Valley Grande prepares for election

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Rumors and accusations tend to run rampant as Election Day nears, and even the sleepy community of Valley Grande is not immune to backbiting politics.

The city’s two mayor candidates, Tom Lee and Ken Melton, spent the past couple of weeks explaining their platforms and clearing up rumors about their goals for Valley Grande.

Lee, a current Valley Grande city council member, says he has heard rumors that he is proposing the city take control of Valley Grande Elementary and William R. Martin Middle School.

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“State law requires that a city needs a minimum population of 5,000 in order to have its own school system,” Lee said. “There are 3,600 people living in Valley Grande. The only way we could even afford to create a new school system would be to have a three-percent property tax increase. I don’t intend to raise taxes at all.”

Lee said taking over the two schools would be inconceivable in Valley Grande’s near future and no such proposal had ever been introduced to the council.

In an interview for the Valley Grande Voice , Melton said he also heard rumors about the city creating its own school system but didn’t think it would be feasible.

“We don’t have the money to support it,” Melton said. “The only thing the council can do is support the schools by giving them money and our support.”

Another rumor Lee has been trying to clear up is one about the Valley Grande council illegally requiring business permits and verifying contractor licenses.

“The city is not doing this illegally,” Lee said. “The permits are a state requirement. It is a safety issue that buildings are up to state code. In the past, people could build in Valley Grande without permits and unexpected. Now that they have to do the work correctly, people are complaining.”

Throughout this election, candidates have also been fielding complaints from Summerfield and Ocmulgee residents who feel the Valley Grande council is ignoring them.

“I talked to over 100 residents of those areas who said they are pleased with what the council has or hasn’t done,” Lee said. “The council made contributions to the Summerfield Volunteer Fire Department even through it is not officially part of Valley Grande because we knew they serve our citizens. We are already trying to work with the golf course to promote that area. We are ensuring the safety of all our citizens and maintaining the status quo.”

Melton, a Summerfield resident, says he wants to bring together the three communities that make up Valley Grande and create a better place to live.

“I decided to run because I felt like there needed to be some representation on the council from the Summerfield and Ocmulgee areas,” Melton said. “My intent is to create a community effort to make this a better community. I would be able to take a more neutral position in issues surrounding both Valley Grande and Summerfield.”

With no financial ties to the city, Melton says he can make better decisions about zoning without having to worry about personal gain.

The Valley Grande elections take place today from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Valley Grade Community Center.