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A Conversation With JaNice Van Ness
JaNice Van Ness

The News sat down with Post 2 Commissioner JaNice Van Ness to ask her thoughts about some of the issues in discussion at the Board of Commissioners.

The News: There's been a lot of attention and energy along the lines of trash collection, addressing blight.

That all goes back to the home valuation committee that we have in place. Is the neighborhood stabilization money enough to get us where we need to be? Of course the answer is no. There ought to be other efforts, such as our Clean and Beautiful committee. Also some initiatives, even with littering. You notice in Rockdale County we don't have any littering signs that tell you the fine amount. There's just a lack of education on that issue all together. I'm hoping in the next couple months we'll push that higher on the agenda and send a positive message about keeping our community beautiful.

I had another meeting with trash collectors. There were a good number of senior citizens that were concerned their rates would be more than they needed. Some take their trash to the dump for a dollar a bag. Some are big into recycling and have such a small amount it wouldn't be fair to pay the full amount. I thought it had some merit. I also heard from people who want recycling, which they may not get in the county.

Through code enforcement we're trying to address some of the issues that started that conversation, the blight. Fieldstone view- we have three homes boarded up and not habitable. Between two of them, there's hundreds of bags of trash. They cannot (find the owners). They've had great trouble being responsive.

There could be some very valid reasons why these homes are not in tip top shape. If someone doesn't have the physical strength or resources, I feel like there are definitely churches that would step up.
It's time to take care of our own.


The News: (The discussion lately on) the ethics commission - is that because you've heard from constituents?

No, I don't think people talk about the ethics commission until there's an issue. Previously I didn't have support for moving the ethics ordinance forward.

Now we can maybe move the whole issue forward. The caveat has always been the one unusual request in there - the board appoints one person, the bar association appoints one, and the weird one is the homeowners and civic association appoints an employee to sit on it. There's really not a fair, equitable way to do that. We're looking for an option that would make it easier to select someone, not as bureaucratic.

The chairman did take it upon himself to appoint a task force that was never a collaborative buy-in. He picked people. Their recommendations were heard, but they made a recommendation that if someone makes an allegation that may not be true they are not fined. I think that spurs extra work for the committee and it allows people to throw things out there that may have no merit and damage the character of someone else, which is not my intent.

Channel 23 - that's another piece I'm working on. Trying to streamline the legislation I had brought to the board before, hopefully getting buy in from my fellow commissioners. That would be the previous legislation married with what the Chamber of Commerce present.

It would be an ordinance that would determine the use of channel 23 and the process if you'd like to have something aired on the TV. Channel 23 is not a primary function of government. To me it's secondary. It's a good tool for informing the community, but public safety is the primary role of what we do. The funding focus needs to stay on public safety.

The other segment I feel is strong that I bring to the table is business sense of operations. Even though that's not my responsibility, even on the legislative side you need to be aware of operations. This year for budgeting, I hope the collective group (is) going to bring the income, not just the expenses, and analyze those to find out what we need to grow for programming and what we need to cut for programs.

I think my relationship with (Finance Director) Roselyn Miller has been good and I think she's been a great asset to the citizens. She's been very responsive with information and timely. Sometimes I'll ask for something and within minutes she'll have it. I think that says a lot about the quality and standards she has set in that department.


The News: If you had a Christmas wishlist for the county, what would be on there?

Repave all the roads in the county in need of repair, address our storm water issues, have a (outdoor) community pool, a focus on our youth and teenagers for something positive for them to do. I would love to have a job training program. There are so many people who don't know how to start. We could collaborate with other partners.

A better focus on mental health services. Being healthy isn't just physically healthy - it's mentally healthy too. You save jail costs, the list goes on and on.