Monday, September 27, 2010

Oconee County BOC to Discuss Recent State Proposal to Change How Counties Define Duties of Chair

Trader Joe's Also on Agenda

The Oconee County Board of Commissioners is scheduled to take up at its agenda-setting meeting tomorrow night a proposal that was pulled from the platform of the Association County Commissioners Georgia on Sept. 20 and that would make it harder for county governments to change the duties of the board chairman in the future.

Commissioner Chuck Horton asked that the item be placed on the agenda because “this has real strong implications not just to Oconee County but to every county in the state.”

Horton joined Oconee County commissioners John Daniell, Margaret Hale and Jim Luke in asking the Policy Council of ACCG to remove the proposal from it platform, and the Council did so.

In a paragraph headed “Home Rule: Changing Duties of the Chairman,” the proposed ACCG county platform said that the state legislature should pass legislation to stipulate that any changes to the duties of the chairman could not be made until a new chairman is elected, that one or more public hearings had to be held before the changes could take place, and that changes had to be approved by a vote of the citizenry that had been authorized by the state General Assembly.

The Oconee County BOC changed the county’s organizational chart in August of 2009 so that County Administrative Officer Alan Theriault and Budget Director Jeff Benko report to the full board, rather than only to Davis, as had been true in the past.

In the new chart, all other department heads report to Theriault, rather than to Davis.

The BOC had not approved the organizational chart that existed before the change, and it is not a part of the enabling legislation for the county.

Davis opposed the changes, which were approved unanimously by the other four members of the Commission.

ACCG President Lamar Paris and General County Government Policy Committee Chairman Roger Boatright will name a committee to further discuss the issue, and it could come up again in the future, according to Beth Brown, ACCG director of communications.

Horton (right) said he wants to talk about what happened and about the implication of the ACCG platform for the county.

Both The Oconee Enterprise and the Athens Banner-Herald have written about the Macon meeting, focusing on the disagreement of Daniell, Hale, Horton and Luke with the proposal.

Neither of the papers indicated exactly how the proposed change got into the draft of the ACCG County Platform.

Brown told me in a telephone conversation today that the proposed policy change came from the General County Government Committee of ACCG and was joined with recommendations from the five other committees to form the ACCG County Platform.

Oconee County Board of Commissioners Chairman is a member of the General County Government Committee.

Brown told me she didn’t know where within the committee the proposed change originated.

I sent Davis an email message at 10:40 this morning asking:

“Is it correct to say that you initiated the ACCG platform proposal on Home Rule that was subsequently pulled from the platform? That seems to be the assumption, and I wanted to give you the chance to clarify.”

Davis wrote me back at 6:40 this evening saying:

“Please give me a call in the next couple of days so we can discuss. I recently had a similar conversation with Erin from the ABH.”

Erin France was the author of the story today in the Banner-Herald about the ACCG proposal.

If Davis told her the answer to my question, she didn’t report it today.

Davis also is chairman of the Policy Council, though Brown sent me an email message saying that Davis “left the room during the discussion of the entire General County Government section” of the Platform.

Hale also is a member of the General County Government Committee, but she told me tonight she did not attend the last meeting of that group in Savannah in April and learned of the proposed change only just before the Sept. 20 Policy Council meeting in Macon.

The agenda for the meeting tomorrow night, which will begin at 7 p.m. at the county courthouse, contains a number of other interesting items.

The county is scheduled to take up an invitation from the Northeast Georgia Regional Commission that the county join with NEGRC to create a Local Agriculture Protection Guide.

NEGRC is looking for a single county from the 12-county region to serve as the pilot community for the project. NEGRC will select the county based on “demonstrated need for farmland protection, support of elected officials, and availability of staff to work with NEGRC.”

Oconee County has a farmland protection program and has set aside money in the current Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax to fund it.

County Strategic and Long-Range Planning Director Wayne Provost will lead the discussion of the NEGRC solicitation.

In addition, the BOC is scheduled to give first reading to a proposed County Commissioner Ethics Ordinance.

It also will discuss revised by-laws for the Keep Oconee County Beautiful Commission, which has asked the county to remove it from the Public Works Department and let it report directly to the BOC.

It also will review two in what has become a long list of alcohol license applications. One of those to be reviewed tomorrow night comes from AA Trading Group on Macon highway.

The other comes from Trader Joe’s on Epps Bridge parkway.

Part of the suspense for the latter is whether “Two Buck Chuck Wine” will be offered. Some Trader Joe’s stores around the country offer a bottle of Charles Shaw wine for as low as $1.99.

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