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4-25-08 GA DOT - Funds Shortage – Sales Taxes –Romance- Local Projects Status

It was recently reported that DOT has over committed projects by a $ Billion!! This week we learned the DOT Board Chairman, Mike Evans, and DOT Commissioner, Gena Abraham were romantically involved and the Chairman resigned…………………. ……….the receipts from Sales Taxes on Gas are expanding. Locally, approximately 9 cents a gallon is going to Oconee County and other counties that have three local sales taxes: LOST, SPLOST and ELOST.

AVOC

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April 23, 2008

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GA Department of Transportation- Funds Shortage – Sales Taxes –Romance- Local Projects Status

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By Wendell Dawson, Editor, AVOC, Inc

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SHORTAGE OF FUNDS AND ROMANCE

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The GA DOT has been in the news a lot lately.   It was recently reported that DOT has over committed projects by a $ Billion!!    This week we learned the DOT Board Chairman, Mike Evans, and DOT Commissioner, Gena Abraham, were romantically involved and the Chairman resigned and the Acting Chairman, Garland Pinholster, also resigned as Chairman.   The Board this week reprimanded Abraham for her handling of the “Romance” issue.  The media, including the New York Times has had a “ball” with this situation.

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LOCAL PROJECTS – OCONEE’S $ 26 Million OCONEE CONNECTOR PROJECT

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While all of this is going on, Oconee County is talking about more revenue coming from beer and wine sales and the opening of the $ 26 Million Development Road Project at the Oconee Connector.   Other area governments are taking stock of their projects in view of the shortage of funds and the termination or suspension of many promised projects.   So far, Oconee’s Chairman Davis has not commented on the funding problems.    It is doubtful that he will until after qualifying next week and he may just wait until after the July Primary Election.  

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GAS AND SALES TAXES AND WINDFALL RECEIPTS LOCAL GOVERNMENTS

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As all of this takes place, we see Gas Prices approaching $ 4.00 per gallon!   For sometime, Georgia’s has had the lowest per gallon rate of gas tax in the nation.   However, the receipts from Sales Taxes on Gas are expanding.   Locally, approximately 9 cents a gallon is going to Oconee County and other counties that have three local sales taxes:LOST, SPLOST and ELOST.

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POLITICAL INFLUENCE AT DOT

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As a public official, I worked with at least five DOT Commissioners and with the last one, Harold Linenkohl, when he was state aid coordinator.   At one time, GA DOT (Jim Gillis Days) had more clout than the Governor.   Roy Barnes set out to change that and now Governor Perdue is able to name his own person.   I am not sure it is an improvement.

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There has always been politics involved.   The DOT is heavily influenced with legislators.   More than once, we were told to bring our Senator, Paul Broun, and Representative, Frank Stancil, with us to the GA DOT.  It was interesting to see the interaction.   Senator Broun had clout with all of the commissioners.   Frank Stancil had more clout with Wayne Shackelford.   Oconee’s relationship with GA DOT has been good back to Tom Moreland and Jim Gillis days.

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It will be interesting to see how all of this plays out.   Local projects are at risk now.   The DOT Chief may not make it.   In two years, we will be electing a new Governor, and all legislators will undergo at least two elections.

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4-7-08 Oconee Connector $ 26 million Project is more than a Name Change

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4-22-08 Gas Taxes in Georgia

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Georgia Gas Prices Com

http://www.georgiagasprices.com/tax_info.aspx

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After crude oil costs, taxes are the second largest contributor to the price paid at the pump. Together Federal and State excise taxes on fuel account for an average cost of approximately 62 cents per gallon. Rates include Federal excise taxes 18.4 cpg for gasoline and 24.4 cpg for diesel.

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GEORGIA Taxes

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44.4 Cents per gallon on Gasoline

52.6 Cents per gallon on Diesel

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4% sales tax. Local option sales taxes from 1% to 3%

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Oconee County has 3% local tax:LOST, SPLOST and ELOST

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TOPIX

http://www.topix.com/forum/state/ga/TUM8IONUSMH6IB2SD

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Georgia Gas Tax Drives High Prices

Gas prices in Georgia are now 13 cents above the nation's average. The biggest factor is supply and demand.

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Tax Foundation

http://www.taxfoundation.org/research/topic/22.html

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Georgia’s State/Local Tax Burden Below National Average in 2007
Estimated at 10.3% of income, Georgia’s state/local tax burden ranks 32nd highest, below the national average of 11.0%. Georgia taxpayers pay $ 3,615 per capita in state and local taxes on per-capita state income of $ 35,210.

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Georgia Levies Sales Tax below National Median
Georgia levies a 4% general sales or use tax on consumers, below the national median of 5.4%. In 2005, state and local governments combined collected $ 1,113 per person in general sales taxes, which ranked 33rd nationally. Georgia's gasoline tax stands at 26 cents per gallon, which is 19th highest in the nation. However, the state's general sales tax is applied to purchases of gasoline, and localities are allowed to levy "local option" sales taxes on gasoline. Georgia's cigarette tax stands at 37 cents per pack of twenty, which ranks 42nd nationally. The sales tax was adopted in 1951, the gasoline tax in 1921 and the cigarette tax in 1937.


4-21-08 GA DOT Board Reprimands DOT Chief

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The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

http://www.ajc.com/metro/content/metro/stories/2008/04/20/dot_0421.html?cxntlid=homepage_tab_newstab

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April 21, 2008

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DOT board reprimands transportation chief
Acting chairman steps down, leaving board without leader

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By Ariel Hart

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The state Transportation Board reprimanded Commissioner Gena Abraham on Monday, but didn't fire her.

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After a three-hour, closed-door meeting, the board announced the decision. Abraham didn't comment.

Abraham's personal relationship with Transportation Board Chairman Mike Evans resulted in his shocking announcement last week that he was resigning from the board.

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Attention focused immediately on Abraham's future with the department and Monday's special board meeting.

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At the end of the meeting, the board was without a chairman for the second time in days with the surprise announcement that acting Chairman Garland Pinholster was resigning.

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Pinholster took over last week with Evans' resignation. Pinholster announced his resignation as chairman by phone and mentioned his health but didn't give a reason. He remains on the board.

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Board member Bill Kuhlke, who acted as chairman Monday, said he had heard there is a sexual harassment complaint against Pinholster, but that he doesn't know why the acting chairman resigned.

Kuhlke said he believes it was for health reasons.

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One key issue was whether Abraham retains the credibility as a hard-charging, by-the-book enforcer of the rules to effectively carry out her reforms.

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Evans and other supporters have painted her as a historic change agent capable of reversing a 50-year culture at DOT of promising projects that couldn't be funded and skirting the rules. Abraham's supporters say she remains effective and should stay.

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An "intimate" relationship between an employee and a superior in the worker's chain of command is forbidden by DOT policy, and it is unclear how long Abraham was out of conformity with that policy. She has refused to comment publicly…………………


4-21-08 GA DOT will be trimming project list in June and July

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The Walton Tribune

http://www.waltontribune.com/story.lasso?ewcd=2bb97d9b93971cec

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April 20, 2008

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GDOT cuts affecting cities

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By Stephen Milligan

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WALTON COUNTY — With a shortfall of perhaps more than $ 1 billion dollars projected, the Georgia Department of Transportation may not be able to fund many local projects.
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For those projects that have already started or are near beginning, the prospects seem best.
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“The preliminary plan is complete,” said Mayor Jim Burgess of Social Circle.
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The city has long been planning to complete the truck bypass that will allow heavy traffic to leave Highway 11 and move around downtown Social Circle before rejoining the state thoroughfare.
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“They’re proceeding to contract for 2010,” Burgess said. “It’s on schedule, which is great news.”
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Other projects in Walton County, however, may not fare so well. Monroe’s proposed bypass was altered long before the extent of the GDOT shortfalls was evident.
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“The Monroe bypass has been cut down from four lanes to two lanes,” said Julian Jackson, city manager for Monroe. “It’s basically been cut in half.”
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In Loganville, plans to transform Main Street into a one-way street, as well as other alterations to the Highway 20 route pushed back multiple times, also may fall by the wayside……..
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“I’m not sure how it will be affected,” said Bill Jones, city manager for Loganville. “This funding issue is not something new, it’s been going on for some time. It was set for 2009, but it may be pushed back again.”
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Teri Pope, communications officer for GDOT, said that until the audit occurred and the extent of the shortfalls was confirmed, GDOT officials could not determine which projects might occur and which might fall by the wayside.
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“We don’t know yet,” Pope said about projects on the chopping block. “We just found out about the extent of it. ……………….


4-21-08 Oconee expecting $ 26 Million Development Road Project in July

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The Athens Banner-Herald

http://onlineathens.com/stories/042108/news_2008042100133.shtml

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April 21, 2008

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Alcohol law's benefits on horizon?

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Supporters: Growth in Oconee County will be slow but steady

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By Adam Thompson

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Rather, the restaurants will be another attraction, drawing other businesses and thus broadening the county's residential-heavy tax base, he said.

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"A lot of retail folks look at the food industry so that they can locate close by," Davis said.

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Although the county's small, main commercial corridor on Epps Bridge Parkway is mostly built-out, a new connector road is expected to open up a wealth of land in northern Oconee County, Davis said.

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The $ 26 million Jennings Mill Parkway extension project - expected to be renamed "Oconee Connector" - right now is scheduled to begin late this summer.

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The area already has one tenant on the way: Atlanta developer Frank Bishop announced last month he plans to build a new commercial center behind the Lowe's on Epps Bridge Parkway, complete with a 16-screen movie theater.

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But changes won't come overnight, said Oconee County Chamber of Commerce President Charles Grimes. "It's going to be a slow process," he said.

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Two or three restaurant owners were waiting to see if commissioners passed the beer and wine law, and at least one has called since then, Grimes said……………………


4-23-08 Scandals & Shake-Up in Georgia DOT

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The New York Times

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/23/us/23georgia.html?_r=2&scp=2&sq=georgia&st=nyt&oref=slogin&oref=slogin

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April 22, 2008

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Scandals and a Shake-Up in a Georgia Department

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By Brenda Goodman

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ATLANTA — Gena L. Abraham, Georgia’s state transportation commissioner, started her day on Tuesday by making a routine announcement via news release: $ 75 million would be spent to resurface roads and build bridges around a medical center in Augusta.

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It is likely that Ms. Abraham, 39, the first woman to run what is one of the most powerful government agencies in the state, has never been so eager to build bridges.

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In the last week, the department has been shaken by two sex scandals that have forced the resignations of the transportation board chairman and his interim replacement and that nearly cost Ms. Abraham her job.

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“I said, ‘My God, what’s next?’ ” David Doss, a board member from Rome, Ga., said in an interview Tuesday. “I was afraid to get out of bed this morning because you just don’t know what’s going to happen next.”

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Last Thursday evening, the transportation board chairman, Mike Evans, shocked members in an executive session with the news that he was involved in a romantic relationship with Ms. Abraham. Department policy forbids intimate relationships between subordinates and their superiors.

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Both Ms. Abraham and Mr. Evans, 47, are single.

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Mr. Evans, a developer from Cumming, Ga., who had recently won a bitter re-election battle for the board, resigned his post and his seat on the board. The board announced that he would be replaced by the vice chairman, Garland Pinholster, until a new chairman could be elected in May.

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By Monday, however, Mr. Pinholster had also stepped down as chairman as news spread of a sexual harassment complaint filed against him by two department employees………..

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On Monday, the board voted 8 to 3 to reprimand Ms. Abraham for failing to report the romantic relationship in a timely manner, but not to dismiss her.

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The revelations about Ms. Abraham and Mr. Evans surfaced just three weeks after she sent a memorandum to all department employees saying she would not tolerate misconduct or violations of department policy.

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“The sheer number of offenses that we are discovering is staggering and embarrassing to the department,” she wrote in the memorandum, which was dated March 31, and she added that she would not hesitate to fire employees for unethical or unlawful behavior.

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Ms. Abraham later admitted that when she sent the memorandum she was already romantically involved with Mr. Evans.

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Ms. Abraham, an engineer who led the Georgia Building Authority, had been praised as someone who could bring change to an agency that had suffered for decades under mismanagement, corruption and political pandering.

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But others believe that Ms. Abraham’s days at the department may be numbered.

“It’s another cloud, another black eye, another headline for the department when we certainly don’t need another headline,” Mr. Doss said………………….


3-29-08 Oconee Connector $ 26 million Project is more than a Name Change

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Oconee Connector Jennings Mill Parkway MACORTS 3 08.pdfx

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The Athens Banner-Herald

http://www.onlineathens.com/stories/032808/news_2008032800450.shtml

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March 28, 2008

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New link between 316, Epps Bridge in works

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Oconee Connector

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By Adam Thompson

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The Oconee Connector eventually will live up to its unity-themed name, now that Oconee County officials agreed to rename an anticipated new transportation project.

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The county's Jennings Mill Parkway extension now will be called the Oconee Connector, matching the name of the short road it ties into and providing a new link between shopping centers on Epps Bridge Parkway and the major artery into the county, Georgia Highway 316.

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The $ 26 million project, which officials expect will be put out for bid in July, also is poised to open up a wealth of undeveloped land between the Athens Perimeter and Epps Bridge Parkway.

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