One of Columbia County’s last full-time government offices in Appling will soon be just another chapter of history in the historic county seat.
Interim Tax Commissioner Steve Adams announced this week that the satellite tax office in Appling – the one that for most of its existence served as the county’s main tax office – will close Friday, April 4.
After that date, taxpayers from Appling and the other communities in the western part of Columbia County will need to travel to Evans to attend to property tax and motor vehicle tax issues.
Adams said that he has been studying whether to close the office since he stepped in to fill the office vacated by Kay Allen earlier this month. Adams said keeping it open isn’t an efficient use of his department’s resources.
“It’s cost effective. It’s a no brainer,” he said.
County Administrator Scott Johnson said that Adams consulted with him before making the announcement to close the office. Johnson said it probably makes sense, but he would like to see some numbers quantifying the cost and savings.
“We respect then tax commissioner’s decision to staff his office, but we would like to see a cost comparison to show what the savings might be,” he said.
Adams said he didn’t have hard numbers ready, but the office doesn’t serve enough people to justify the expense of additional utilties, maintenance and other adminstrative costs.
He said having the satellite office requires daily trips for transferring money, which also raises security concerns for the small staff in Appling.
“That’s a very isolated area,” he said.
Adams said the four personnel in Appling will be moved to the Evans office where they will be able to serve more customers.
Jimmy McNair, 70, is one of those regular customers. He was surprised to learn the office will be closing when he dropped by to handle some business on Thursday.
McNair said he has lived his entire life on a 62-acre homestead on Louisville Road, but generally pays taxes in Appling to avoid the traffic in the Evans area.
“I could go either way, but I prefer to go to Appling”,” he said.
District 4 Commissioner Bill Morris said he’s heard from some of his constituents who weren’t happy about the closing, but he understood the reasoning behind it.
“I’m sure it will be an inconvenience to people that live out in Winfield and Appling,” he said. “But I can undertand if you want to try to run efficiently, you have to make these decisions.”
The only other county services that remain in Appling are connected to the courts.
The Probate Court office is still open five days a week, as is a sheriff’s sub-station.
The Clerk of Superior Court’s office in Appling is open only on Tuesdays.
Morris said after hearing about the tax office closure, he had hoped it could be delayed a while, perhaps until the end of the fiscal year.
“If I had a vote, I would want it to stay open, but
I don’t have a vote,” he said.