Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Oconee County Commissioners Delay Until Next Week Final Decision On Mars Hill Overlay And On Animal Control Documents

Pay Back-And-Forth

The proposed Mars Hill Road Overlay District survived one more week.

Oconee County seems likely to get a new web site, at a cost of just less than $40,000, and to spend $52,000 for a study of water and sewer rates.

Commissioners last night moved forward with consideration of a change in sewer policy that would allocate capacity to residential use for the first time since 2008.

They also put on the agenda for discussion next week changes in the resolution defining the Animal Control Advisory Board and that group’s bylaws even though citizens opposed the documents and the county staff had recommended against them.

Commission Chairman Melvin Davis, who has said he plans to retire, and Commissioner John Daniell, who has said he will seek the chair position in the May primary, spent 36 minutes in a back-and-forth over staff pay near the end of last night’s meeting.

Davis wanted to pin on Daniell the charge that the pay plan Daniell designed and the BOC approved in January is not working. The discussion ended where it started, and Davis said he’ll bring it up again next week.

Further evidence of the election season came earlier in the day, as Mark Thomas, a member of the Board of Education, announced that he plans to resign from the BOE and seek Post 1 on the BOC, being vacated by retiring Commissioner Jim Luke.

Animal Control

Gail Wiley, vice chair of the Animal Control Advisory Board, reported to the Commissioners at their meeting last night on the proposed changes in the resolution setting up the Advisory Board and in the group’s bylaws.

The six-member Board had agreed to the changes in the two documents over the objection of Advisory Board member Helen Fosgate and against the recommendation of Animal Control Director Catlyn Vickers at its meeting on Feb. 10.

County Administrative Officer Jeff Benko even had reminded the Advisory Board that the BOC sets policy and he administers it.

Still the majority of the Advisory Board inserted a statement into the resolution that a duty of the Advisory board is “To provide general policy oversight to the Animal Control Programs.”

Table Action

Wendy Jackson, 1050 Campbellton Place off Simonton Bridge Road, told the commissioners that they should impose a two-term limit on appointments to the Advisory Board to “bring fresh focus and direction” to the group.

Jackson is special events coordinator for the Oconee County Animal Shelter and was an unsuccessful applicant for the Animal Control Advisory Board in Spring of last year.

Oconee County Animal Control Director Vickers had requested the two-term limit, but the Advisory Board rejected Vickers’ request for the change.

Maria Caudill, a former member of the Animal Control Advisory Board, said the behavior of the existing Advisory Board is “embarrassing.” She recommended the Commissioners table action on the revisions.

I told the Commissioners that the documents presented to them by Wiley were not the ones recommended by the county staff.

Board Response

Board Member Janet Calpin defended the insertion of the lines in the resolution on policy and criticized the Animal Control Department staff for developing a foster program without telling the Advisory Board.

“Why have an advisory board at all if we are not there to advise?” she said.

“There has been a good bit of contention,” Board Member Claire Hamilton said. “I find it quite disappointing, this being my first year on the Board.”

“Maybe if we have a little bit more adult conversations, that would help,” she said.

Chairman Davis stepped in at the end, defending the decisions made by the BOC in appointing members to the Animal Control Advisory Board and thanking the members of the Advisory Board for their work, as shown in the video below.

OCO: Davis On Appointments from Lee Becker on Vimeo

The issue will be back on the agenda on March 1.

Close To Script

Most of the meeting last night followed expectation, with the Board supporting the request of Paula Nedza, Information Technology director, for a redesign of the county web site and of Utility Department Director Wayne Haynie for the rate study and the change in sewer policy.

The county will spend $38,922 for the web design, taking the money from the county’s General Fund as an unbudgeted item, and $52,000 for the rate study, with that money coming from the operating budget of the Utility Department.

The county agreed to sell $4,285,000 in bonds to finance construction of Parkway Boulevard Extension, the entranceway to an expanded Epps Bridge Centre on the Oconee Connector.

The bonds will run for 10 years and can be paid off in advance without penalty.

Included in the money is abut $200,000 for beautification of Mars Hill Road once construction is completed and of Parkway Boulevard Extension itself.

Mars Hill Road

County Consultant Bill Ross laid out for the commissioners changes he had made in the ordinance to support the Mars Hill Road Overlay District, saying he had responded to a number of requests and produced a more streamlined set of procedures in the end.

Commissioner Jim Luke said the document still represented more than he is willing to support.

Luke said he thought the overlay was mostly going to deal with signage and parking lot interconnections.

Instead, he said, the document goes too far for his taste in the direction of actual zoning.

That issue will come up again next week as well, and Luke said he felt it was unlikely his position was going to change during that period.

Term Issue

Board of Education member Thomas told me yesterday that he plans to qualify for the Board of Commissioners for the May 24 Republican primary on March 8.

Thomas will be able to participate in the BOE meeting on March 7, but he cannot continue to serve in that capacity once he qualifies for the BOC slot.

While state law allows a local school district to hold an election to fill vacancies, local legislation approved by the General Assembly in 1964 specific to Oconee County supersedes the state law.

The 1964 legislation states that vacancies on the Oconee County BOE are filled by appointment by members of the Board.

BOC Election

If Commissioner Daniell qualifies before the noon, March 11, deadline, he must resign his current Commission Post.

A special election will need to be held in November to fill that spot.

No one else has announced an intent to run for commission chair. Davis can change his mind and requalify for his spot until noon on March 11.

Commissioner Mark Saxon told me earlier this month he plans to seek reelection.

Video Of Animal Control

The full discussion by the Board of Commissioners of the Animal Control Board resolutions and bylaws is below.

The clip above of Davis’ comments is taken from this larger video.

OCO: BOC On Animal Control from Lee Becker on Vimeo

No comments: