Posted: Monday, August 19th 2013 at 11:47pm
Federal mandate irritates Habersham officials
By Rob Moore Editor
CLARKESVILLE - An unfunded federal mandate drew fire from the Habersham County Commission Monday night.
The Federal Highway Administration is requiring updates to the reflectivity of all regulatory signs, such as stop signs, yield signs, and speed limit signs, and also requiring a suggested sign assessment and management method. That method would require the purchase of a retroreflectometer at a cost of almost $10,000.
The purchase of a retroreflectometer for use on signs along county roads initially was placed on the meeting's consent agenda, for which all items are included in a single vote.
Citing a desire to show taxpayers why the county has difficulty budgeting, Commissioner Andrea Harper asked that the item be placed on the regular agenda so it could be discussed in detail.
"We have not allowed for this in our budget," Harper said, clearly aggravated that the county learned of the mandate - which has a June 2014 deadline - after struggling to pass a balanced budget for the upcoming year.
"This, to me, appears to be kind of like Obamacare," Commissioner Sonny James said.
Officials said Habersham County has approximately 5,000 signs in its inventory, 1,000 of which are stop signs.
Public Works Director Derick Canup said the average cost to replace a stop sign is around $35.
Responding to a question from Commissioner Ed Nichols, Canup and Gary Crocker of the county road department said many smaller towns are replacing all their regulatory signs because that is cheaper than buying the $10,000 piece of evaluation equipment.
Following the meeting, Habersham County Commission Chairman Chad Henderson admitted that during the meeting he got on a soapbox about the federal mandate.
"I feel like the federal government has better things to do than to worry about our signs, which we're already replacing as needed in this county," Henderson said. "They don't even know how to pass a budget in Washington, and they're telling us what we need to be doing about signs in Habersham County."
Commissioners noted the limited availability of the devices, from only a few manufacturers.
"Somebody's getting really rich off of making somebody go around and point a gun at a sign and tell them whether it's reflective enough or not," Henderson said.
Henderson noted the county already has a program in place to evaluate its signs and replace them as needed.
"Just not a lot of patience for that kind of bureaucracy and that kind of thing that we get passed down to us," Henderson said. "They're very happy to tell us what we have to do, but they don't want to give us one penny to do it with, so it falls on the backs of Habersham Countians."
Similarly, James expressed his irritation at the federal mandate.
"I wonder what happened to common sense in this state and in this country, because we apparently don't have very much of it," James said.
The commission voted unanimously to table the matter, agreeing to talk to other city and county leaders in the area then discuss it again during its September meeting.
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