The Oconee County Board of Commissioners decided last night to advertise for a citizen to join the Hard Labor Creek Regional Reservoir Management Board, though it left unspecified how that advertisement would read and whether the citizen would be a voting or a nonvoting alternate member.
Commissioner Jim Luke indicated he preferred that the citizen be a nonvoting member, but Commissioner John Daniell said that the advertisement could leave open the possibility that the citizen be appointed as one of the county’s three voting members or as one of the three alternates.
Commission Chairman Melvin Davis said he sided with Luke and felt the advertisement at a minimum should specify whether the citizen would be a voting member or a nonvoting alternate.
In the end, the BOC left it to Davis and County Clerk Jane Greathouse to draft an advertisement and come back to the group for final approval.
The pair also will offer language for the advertisement which may stipulate that the citizen list expertise relevant to management of a reservoir project.
Intergovernmental Agreement Changed
Prior to the discussion, the Board last night approved a change in the intergovernmental agreement with Walton County that makes it possible for citizens to serve as alternates.
The 2007 agreement between the two counties specified that one of Oconee County’s three voting members had to be a commissioner but the other two could be citizens. All three of the alternates had to be commissioners or county employees.
Hank Huckaby served on the Management Board as a citizen representative from 2007 until 2011, when he became chancellor of the University System of Georgia. At that time, Commissioner Chuck Horton was appointed to replace Huckaby, leaving the Board with no citizen members.
Walton County appoints the other four members to the Management Board following its own set of procedures.
Davis Slate Approved on Feb. 12
Appointment of a citizen to the Management Board will require the BOC to set aside at least one of the appointments it made on Feb. 12 when the commissioners followed Chairman Davis’ lead and removed former commissioner Horton from the Management Board.
Horton left the Commission at the end of last year after unsuccessfully challenging Davis for the chairmanship. Horton could have continued to serve as a citizen representative under the terms of the intergovernmental agreement.
The BOC decided that newly elected BOC member Mark Saxon replace Horton on the Management Board, though Saxon will serve as an alternate for six months until he gains background on the project.
In the meantime, Chris Thomas, Utility Department director and a former alternate, is serving as the voting delegate.
The BOC named Public Works Director Emil Beshara and Strategic and Long-Range Planning Director Wayne Provost to fill two vacant alternate spots.
The Board also reappointed Commissioner Jim Luke and county Finance Director Jeff Benko as voting members of the Management Board and extended the terms for all six appointments to Dec. 31, 2014.
Somebody Will Lose Seat
If the BOC does select a citizen for the Management Board, it will have to unseat one of the members appointed on Feb. 12.
County Attorney Daniel Haygood told the BOC last night it had great liberty in how it advertises for and manages the appointments.
The BOC, and not the Management Board, has final fiscal responsibility for the Hard Labor Creek Reservoir project, Haygood told me after the meeting. So the BOC also has the ability to manage appointments to the Management Board within the parameters set by the intergovernmental agreement.
Davis Had Sought Bigger Change
Davis had proposed a more radical change in the intergovernmental agreement to give himself the ability to appointment himself or someone of his choosing to the Management Board, but the the Management Board, chaired by Commissioner Luke, refused at its meeting on Feb. 19 to go along with Davis’ initiative.
At the Feb. 26 BOC meeting, Commissioner Daniell had tried to get Davis to discuss the procedures he followed in getting his proposal before the Management Board though it had not been discussed by the BOC.
At the meeting on Feb. 19, Management Board Attorney Chris Atkinson referred to the proposal from Davis as “another subsequent draft that was sent us from Oconee.”
When I called Atkinson on Friday to get additional background on the document, he said he would not comment because of the attorney-client relationship he has with the Management Board.
I also had tried unsuccessfully to reach Davis and Haygood to learn who drafted the alternate document.
Davis told me in an email message yesterday that “After discussion with Kevin Little, BOC Chair in Walton County, I drafted a suggested intergovernmental agreement that addressed the Management Board Member appointment by both jurisdictions. Chairman Little agreed with the draft.”
Little is a member of the Management Board by virtue of his BOC Chairmanship in Walton County. He said at the Management Board meeting on Feb. 19 that he had spoken with Davis and that he would support either version.
Haygood told me last night he had played no role in creation of the document circulated by Davis.
Board To Revisit Bioscience
On Feb. 12, the BOC, again following Davis’ lead, also removed Horton from the Georgia Bioscience Joint Development Authority, though his term had not expired and he had been elected Authority chair last summer.
Oconee County in 2004 joined with Gwinett, Barrow and Clarke counties to form the Bioscience Joint Development Authority to develop the SR 316 corridor.
Haygood told me last night that the BOC will have to revisit those appointments in May, when the appointments improperly altered by the BOC on Feb. 19 officially will expire. The terms of appointment to that Authority are prescribed in the intergovernmental agreements signed by the four counties in setting up the body.
The Authority on its own has the ability to issue bonds for the purpose of furthering the corridor development, Haygood explained. The Authority was created in accordance with a state statute controlling such development authorities.