Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Hard Labor Creek Management Board Agrees To Consider Adding Citizens from Walton and Oconee Counties

Vacancies Exist

The Hard Labor Creek Management Board agreed today to resolve the issue of citizen representation on the Management Board by modifying the intergovernmental agreement Walton and Oconee counties signed in 2007.

No vote was taken, but Management Board members said they wanted to have the issue settled so the newly seated boards of commissioners in the two counties can make their appointments in January and have the option of including citizens. Project Manager Jimmy Parker said it was important to get the issue resolved since the Management Board will be busy reviewing bids and beginning the construction process on the reservoir in January.

The intergovernmental agreement stipulates that at least one of the three Oconee County voting members must be a member of the BOC and that the three alternates must be either members of the Board of Commissioners or employees of the county.

The chairman of the Walton County BOC and the chairman of the Walton County Water and Sewer Authority are members of the Management Board, and the other two members must be Walton County BOC members, as Management Board Attorney Chris Atkinson explained at the meeting today.

At present, all of Oconee County’s representatives are BOC members or county employees.

Oconee Replaced Citizen in 2011

On Oct. 11, 2011, the Oconee County Board of Commissioners replaced citizen representative Hank Huckaby, who resigned from the Management Board after being appointed chancellor of the University System of Georgia, with Commissioner Chuck Horton.

Commissioner Jim Luke has served on the Management Board since its founding, and Horton had been serving as his alternate.

The BOC last October also appointed then county Administrative Officer Alan Theriault to replace Horton as Luke’s alternate. Utility Department Director Chris Thomas, who has been Huckaby’s alternate, was appointed as Horton’s alternate.

Former county Finance Director Jeff Benko is the third voting delegate from Oconee County, but the BOC did not appoint an alternate for him. Theriault has been serving as Benko’s alternate.

The BOC extended the terms of all Oconee County representatives to Management Board to Dec. 31, 2013.

Luke had said at the time that he wanted to modify the intergovernmental agreement to allow a citizen to serve as an alternate, but nothing has been done to make that possible.

Oconee Has Three Openings

Benko, who replaced retiring Theriault as county administrative officer earlier this month, told the Management Board today that the county will have to replace Theriault and Horton, whose term on the BOC expires at the end of this year. And it still needs to name the third alternate.

Luke said today that there were citizens in the county who could bring expertise to the Management Board.

Kevin Little, chairman of the Walton County BOC and chairman of the HLC Management Board, said he also would like Walton County to have the flexibility of appointing a citizen as a member or as an alternate.

Current Walton County HLC Management Board member Vickie Gasaway, a member of the BOC, was defeated in the July 31 Republican primary by Timmy Shelnutt, Walton County Water and Sewer Authority Chairman and HLC Management Board member.

Shelnutt has no opposition on the November ballot and is expected to step down from the Water and Sewer Authority when he joins the BOC. Little said today Walton County will have two openings on the Management Board.

Little said today he wanted to considering have the possibility of appointing a Walton County citizen representative “because of the fact that gives us an opportunity as a Board of more people getting involved.”

Both boards of sommissioners will have to approve any changes to the intergovernmental agreement.

10 Parcels Acquired

In other action at the regular 1 p.m. meeting today, held at the Walton County Government Building, Project Manager Parker reported that 10 parcels were acquired in the last month for the reservoir at a cost of $3.95 million.

The 1,400-acre reservoir is to be built in southeastern Walton County on Hard Labor Creek, a tributary to the Apalachee River, and is designed to provide water to both Oconee and Walton counties.

The state is offering the two counties $32 million in loans to assist with construction of the dam, and Parker reported today that he expects to receive final loan documents for review on Oct. 8.

The two counties do not have enough money available to build the dam without additional borrowing.

Parker told the Management Board today that advertising for prequalification for firms wanting to bid on construction of the dam and clearing of the land is underway.

He also said he is going forward with the bidding for road relocation.

The Oconee County Board of Commissioners is scheduled to review and approve the loan agreement on Oct. 30 and Nov. 6, according to the schedule Parker presented to the Management Board today.

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