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'A drop in the bucket': BOC committee discusses 86% pay hike for coroner

The Douglas County Board of Commissioners plans to discuss giving a $120,000 budget increase to Coroner Renee Godwin, including a pay hike of 86% that would bump the salary for the part-time coroner up to $62,894.

During Monday’s BOC finance committee meeting, Commission Chairman Romona Jackson Jones said the full board will have a chance to discuss the proposed salary and budget increase in an upcoming meeting.

“This is not set in stone, it is up for discussion,” Jones said during the two hour virtual meeting. “I just want to take it to the board and allow them to give their input.”

The finance committee was discussing items it was revisiting from its budget retreat that didn’t make the $98.7 million budget the BOC passed in December.

Godwin’s requested increases weren’t a part of the original list, according to Commissioner Ann Jones Guider, who voted against the 2021 budget.

Knowing that the request from the embattled coroner would receive backlash from citizens, Jones pointed out that the county has a “hefty” reserve fund.

“I want that $21.9 million to hit the newspaper,” Jones said about the budget reserves. “What’s important is that we have a hefty reserve. We are in very good shape. This county is doing better than expected, so this $29,000 is like a drop in the bucket. It was a request and I just wanted to allow the Board of Commissioners to weigh in before I just removed it off.”

While Jones touted the BOC’s reserves, she did not mention the 27.8% property tax rate increase commissioners adopted last year or the mandatory furloughs for first responders and other county employees. She also didn’t mention the roughly $400,000 increase in the probate judge’s 2021 budget that the BOC gave new Probate Judge Christina Peterson before she was sworn in.

Godwin is part-time and at of the beginning of 2020 earned a salary of $33,747, according to county records. The finance committee recommended she get a salary increase of $29,147, taking her up to $62,894.

Jones noted that the coroner’s salary hasn’t increased since 2012.

In 2017, the BOC tabled a request by Godwin to increase her salary by 81% after only two months in office.

Godwin had originally asked for a $65,000 yearly salary in 2021, but the finance committee whittled it down to a little over $62,000 to stay within its budget limitation on revisited items to the general budget.

In mid-December, the BOC approved, by a 4-1 vote, the hiring of a replacement position of one deputy coroner and the hiring of three back-up support positions. Guider was the lone vote against the move.

Working with a $3 million limit for items on the revisited list, the finance committee decided to recommend giving Godwin the $29,147 salary increase, as well as purchasing four new vehicles for the coroner and moving her office from the old courthouse to Club Drive.

The finance committee also recommended purchasing 35 vehicles for the sheriff’s office.

Guider argued not to move the coroner’s salary request to the full BOC since it was a late item added. During a meeting earlier this month, the BOC removed a business item to write a non-binding Letter of Intent to lease or purchase 35 vehicles for the sheriff’s office after a lengthy debate over lack of funding.

“I want it to go on record that I’m against the salary increase,” said Guider, who serves as co-chairman of the finance committee. “It is important that we stick to our plan. We need to give priority to the list we had come up with.”

It was not immediately known when the BOC might take up the finance committee’s recommendations.

Hill looks to continue AMS success
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Austin Hill is hoping to finish one spot ahead of where he did last June at his home track at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

The Winston native had a runner-up finish, which was his best finish at the track he grew up racing legends cars and bandoleers on the quarter mile track inside AMS’ front-stretch.

He has two top-10 finishes at the 1.5-mile track in Hampton.

“I’m as excited as you can be to get back to Atlanta after how last year ended for us,” said Hill, an Alexander High graduate. “We had such a good long-run truck last year, and it unfortunately came down to a green-white-checkered finish. I’ve thought about that race quite a big, so it’d be awesome to get a win for United Rentals.”

The Fr8Auctions 200 will be held Saturday with a 2:30 p.m. start, which will be the first daytime race on the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.

Hill seems to be making a comeback in positioning himself for another playoff berth. He had his first top-5 finish of the season at Las Vegas Motor Speedway two weeks ago.

With the third-place finish in Las Vegas, Hill advance nine positions to 12th in the points standings.

A win would reserve a spot in the playoffs later this season.

“It would be awesome to get a win for United Rentals, Toyota, and all the guys at HRE at my home track,” Hill said.

Hill has a good track record at intermediate venues like the track at AMS.

Since his playoff victory at LVMS in September 2019, 15 races have been contested at tracks 1.366-1.5 miles in length.

In those 15 races, Hill has four wins, 10 top-three finishes and 11 top-five finishes.

“I love worn out racetracks and Atlanta is exactly that,” Hill said. “The surface is extremely abrasive, so tire management is always a big key there. We’ve been able to have really fast Tundras at those types of tracks over the past couple years. Hopefully we’ll be able to continue that on Saturday and lock ourselves in the playoffs with a win.”

City council adopts moratorium on discount stores
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The Douglasville City Council on Monday unanimously approved a 90-day moratorium on applications for small-box discount stores while conducting studies on the issue.

Small box discount stores Dollar General, Dollar Tree and Family Dollar are the biggest brands in the United States.

The stores have a combined total of 20 locations within the county, and five stores within the city limits of Douglasville.

The measure passed without any comments or debate among council members.

“I’m a little surprised there has been no further comment,” Councilman Mark Adams said before the vote.

The moratorium would expire on June 13, but will exclude any current projects that include a discount store.

According to the resolution adopted, current discount box stores will not be affected.

The resolution defined small-box discount stores as as being retail stores that sell convenience discount items, most for $10 or less. Such a store would be 12,000 square feet or smaller and wouldn’t include a pharmacy or gas pumps, effectively exempting convenience stores and major drug-store chains.

Prior to Monday’s meeting, Mayor Rochelle Robinson received a two-page letter from Dollar General executives in opposition of the moratorium.

“We write to express our position against a proposed moratorium on small box discount retailers,” Steve Brophy, vice president of Government Affairs wrote in a letter to the mayor. “We believe this measure would harm consumer choice and limits free enterprise, and we are disappointed that the City would look to limit our ability to serve your community.

“We believe targeted efforts at prohibiting our ability to open future stores and offer residents an affordable, convenient retail option is not in the best interest of the City and actually harms the residents who rely on us to help make ends meet and balance their budgets.”

According to the letter, Dollar General opened its first store in Douglasville in 1996.

While drafting the resolution, the council discovered that other cities and counties in the state have adopted small-box store ordinances. Stonecrest in DeKalb County and Stockbridge in Henry County have similar ordinances.

Also DeKalb County has placed a moratorium on new stores while studying their effects, according to documents related to the resolution.

Brophy called the consideration of a moratorium “puzzling” considering the current pandemic while supplies have been in demand.

“Our stores continue to play a significant and important role for customers who are looking for a convenient option to purchase essential goods, something that became more evident than ever during the recent (and ongoing) pandemic,” Brophy wrote. “During this time of national crisis, our customers — your constituents — have relied on Dollar General to remain open and to provide them with the items they need at affordable price.

“We and our employees take this responsibility of service very seriously, and we are proud to have remained open for our customers during these uncertain times. Our customer is at the center of everything we do, and we make store location decisions and product assortments based on what our customers need and want.”

Subadan hired as new county administrator; Current Albany city manager will take over in Douglas next month

The Douglas County Board of Commissioners voted at Tuesday’s regular meeting to hire Sharon D. Subadan as the new county administrator.

Subadan is currently the city manager in Albany and was a finalist for the city manager job in Augusta last fall, according to news reports. The Augusta job ultimately went to the other finalist, Odie Donald, the former South Fulton city manager.

“It’s just the right time,” Subadan told the Albany Herald on Wednesday. “I’ve had a great run here in Albany, but for everything, there is a season. This was one of those opportunities that I felt like I had to take.”

Subadan will replace former County Administrator Mark Teal, whose contract wasn’t renewed at the end of 2020.

Teal was county administrator for five years and prior to that worked 11 years as county engineer and director of development services.

The county administrator is charged with running the day-to-day business of the county government, including overseeing a general fund budget of $98.7 million.

Subadan will receive an annual base salary of $215,000, according to her contract, which was obtained by the Sentinel via an open records request.

The county will provide her with $2,500 in moving and relocation expenses.

She will also have the option of using a county vehicle or taking a $400 per pay period vehicle allowance, according to her contract.

Under retirement benefits, Subadan will be enrolled in the county’s pension plan system and will receive an amount equal to 10% of her salary in a “deferred compensation account,” which the contract notes will be a pro-rated $15,050 in 2021.

And she will get an increase each year that is at minimum the amount of the average cost of living adjustment the BOC provides for other county employees.

Subadan’s contract, like other contract employees at the county, runs through the end of the calendar year, when the BOC can choose whether or not to renew it.

Subadan successfully lobbied Albany for a pay increase to $200,000 a year in 2019, according to news reports.

Teal made $172,277 in his final year on the job in Douglas County, according to county records. Douglas County advertised the county administrator position at the end of 2020 with a salary range of $165,000-$200,000.

Subadan has been city manager in Albany since 2015 where she has served a population of close to 74,000 people with 1,174 employees and successfully managed a budget of $290.3 million.

One of Subadan’s staunchest allies on the Albany City Commission, Ward III Commissioner B.J. Fletcher, told the Albany Herald on Wednesday morning “Douglasville’s gain is definitely Albany’s loss.”

Subadan told the newspaper she planned to turn in her letter of resignation Thursday to the Albany City Commission and planned to be in Albany for a 30-day period before taking over in Douglas County.

Subadan is the Southwest District Regional Director for the Georgia City & County Managers Association (GCCMA) and serves on several Georgia Municipal Association committees, according to Douglas County spokesman Rick Martin. She brings a wealth of knowledge on finances having served as treasurer for the Albany Economic Development Commission and secretary/treasurer for the Albany Convention & Visitors Bureau, Martin said.

Subadan’s career in public service spans over 30 years, including stints with Miami-Dade County, Florida, Montgomery County, Maryland, Hillsborough County (Tampa), Florida, and Albany, Georgia.

Subadan graduated from Miami-Dade Community College with an associate’s degree in business with a 4.0 GPA, according to the City of Albany website. She earned her bachelor’s degree in human resources management from Trinity International University. She also has a master’s degree in public leadership from The George Washington University. She is a Certified Public Manager and a Lean Six-Sigma Black Belt “who is passionate about servant leadership in the public sector,” according to the Albany website.

Subadan and her husband Carl have three sons, two of whom live in the Atlanta metro area with their wives, and a 6-year old grandson.