Tuesday, July 5, 2022
Tifton, Georgia
Tifton Grapevine
Jim Carter, Tift County manager, told the Tifton Rotary Club recently that all properties in the county will be revaluated in the next 18 months, starting in August or September.
Property values will go up,” he said. However, Carter said, the county will adjust the millage rate to create “a balancing effect.” 

The reassessment project will be completed for the tax year 2024. Tax assessment notices will be sent by July 1, 2024, including revaluated property values. The reassessment process will cost $685,000.

The county is contracting with Georgia Mass Appraisal Solutions & Services, with 15-20 appraisers in the county. They will visit each parcel and walk around and re-measure every structure. Appraiser vehicles will be clearly identified with GMASS signage. 

The revaluation is required because property owners must pay county taxes on 40% of the value of their property. The state allows the estimate to be about 36-44% of the property value, considering values change from year to year. However, the state reviews the correctness of county assessments once every three years and will impose fines if the properties are taxed below 36% of the property values.

Carter said that lately, as property values increase, the estimates have been creeping lower to 36% and below. 

To avoid fines, the county must get property appraisals closer to their current values. Every parcel in Tift County will be revaluated for a total of 19,256 parcels. 
Local Option Sales Tax (LOST) is required to be used to rollback property taxes. “For every LOST dollar we take in, property taxes must be reduced,” Carter said.
Tift County commissioners recently adopted the fiscal year 2023 budget with no millage increase. That means no tax increase for property owners this year. It is 11.861 mills.

The $68 million budget includes $30 million in the general fund. “Public Safety is the biggest part,” Carter said. 

Only one new employee position was added in the approved budget – a part-time constable in the magistrate court. The budget includes a 3% cost of living increase for employees. A 5% salary increase for all elected officials was mandated by the state Legislature. No capital expenditures are included in the general fund.
However, with American Rescue Plan funds, the county will be able to purchase two fire trucks for $1.2 million and two EMS vehicles for $522,000.

Carter said that almost half of the county’s revenue comes from property taxes. LOST income is 20.5% of the revenue. 

Planned improvements to Puckett Park at a cost of $200,000 will include the construction of two basketball courts, construction of two open-air pavilions, and installation of new playground equipment.

Drainage improvements to the Phillipsburg and Unionville areas will cost $3.3 million and will be funded by a Community Development Block Grant, SPLOST V, and American Rescue Plan Act funds.

A planned $5.5 million improvement to the E.B. Hamilton Park will provide renovation of the four baseball fields in a cloverleaf arrangement that has been there since the 1970s, demolition of the existing parking lot and construction of a new one, construction of a new detention pond, and the addition of semi-indoor batting cages and a pickle-ball court. The detention pond work requires permits from the Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Department, which may take some time, so “hopefully, we’ll be ready next year,” Carter said.

The Recreation Department swimming pool has been refurbished and is heated for use by the high school swimming team, the Rec Department and travel swimming teams, and the Tidal Waves Swim Team uses the pool in the summer. 

“There is currently more programming in the pool than in the past,” Carter said.
Col. Ralph Puckett Jr., far left, is presented with a key to the city and a street sign adding his name to Victory Drive by Tifton City Council. Next to Puckett, from left, are Col. Robert Choppa, Mayor Julie Smith, and City Councilmen Jack Folk, Lester Cromer, and Josh Reynolds.
Tifton Grapevine
Tifton kicked off the holiday weekend Friday by honoring a hometown hero and Medal of Honor recipient and celebrating the city's 150th birthday with a "Rock the Block" event with music, birthday cake, and fireworks.

Korean War hero Col. Ralph Puckett Jr., a Tifton native who lives in Columbus, was honored with a city ceremony at First United Methodist Church, receiving a key to the city and a street sign adding his name to Victory Drive. Mayor Julie B. Smith also proclaimed Friday as Col. Ralph Puckett Day in Tifton.

Puckett, 95, who received the Congressional Medal of Honor last year from President Biden, is an Army Ranger legend who served in both the Korean and Vietnam wars. He was cited for his efforts and bravery in Korea, where he was severely injured several times but refused to leave his men and continued to lead them even though the enemy outnumbered them 10-to-1.

During Friday's ceremony, Jody Redding from Gov. Brian P. Kemp's office and Congressman Austin Scott, R-Tifton, also spoke honoring Puckett. Scott presented him with an American flag that flew over the U.S. Capitol in his honor.

Col. Robert Choppa, an aide to Puckett, told the audience that "growing up in Tifton, Ralph learned right from wrong. ... Tifton paved a path for him."

Puckett's health kept him from talking extensively, so his son Thomas Puckett read a statement from his dad.

"When I drive into the City of Tifton or fly in, as I did today, I know I am home. It's as if I can breathe a little freer because I am in a familiar place," Puckett's statement read. "I was shaped by many experiences in my life, but it was my family, friends, and other adults in Tifton who helped me become the man I am today."

Puckett noted that his earliest playmate growing up was the late Charles Kent, a former Tift County Commission chairman, and his closest friend throughout his life was the late Charles Massey of Tifton.

Puckett did say a few words to the audience himself: "I'm proud of Tifton; I am home."
About 85 children from the Tiftarea YMCA child-care site at First Baptist Church line up to wave American flags at Col. Ralph Puckett on his drive from the airport Friday for a city ceremony. Among those in the group waving are Puckett's granddaughter Anna Dorman and his great grandchildren Caroline and Teddy Dorman. 
Tifton Mayor Julie Smith, left, behind a teleprompter, is sworn in as Georgia Municipal Association president by Tifton Superior Court Judge Melanie Cross.
Tifton Grapevine
Marking a first for the City of Tifton, Mayor Julie B. Smith has been sworn in as the 90th president of the Georgia Municipal Association (GMA).

Smith, also Tifton's first female mayor, assumed her statewide role during the cities association annual convention recently in Savannah. She was sworn in by Tifton Circuit Superior Court Judge Melanie Cross.

"This is a great honor for me personally and for the City of Tifton too," Smith told the convention.

She noted that Tift County Commissioner Melissa Hughes is also the current president of ACCG, the state counties association.

"Tifton's in the house, y’all; we're just going to let you know," Smith said. "Melissa and I look forward to serving our entire state through GMA and through ACCG, and I’m honored to have her in her role as I am in mine."

Smith told the representatives of cities across Georgia that "public service is a noble endeavor," and that "investments that cities make in housing, arts and culture, clean water, public safety, and economic and community development have significant and long-lasting effects on people's lives, health, and prosperity of the places that we call home."

To view a video that the GMA produced about Smith and Tifton, click the image below:
For Information, Click Here!
Staff Reports
A Tifton man who was working as a local bartender while brokering large amounts of methamphetamine and fentanyl from Los Angeles to Tifton, recently pleaded guilty to distribution, the U.S. Attorney's Office said Friday.

Edgar Fernando Neri, also known as Colocho, 21, of Tifton, pleaded guilty to distribution of methamphetamine before U.S. Senior District Judge Hugh Lawson on June 21.

Neri faces a maximum of 20 years of imprisonment to be followed by at least three years of supervised release and a maximum $1 million fine. Sentencing is scheduled Sept. 21.

“The defendant was attempting to move large amounts of methamphetamine and fentanyl into a small South-Central Georgia community; discussions of trafficking firearms, a rocket launcher, and body armor also occurred, further illustrating the violent criminal element surrounding the illegal distribution of drugs,” said U.S. Attorney Peter D. Leary.

Authorities said that “a large amount of illegal drugs was taken off the streets of South-Central Georgia."

“This defendant posed a clear and present danger to the Tifton community by dealing in dangerous drugs, including discussions of firearms trafficking,” said Robert J. Murphy, special agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration's (DEA) Atlanta Field Division.

“Thanks to collaborative partnerships between the DEA and its law enforcement partners, this defendant no longer poses a threat to Tifton and elsewhere.”
According to court documents, GBI agents developed a confidential source last August who had information regarding the distribution of methamphetamine in Tifton. The source had been purchasing from a local bartender known as "Colocho" who was wanting the source to buy larger amounts of drugs that would come from a source in Los Angeles.

During the course of the investigation, Neri discussed moving pounds of methamphetamine, multiple kilos of cocaine, as well as the purchase of body armor, rifles, a rocket launcher, and rockets with his supplier in California, authorities said.

Multiple controlled purchases of methamphetamine were made from Neri, who arranged for shipments of more meth and fentanyl pills, also referred to as “Percocet,” from the source. Packages containing three pounds of meth and 1,990 blue fentanyl pills were sent from Neri’s source in L.A. to Tifton during October. Neri was then taken into custody.

Neri is being held responsible for distributing 1,290.93 grams of methamphetamine based on the high level of purity of the meth involved and 1,990 pills containing fentanyl and weighing 205.92 grams.

The case was investigated by DEA, GBI, and the Tift County Sheriff’s Office, with assistance from the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.
Staff Reports
Southwell has appointed Troy Brooks as senior vice president and chief financial officer (CFO) for the healthcare system

Southwell includes Tift Regional Medical Center in Tifton, Southwell Medical and Southwell Health and Rehabilitation in Adel, and more than 35 outpatient centers and provider clinics throughout South-Central Georgia.

“As a member of the executive team, Troy will lead and support our financial operations. His responsibilities include budgeting, establishing fiscal policy, controlling margins and debt, and making recommendations to administration and our board about hospital assets and resources," said Christopher K. Dorman, Southwell's president/CEO

"Ultimately, he will develop and implement financial strategies to help improve the business performance of our system. Troy brings many years of experience in financial leadership, having served in CFO roles at Conway Regional Health System in Conway, Ark., and Piedmont Newton Hospital in Covington.”

Brooks has a master of business administration degree from Mercer University-Atlanta Campus and a bachelor of science in accounting from the University of South Alabama in Mobile. He is a member of the American College of Healthcare Executives and the Healthcare Financial Management Association.

“I am excited for the opportunity to work with such a growing, progressive institution,” said Brooks. “In addition to being the region’s healthcare leader, Southwell is an economic engine for the community.”
Literacy Volunteers of Tifton-Tift County is selling Hog-N-Bones Boston Butt tickets through July 20 to benefit literacy and the GED student transportation program.

Tickets are $35 and may be purchased from board members or from Cole’s Cakery, 137 Love Ave., Tifton. The tickets may be used through Sept. 17.

After purchasing your ticket, visit Hog-N-Bones on U.S. Highway 82 in Tifton, drive up to the pick-up parking spaces and call the restaurant. They may be redeemed any day the restaurant is open.

For information, call the Literacy office at 229-391-2527 or email tiftlv@gmail.com
These kittens are among those available for adoption today at the Tift County Animal Shelter. To adopt the kittens and to see other pets available, visit the shelter between 1-6 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, or call 229-382-PETS (7387).
Pets of the Week are sponsored by:
Branch's Veterinary Clinic
205 Belmont Ave., Tifton, 229-382-6055
~ JULY 4, 1922
News reports from July 1922, 100 years ago, noted that Tifton had celebrated Independence Day in a big way: Crowds were in attendance at the downtown July 4 parade, at the Tifton Concert Band's performance at the auditorium, at the city barbecue, at horse races, and at a baseball game at the ballpark. There also was "old-time singing" from the courthouse steps.
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