Commissioners hear from public, vote to file petition with FCC for move to Atlanta TV market

By Linton Johnson

The Elbert County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously Monday to file a petition with the Federal Communications Commission to move Elbert County from the Greenville/Spartanburg/Asheville television market to the Atlanta market.

The action was taken after a public hearing in which seven out of eight Elbert County residents who addressed the commissioners spoke in favor of moving to the Atlanta market. Most cited their preference for receiving local TV news focused on Georgia government and politics, as well as sports programming, as opposed to that from South Carolina and North Carolina – including the first speaker, Marie Oglesby.

“The news we get out of Spartanburg and Greenville is about South Carolina politics,” she said. “For example, what the South Carolina governor and the South Carolina legislature are doing, street interviews with South Carolina residents about who they’re going to vote for and debates by the South Carolina candidates for office. There is nothing about candidates who are running for office in Georgia. I can’t vote in South Carolina, so why in the world would I want to know about their government?”

The only speaker in favor of Elbert County remaining in the Greenville/Spartanburg/Asheville market, current Chamber of Commerce Chairman Mat Hunt, said local weather forecasts on the Carolina news stations better serve Elbert County than do their Atlanta counterparts.

”I can tell you that Elbert County’s weather is monitored and interpreted out of the National Weather Service facility at GSP Airport in Greer, not Peachtree City where Atlanta gets theirs,” Hunt said. “Since weather patterns mostly come through Atlanta heading this way, once a system has gone through Atlanta, it’s less important to the Atlanta stations.”

Elbert, Franklin, Hart and Stephens counties are the counties on the Georgia-South Carolina border which are in the Carolina TV market. Elbert County Attorney Bill Daughtry said petitioning to the FCC is only the first step in the process.

”There’s a chance that we could be denied, but I know that Rep. (Doug) Collins has been in touch with the FCC, and he’s gotten Georgia’s entire congressional delegation to recommend this, so we are hopeful,” Daughtry said. “But this is not going to be instantaneous. There’s a lot of work that goes into it.”

In other business Monday, the commissioners voted to approve an intergovernmental agreement with the Elbert County Board of Education to provide sheriff’s deputies to serve as resource officers in each local school for the 2018-2019 school year. The number of officers was increased from one to five during the latter part of the recently completed school year amid the national focus on school safety issues.

The commissioners decided to seek additional bids for transportation and disposal of solid waste from the county’s transfer site. Commissioner Chris Alexander recommended opening the bid process for the annual expenditure, which County Finance Officer Phil Pitts estimated at $280,000, with less than three weeks before the current contract ends.

The board did renew its agreement with the Northern Judicial Circuit Public Defender’s Office for indigent defense services at a $2,000 increase over last year, and approved a separate renewal with Elbert County State Court Public Defender Matt Easom at the same cost as last year.

The commissioners also approved a bid of $9,800 to replace the rotating beacon at the Elbert County Airport. Ninety percent of that funding will come from a federal grant.

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