At the Board of Commissioners meeting last week, Chair John Daniell announced that the next Town Hall Meeting will be June 23, possibly at Malcom Bridge Middle School, where there will be a chance to discuss ongoing and proposed road improvements at the school complex.
At the end of the week, however, Daniell said in an email message that “We are still finalizing the details of the Town Hall scheduled for June 23rd. We hope to have everything nailed down next week.”
Daniell did not offer any explanation for the breakdown in negotiations with the Board of Education over the meeting and its location.
He did say that “Tom (Odom, Board of Education chair) and I will be discussing a joint meeting of the two boards over the next few months. Any joint meeting of the two boards will likely occur early next year.”
The Board of Education and the Board of Commissioners have been in conflict over road changes–and roundabouts in particular--in front of Malcom Bridge Middle School for nearly two years, but the two Boards have never met in public to discuss the issue or a range of others dividing the two Boards.
State law requires the two Boards to hold any such meetings in public.
In other action at its regular meeting last week, the Board of Commissioners heard the county’s four mayors list projects they would like to have included on the 2021 Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax referendum being planned for the Nov. 3 ballot.
Watkinsville Mayor Bob Smith said he wants the city and county to consider building a parking garage and to work together to keep the library and county administrative offices downtown.
Back in March, Daniell registered as a citizen speaker to address the Board of Education and proposed that the two Boards meet in three Town Hall meetings on May 28, Aug. 27, and Jan. 28 of 2021 and said he had reserved the Civic Center for the first of those meetings.
Board Member Tim Burgess asked Daniell if he would consider a separate meeting on the road projects on Malcom Bridge Road, and Daniell said “possibly” but cited the elections and a series of upcoming meetings on budgets and SPLOST as limitations.
Board Member Wayne Bagley also said he wanted a separate meeting, and Superintendent Jason Branch asked the Board members if they wanted him to set up a separate meeting between the commissioners and the public regarding the Malcom Bridge Road improvements.
The Board members asked Branch to do that.
In May, at the instigation of Chair Odom, the Board of Education turned down Daniell’s request for the joint Town Hall meetings, proposing instead that the two Board meet in a training session organized by the Carl Vison Institute of Government at the University of Georgia.
Announcement At Meeting
At the beginning of the Board of Commissioners meeting on June 2, Daniell made the announcement of the 6 p.m. called meeting of the Board of Commissioners on June 16 for a public hearing on the Fiscal Year 2021 budget and of the Town Hall meeting on June 23.
Daniell was upbeat about the June 23 meeting, saying the main subject will be the “Malcom Bridge Road improvements,” though citizens are free to bring up other topics.
The meeting will allow for in-person as well as virtual attendance, he said.
“The Board of Commission and Board of Education staff will be working on details,” Daniell said. “We’re hoping to have it at Malcom Bridge Middle School.
“We don’t have that finalized yet,” he said. “We’ll be sending out additional information, but the Board of Education will help us in promotion of the meeting.”
In email message to me after the meeting and on Friday, Daniell indicated that those plans did not work out.
County Administrator Justin Kirouac introduced the SPLOST presentations by the four mayors by saying that the county will receive 85.99 percent of the projected $64.7 million SPLOST 2021 revenue ($55.6 million), based on estimates of the proportion of the population in the county outside the four cities.
Based on population, Bishop will get 0.68 percent, or $439,608, Bogart will get 2.72 percent ($1.8 million), North High Shoals will get 1.98 percent ($1.3 million), and Watkinsville will get 8.63 percent ($5.6 million).
The actual money likely will be about 80 percent of the projection, Kirouac said, the mayor’s used lower figures in their presentations.
Bishop Mayor Johnny Pritchett said he had not talked about how to spend the money with the Council yet, but the money would go to road resurfacing and sidewalks.
Mayor Janet Jones of Bogart said the money would go to roads, sidewalks, sewers, purchase of land for a park, and space renovation for a new city hall.
Toby Bradberry said North High Shoals would use the money for park improvements, roads and sidewalks, parking lot improvements, and traffic control.
Watkinsville Mayor Smith said “we’re formulating what we’re trying to accomplish in Watkinsville,” and some of the projects are sidewalk and traffic improvement projects.
Smith said the city also wants to “improve all the gateways into the city.”
He also said the city needed to invest in storm water facilities.
“And then some things that might be a little contentious with you is trying to keep the library and buildings in downtown Watkinsville,” Smith said.
“It is perhaps by creating a Downtown Development Authority that we can partner with you to at least have some conversation about the library and the administration building downtown by building a parking lot and partnering with you.
“Come up with some way to look at the cost benefit of a parking garage versus surface parking,” Smith said.
Smith has asked Council to support him in his efforts to reverse a decision by the Board of Commissioners to move the library and county administrative offices to land the county purchased just outside the city limits northeast of Watkinsville.
Daniell told the mayors the county needs the project list by the end of the month.
The Board of Commissioners met on June 2 in the Commission Chamber of the Courthouse in Watkinsville, but attendance was limited, and citizens were given access remotely.
Sarah Bell was invited to the session and produced the video recording below.