Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Oconee County Chairman Davis Thwarted In Attempt To Control Slot on Reservoir Management Board

Board Follows Luke Lead

The Hard Labor Creek Regional Reservoir Management Board today turned aside an attempt by Oconee County Board of Commissioners Chairman Melvin Davis to gain control of one of the three Oconee County slots on the Management Board.

Oconee County Commissioner Jim Luke, who chairs the Management Board, said he did not think his fellow commissioners would support Davis' proposed change in the language of the intergovernmental agreement creating the Management Board.

With that, the Management Board voted unanimously to approve instead changes proposed by Board Attorney Chris Atkinson that modified the qualifications of alternates for each of the seven members of the Board.

The adopted change would allow both Oconee and Walton counties to appoint citizens as alternates. Current requirements for both counties are that alternates must be county employees or BOC members.

The changes endorsed by the Management Board leave in place the provision in the current intergovernmental agreement that allows Oconee County to appoint a citizen as a sitting member.

Davis’ proposal would have eliminated that possibility.

Luke Said He Received Proposal Today

Luke said he had gotten Davis’ proposal only at 8 or 9 o’clock this morning. He told me after the meeting he received the revision from Atkinson.

Atkinson just referred to the Davis document “as another subsequent draft” from Oconee County and expressed no opinion on it.

Davis proposed that the one of the three members on the Management Board from Oconee County “shall be the Chairman of the Oconee County Board of Commissioners or his/her Commissioner designee.”

The remaining two members, in Davis’ proposal, would be either members of the BOC or employees of the county. Davis proposed that the alternates be either employees of Oconee County or residents of the county.

The version, drafted by Atkinson and approved by the Management Board, said that alternates in both counties could be members of the BOC, employees of the county, or residents of the county.

The adopted document states that one of the voting Oconee County appointees must be a member of the Board of Commissioners and the other two can be BOC members, employees of the county, or citizens of the county. That is unchanged from the current language of the intergovernmental agreement.

In Walton County, the four siting members shall be the Chairman of the Walton County BOC, the Chairman of the Walton County Water and Sewer Authority, and two members of the Walton County Board of Commissioners. That remains unchanged from the current agreement

In both counties, the BOC makes the final appointments, except in the case of the two fixed Walton County positions.

Back To BOC

The document passed by the Management Board in its 1 p.m. meeting today at the Walton County government building in Monroe now goes to the Boards of Commissioners of the two counties for final action. Only those two bodies can modify the intergovernmental agreement between the two counties.

That document was created in 2007 when the two counties agreed to collaborate on the reservoir, being built in southeastern Walton County on the Hard Labor Creek tributary to the Apalachee River.

In the Management Board meeting today, Project Manager Jimmy Parker reported that he expected the paperwork for the $20 million loan the state is providing for the project to be signed by the end of the day today.

That money, plus another $12 million in loan money from the state, will be used to build the dam for the reservoir. Land acquisition, including of key parcels needed for the reservoir, remains underway, Parker said.

Parker said he expects the Board will be asking the state to complete paperwork on the second loan about this time next year.

Davis Proposal Followed Success

Davis, at the Oconee County BOC meeting last week, was successful in getting the other four commissioners to go along with his plan to replace former commissioner Chuck Horton on the Hard Labor Creek Management Board, though Horton could have continued to serve as a citizen.

Horton unsuccessfully challenged Davis for the chairmanship in the Republican primary last July, and Davis proposed that Horton be replaced on the Board by Utility Department Director Chris Thomas.

Davis proposed that newly elected Commissioner Mark Saxon serve as an understudy of Thomas and then replace Thomas as the voting member in six months.

The BOC went along with that proposal, and Thomas sat at the table today, along with Luke and County Administrative Officer Jeff Benko, as Oconee County representatives.

Saxon and the other two alternates, Director of Strategic and Long-Range Planning Wayne Provost and Public Works Director Emil Beshara, did not attend.

Davis Anticipated Appointment Change

At the meeting last week, Davis said he expected the BOC would revisit the Management Board appointments once the new language on qualifications has been adopted. If his proposed change is adopted by the full BOC, which remains a possibility, he can then appoint himself as a member of the Board.

The intergovernmental agreement between the two counties went through a number of iterations before it was adopted, and in one of the early versions the chairman of the Board of Commissioners was a member of what was then called an advisory committee.

The other commissioners would not go along with that requirement, and the language allowing for appointment of a member of the Commission as well as a citizen was the compromise.

Hank Huckaby, now chancellor of the University System of Georgia, was appointed to that first Management Board as a citizen representative. Horton was appointed to replace Huckaby when Huckaby became Chancellor.

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