Saturday, August 25, 2018

Oconee County To Hold Meeting To Discuss New Structure For Support Of Economic Development

***Follows Elimination Of Position***

Oconee County is holding a meeting at 9 a.m. on Monday to discuss the current governmental structure for promotion of economic development in the county and consider a new structure for the future.

County Administrator Justin Kirouac said he plans to present his recommendations to the Board of Commissioners, the Board of Education, the Industrial Development Authority, and members of the city councils of Bishop, Bogart, North High Shoals and Watkinsville.

Kirouac said he would not release details of his recommendation prior to the meeting on Monday since those invited to attend will not have heard the recommendation in advance.

The county eliminated its position of economic development director with the budget beginning on July 1 of this year.

Kirouac said he will “solicit questions and comments and receive direction as we move towards a different methodology” at the meeting at the Courthouse in Watkinsville.

Legal Notice

County Clerk Kathy Hayes sent out a legal notice regarding the economic development meeting on Monday afternoon.

Kirouac And Hayes, 8/7/2018

Kirouac told me of his plans for the meeting in an email message he sent me shortly after Hayes’ message went out.

I had asked for background on the meeting.

The resignation of J.R. Charles, the county’s former director of Economic Development, was announced at the May 14 meeting of the Industrial Development Authority.

Normally, the county’s economic development director has attended Authority meetings and worked closely with that group.

Charles had attended the April meeting of the Authority.

Chamber Agreement

The county also operates a Tourism Department, with its own director, who has responsibility for the county’s Welcome Center on Main Street in Watkinsville next door to the Courthouse.

At its July 3 meeting, the Board of Commissioners extended a Memorandum of Agreement with the Oconee County Chamber of Commerce for five years for the collection and expenditures of the county’s Hotel-Motel Tax, which funds a part of the tourism operation.

The Memorandum of Agreement specified an annual budget of $70,400, with $2,500 paid to the Chamber for an administrative fee.

At the Board of Commissioners meeting on June 26, when the Memorandum of Agreement was first discussed, County Administrator Kirouac said the “long-term plan ultimately will be likely to roll this into a convention visitors bureau.”

“It’s the worst, most complicated law you can imagine for a hotel/motel tax,” County Attorney Daniel Haygood said of the state law at that meeting. “This is one of the things you have to do.”

The president of the Chamber of Commerce, Courtney Bernardi, also sits on the Industrial Development Authority as an ex-officio member.

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