The Oconee County Board of Commissioners earlier this year adopted a list of 22 goals for county government in 2017, ranging from immediate creation of an electronic records and filing system to development of a rails-to-trials program at some point in the future.
The Commission adopted the goals following a series of work sessions called after new Chair John Daniell replaced long-time Chair Melvin Davis in January.
On Thursday of this week, citizens will get a chance to react to the list or add their own concerns in the second Town Hall style meeting the Commission has held since the first of the year.
Daniell said the topics discussed will be determined by those who turn out at the meeting, scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. at the Oconee County Civic Center, 2661 Hog Mountain Road, west of Butler’s Crossing.
The Commission adopted the list of 22 goals at a brief meeting held on Feb. 14 at the Community Center in Veterans Park.
It is unlikely citizens will have much familiarity with the list itself, since the audience at the Feb. 14 session mostly was made up of county staff.
The commissioners did approve minutes of the Feb. 14 meeting at their meeting on March 7, and those minutes are available on the county web site.
Penny Mills attended the Feb. 14 meeting and made a video recording, and that video is embedded at the bottom of this post.
Goals Mostly Operational
Most of the goals on the list approved call for changes in the ways departments in the county function. The changes would not be visible to most citizens.
The electronic filing system is an example.
Daniell said there was considerable interest in every department in the county in an electronic filing and record keeping system, and the same was true with the offices of the Constitutional Officers, such as the Sheriff and the Tax Commissioner.
“This will be one of our top priorities for the next year,” Daniell said.
Another, related goal is increasing public online access to county records.
Daniell said there is a “lot of interest” on the part of the public in converting railroad right-of-way to bike and walking trails. Daniell called that “a very long-term goal” but said “We’re going to keep it on there and look at it as we go.”
The Commissioners approved development of a new seal, maybe through a contest, as another of the 22 goals.
The list also included exploration of the best way to do a county-wide transportation plan.
The Commission also agreed to explore ways to build a new Civic Center and to try to get a handle on county space needs.
In addition, Daniell said “I’d like us to task the IDA (Industrial Development Authority) for coming up with an overall plan to present to us to look at what’s the best process for us to go forward with economic development.”
Daniell presented the list to the Commission following work sessions on Jan. 6, Jan. 10, Jan. 18, Jan. 26 and Jan. 27.
Videos of all of those meetings are available on the Board of Commissioners Vimeo Channel for Oconee County Observations.
Mills, Sarah Bell and I recorded those sessions for the Channel, with Mills and Bell doing the bulk of the recording.
All of the meetings were open to the public, but citizens were not given the opportunity to participate in the discussion.
Daniell also hosted a staff retreat on Jan. 19 and 20 at the Evergreen Marriott Conference Resort at Stone Mountain.
Daniell called the meeting an effort at “team building.”
Former County Administrative Officer Alan Theriault, current Administrative Officer Jeff Benko, and County Attorney Daniell Haygood joined Daniell and 16 department heads at the sessions. (Benko’s title has been changed to County Administrator.)
Daniell had told me the cost would run about $12,000 for the retreat, and the final bill from the Marriott, which Daniell forwarded to me, was for $11,637.
The county paid Haygood $500 for his participation, according to Daniell. Haygood was only at the Friday session.
Rails-to-Trails had been one of the items on the discussion list at the retreat.
Town Hall Meeting
Daniell had promised before he assumed office to take steps to open county government up to increased citizen input, and the Town Hall Meeting scheduled for Thursday night will be the second this year.
Thirty-five people turned out for the first Town Hall Meeting on Jan. 10.
Daniell, in announcing the second Town Hall at the BOC meeting last week, said the topics to be discussed will be up to the citizens.
“If you want to talk about animal control, you want to talk about roads, or whatever is important to you, come on out,” Daniell said.
Restrictions On Comment
Daniell has placed restrictions on public comment at regular Board of Commissioners meeting.
While citizens are given a chance to speak at the beginning of agenda-setting or regular meetings, they cannot comment on issues that are on the agenda for the meeting itself.
Daniell allows citizens to comment on agenda items when they come up and only if the Commission decides to take action.
The agenda for the March 28 agenda-setting meeting, for example, listed discussion of a new door-to-door solicitation ordinance and changes in the age requirements in the county’s existing alcohol ordinance.
Final Action Next Month
Citizens were not allowed to comment on those topics either at the beginning of the meeting or when the commissioners discussed the ordinances with County Attorney Haygood.
Haygood brought completed versions of both ordinances to the Commission at the meeting on April 4 for initial Commission approval.
Only at that time did citizens get a chance to comment.
Final action won’t be taken on the ordinances until next month, so they could be topics of conversation at the Town Hall Meeting on Thursday.
The Feb. 14 meeting, as noted above, took place at the Community Center in Veterans Park.
Daniell read through his list of 22 county government goals, making brief comments about each.
The Board of Commissioners adopted the list with little discussion.
The complete video of the session is below. No one has written about the meeting before this post.