Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Oconee Commissioners Want More Budget Involvement

Smiling is a Nice Thing

The Oconee County Board of Commissioners tonight decided to move forward with its scheduled budget submittal plans for fiscal year 2010 but with a higher level of involvement of the commissioners compared with the past.

The Board approved a motion to accept the submittal plan given it by Finance Director Jeff Benko with the stipulation that the commissioners could join in the discussions as they progressed.

Benko meets with the department heads as well as with the constitutional officers such as the sheriff to discuss budget requests in the process of preparing the county’s budget.

Commissioner John Daniell, who just joined the Board last month, initially suggested a more formal procedure in which the commission would create committees made up of at least two commission members to help develop the budget.

He made that request after being told at the Jan. 27 BOC meeting by Board Chairman Melvin Davis that the Board does not have a committee that deals with finances. "Mr. Benko, Mr. Theriault and myself" handle that, Davis said. Theriault is the county administrative officer.

Control over county affairs has been an ongoing issue with the Board. Davis chairs the commission but he also is the full-time administrator of the county. The other four commissioners serve in part-time positions.

Commissioner Chuck Horton said he favored more involvement of the commissioners in the budget, but he said he was not interested in getting involved in the day-to-day running of the county.

Chairman Davis only smiled at the comment.

In other action tonight, the Board approved a request by state Representative Robert Smith for a change in his plans for development of 12 acres of land in Porter Creek subdivision off Barnett Shoals road outside Watkinsville.

Smith developed the subdivision on part of what he said was the family farm. He came before the Board to ask for a change in his concept plan for the subdivision so he could split the 12 acres into six lots.

Three residents of the subdivision spoke against the change at the meeting, claiming that it would produce lots not of the same character as the others in the subdivision. After similar protests at the Planning Commission on Jan. 20, that body recommended against the change Smith was proposing.

Smith offered the BOC a different configuration for the development, reducing the number of lots from six to five. The Board approved that change.

Commissioner Horton spoke against the switch in the plans and was alone in voting against it, saying that he did not feel it was appropriate to approve a change that was offered at the last minute and was not formally part of the request.

County Attorney Daniel Haygood reminder the Board that it had done the same thing on Jan. 6 when it rezoned property on U.S. 441 for an office park with a concept plan when the developer had asked for a shopping center.

Horton made the motion to make the swap in zoning that night.