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Homegrown citizens' forum sees active participation
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In a surprise presentation, former Public Affairs Director Julie Mills was given a gift of appreciation from the Home Owners for Better Government.

The J.P. Carr center was filled to standing room only as more than 100 residents turned out Aug. 10 for the first citizens’ forum organized by the Home Owners for Better Government to look at in-home daycare regulations and the county’s financial status.

In the first half of the night, attendees heard about in-home day care regulations, insurance effects and special use permit process. In the second half, which saw fewer audience members, resident Sam Smiley went over information about the county’s financial status.

Resident Latrice Coombs pointed out that because of discrepancies in state and county regulations, county agencies often did not know about in-home daycare facilities that had registered with the state.

"Government is supposed to run by steps," she said. "But somewhere along the line, some of these things don’t get done and that’s where the problem comes in. These businesses can be located in your neighborhood and nobody would really know."

Rockdale has a much tougher definition of in-home daycare facilities than the state, explained Coombs. "It’s tough, but is it right?" she said. "According to the state, if you keep two children, then you don’t have to be regulated by the state. According to Rockdale County, it doesn’t matter how many you have. According to Rockdale County, you’re kind of in a business if DFACS pays you to keep more than two children but less than six in your home. They could actually even be your relatives, if you keep them on a regular basis."

"The special use permit is not there to penalize these people. It’s there for the protection of the children and to notify county officials that this place may have up to six children."

Sheriff Jeff Wigington, who attended in the audience, said that public safety agencies likewise did not know the locations of the in-home daycares until they were called in for an emergency. "We have no list that shows us where home daycares for adults or children are," he said.

State Farm insurance agent and guest speaker Scott Foster said that most insurance carriers do not provide liability coverage on home insurance if there are more than two children or adults who are being cared for in an in-home day care business.

Commissioners Oz Nesbitt and JaNice Van Ness were greeted with a round of applause when they pledged to vote against any changes that might do away with the special use permit for in-home daycares.

"I think we need to leave the special use permit in place as it is," said Nesbitt.

"I will continue to stand for the rights of property owners in this county and I will vote against this," Van Ness said.

In a surprise presentation, former Public Affairs Director Julie Mills was given a gift of appreciation from the HOFBG, "to express their sincere appreciation to you for 15 years of service and being a stellar example of what Rockdale County is all about," said Van Ness.

Organizer Don Meyer reminded audience members of the importance of being involved with local government.

"It’s hard to be on the board of commissioners or any elected official and know everything that’s going on and how it’s supposed to work. It’s your job, it’s my job to help them do their job better. You don’t lay the blame up, you lay the blame down."