Sunday, November 29, 2009

Citizen Committee Gives Report on Courthouse, Mitigation to Oconee BOC

Details to Follow

The Oconee County Board of Commissioners received a report last Tuesday from its Land Use and Transportation Planning Committee that included a summary of committee discussions on the future of the courthouse and the committee's recommendation regarding a resolution on stream and wetland mitigation, but it took no action in response to the report.

Abe Abouhamdan, chairman of the citizen advisory committee, said "right now, we’re formulating questions" to ask officials in other counties that recently have constructed new court and administrative facilities in their counties to learn from their experiences.

He said he expected to make a report to the board in the "next few months" about recommendations from the committee on how the county should handle expected increased space needs for both court and administrative activities now housed in the courthouse.
He also reported at the Nov. 24 meeting that the committee did not endorse a resolution originally submitted to the BOC but referred to Abouhamdan’s committee for review that would put the county on record with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as favoring mitigation within the county when streams and wetlands in the county are piped, filled or otherwise damaged for development and other purposes.

Abouhamdan said his committee had a "pretty lively discussion" of the resolution at its Nov. 10 meeting but "did not endorse the resolution for several reasons." He did not elaborate, but he said the commissioners would get the minutes summarizing the discussion "in good time."

He said the vote was 9-2 against endorsing the resolution. The committee has 14 members.

In April, I introduced the resolution, which was written by Katie Sheehan, a staff attorney in the Odum School of Ecology's River Basin Center at the University of Georgia, to the Board of Commissioners. I could not attend the Nov. 10 meeting, but Sheehan did.

The committee, according to Abouhamdan, also earlier this year discussed the regulation of bicycles on Oconee County roads, but he said the committee only wanted to continue that discussion "if this board wanted us as a committee to look at it and study it further."

The citizen committee during the past year also had looked at a number of intersections in the county, including where SR 15 intersects with US 441 east of Watkinsville, and was continuing its review of traffic problems in the county.

The committee has asked the Georgia Department of Transportation to look at the SR 15 and US 441 intersection to see what improvements could be made, Abouhamdan said.

BOC Chairman Melvin Davis, in introducing Abouhamdan, said he asked the committee to give its report since "one of the requests from the board is periodic reports from committees."

Members of the commission made the request following passage of an ordinance this summer to change the organizational chart of the county to give the full board more control over administration of the county.

The report by Abouhamdan produced little response from board members. Commissioner Chuck Horton said he might have additional questions of Abouhamdan once he reads the minutes of the discussion of the mitigation resolution.

Commissioner Jim Luke asked if the committee had a priority list in terms of intersections that needed to be improved. Abouhamdan said the Rocky Branch road and Mars Hill road intersection is a high priority.

In other action at the Tuesday night meeting, county Finance Director Jeff Benko gave his summary of the first three months of the 2009-2010 fiscal year.

"We’re staying on track with revenues we projected and, more importantly, the expenditures are coming in under budget," Benko said.

As an example, according to Benko, the Utility Department collected 29 percent of its projected revenue in the first quarter of the year and spent only 19 percent of its budget.

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