District Attorney Scott Ballard is in a bit of a jam and is asking the county commissioners for whatever help they can give. He acknowledged that even though this is a time when many agencies are being asked to cut their budget and do more with less, he needed to ask for a little bit of an increase. Specifically, Ballard asked for $20,000 more than what the DA’s office received last year, which was just over $147,000.
He told the commissioners that the reasoning behind asking for the increase is three-fold and he wanted the opportunity to plead his case to the board.
“The first reason is that we were hit by a phenomenal increase in our health insurance costs, which went up by a third. It equals out to a $50,000 increase circuit wide, and Upson County’s portion would be $9,000,” said Ballard. “The next reason for an increase is for a cost of living raise for my employees. Five percent is what I am asking for. I know that it is tough times and I understand if you can’t do it, but I have got to ask because these people have been several years without a raise. My final reason is because I am asking for an additional attorney position within the DA’s office. The salary would be $42,000 circuit-wide and Upson County’s portion would be $7,575. My plan if I receive this is to put that lawyer in the courtroom and take one of my more experienced lawyers and use them for RICO forfeitures.”
Ballard continued to explain that RICO deals with organized crime and going after their assets. Also if a RICO action is filed and they are successful, then half of the net proceeds go to either the city or the county depending on if they were working on behalf of the police department or the Sheriff’s office. The other half of the proceeds are divided between whatever agency they are working on behalf of and the DA’s office. The only stipulation is that the DA’s office cannot use the money to offset salaries. His office has done a few cases, one particular in Griffin that involved a pawn shop where they were able to seize about $200,000 in cash.
“My hope is that this position would more than pay for itself and would perhaps be able to help with other budgetary concerns such as with the Sheriff’s department.”
Commission Chairman Maurice Raines thanked Ballard for his comments and state that the board would be in touch.
Chairman Raines also heard comments from Mr. Bill Maher during the public comment portion of the meeting. Mr. Maher told Raines that he was very disappointed in a comment he made during the last meeting when he said “We don’t conduct county business in a County meeting,” and stated that contrary to his statement, this is where county business would be conducted.
Raines responded by saying that what he meant was that the board would not conduct any business that wasn’t on the agenda for that meeting. He continued that he welcomed any citizen who wanted to do more than make a comment to the board to come by the commissioner’s office to see about being put on the agenda. Maher noted that he left that part out when he previously made the statement and therefore he took it the wrong way. Raines apologized for any confusion he may have caused.
In other business, the board unanimously approved a resolution to be part of a multi-county broadband feasibility study. Raines noted that this is an opportunity for the community to enhance their economic development and that the study will tell where the county stands and what they need to do to enhance the ability to have better access to the internet throughout the area. The study is part of a grant with the OneGA Authority, which does have matching funds. The counties involved will pay 20 percent of the cost of the study while One Ga will pay 80 percent. Upson County’s cost could be as little as $5,000 and as much as $10,000.
Chairman Raines also signed a proclamation designating April as National Donate Life Month is Upson County.