3. LOST/ SPLOST/ T-SPLOST: The last year of Ashley Paulk’s tenure as Lowndes County Commission chairman was a contentious one with the City of Valdosta, as city officials refused to accept the county’s offer to keep the percentages the same for the split of the Local Option Sales Tax, a one penny tax that does not have to be voted on by residents, but must have the signatures and agreement of all of the municipalities and the county in order to continue to be collected every five years. The issue is now in the court system.
Citizens did have to choose whether or not to support two other penny taxes this year, the SPLOST and the
T-SPLOST. The Transportation SPLOST was an ill-advised gamble on the part of the Georgia General Assembly, creating large regions and forcing communities to vie for what little funding the Department of Transportation was making available. With little support from elected officials and a strong opposition organized by the state’s Tea Party, the tax was defeated in most of the state in the July primary election.
In November, a weary citizenry voted down the renewal of the Valdosta-Lowndes County SPLOST tax, which would have taken effect on Jan. 1, 2014. Despite several high-profile projects, citizens said they were tired of hearing elected officials fight over their tax dollars, and voted not to renew the one cent tax. Officials have not yet decided whether to pursue having the issue on the ballot in November 2013.
4. Prison violence: Following a tumultuous couple of years at the Valdosta State Prison, with numerous stabbings and acts of violence, two gang-related events in July brought the issue to a head.
On July 4, at least 10 inmates were transported to the emergency room at South Georgia Medical Center suffering from stab wounds and other injuries. A gang fight reportedly broke out in one of the common areas involving more than a dozen inmates. A few days later, several more inmates were involved in a similar altercation and had to be transported to the ER.
Less than a month later, Warden William Danforth was among several wardens reassigned by the state Department of Corrections. State officials said his transfer was not related to the violence at the prison.
In November, for the first time in several years, The Times was allowed back into the prison to cover a story, this time an uplifting tale of inmates and the Malachi Dads, an organization that works behind the prison walls to teach these men how to be fathers to their children.