ready to get moving on an animal shelter facility.

The commission voted 5-0 on Tuesday to select RKS Green Consulting and Shelterplanners.com as the architectural firm to design the facility, following the recommendation of animal shelter advisory committee.

The vote was “time sensitive,” which means it won’t need final approval at a regular meeting before the contractor can get started.

The team of Cumming-based RKS and Shelterplanners of Richmond, Va., was the low bid of $181,250.

Commissioners also followed its committee recommendation to allot space for animal control within the shelter building, which differs from the current setup.

Deputy County Manager Tim Merritt said the existing shelter contract holder, Lanier Orr, was “strongly in favor of doing this.”

“It would be much better to serve the public if they were co-located,” Merritt said.

The shelter project, approved as part of the November 1-cent sales tax referendum, is slated to be built on County Way for about $2 million.

Though revenue from the six-year tax extension won’t start coming in until July 2013, the county plans to borrow the money from its reserve fund to build a shelter and pay it back with interest.

The 15,000-square-foot facility is estimated for completion at the start of 2014.

Also on Tuesday, commissioners decided to invite the local school board for a joint meeting following discussion on the possibility of exempting ad valorem inventory taxes.

Commissioner Patrick Bell first brought the issue to the board in May, shortly after the state opened up a provision for exemption, which could be approved by referendum.

The county would then set the percent to be exempted, which Bell proposed to be phased in 20-percent intervals.

“Hopefully, that would encourage business [to locate here] and the property tax will make up the difference,” he said, adding that the county’s digest will suffer in the future if it continues to grow primarily through residential development.

His fellow commissioners expressed concern on how that loss of tax revenue would impact the school system, which was estimated as a decrease of about $816,000 in the first year.

Commissioner Todd Levent said the loss of revenue from the exemption, if not recouped in some other way, could be passed on in the form of a millage increase.

“I’m not going to vote this tax out and vote tax on the homeowners,” Levent said.

The issue was postponed to Aug. 7, or whenever the school board can meet with commissioners.

After the meeting, Bell said the deadline to get the item on the November ballot is July 23, so he felt it’s unlikely the county will meet that date.

“We can’t even seem to get in discussion about it. It’s frustrating,” he said. “These people that are paying the lowest millage rate in metro Atlanta better enjoy it because it’s short-lived … You cannot ignore an imbalance in taxes.”

Chairman Jim Boff brought forth another request to the commission Tuesday for consideration.

He received a letter from American Water Company asking Forsyth County if it would be interested in being involved in a possible reservoir in Dawson County.

The Shoal Creek Reservoir is proposed for about 2,500 acres in the Dawson Forest, which is owned by the city of Atlanta.

The commission agreed to invite company representatives to give a presentation on the proposal at a future work session.

“It’s worth talking and seeing what the options are,” said Tim Perkins, county water and sewer director.