Commission ponders stop to politicking at meetings

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Campaigning at Fayette County Board of Commissioners meetings will likely be curtailed in the very near future.

After the subject came up at the last regular meeting April 14, the board put it on the agenda for last Friday’s retreat. That discussion revealed that a county policy already in place addresses the issue somewhat.

For years the board has allowed a public comment time at every meeting that is generous to citizens by a wide margin compared to other municipalities. Citizens can speak on any topic relevant to county business and there is virtually no time limit.

That has led a number of candidates for local, state and congressional races to come to the podium in recent weeks and expound on why they should be elected. At the last meeting it was suggested that candidates should be limited to introducing themselves and announcing what race they are in without going any further in what amounts to a free campaign ad. The issue of equal time and free speech were also raised.

With that in mind, the county’s legal staff was directed at the retreat to revise county policies regarding political activity and use of public buildings and grounds.

A copy of the revised policy was furnished to The Citizen Tuesday morning. It reads:

“Use of county property to advocate for one political party or a particular candidate, slate of candidates or any ballot measure is prohibited. However, notices to the public regarding meetings, candidate informational, etc., may be allowed where the information is purely notification of time, place and purpose.”

Chairman Charles Oddo said Monday evening that the matter would likely be brought up at the very next board meeting, which was moved from its regular Thursday night slot to Tuesday afternoon this week because of scheduling issues.

County Administrator Steve Rapson released a list Tuesday morning of other issues covered at the retreat, all of which were discussion and general board direction of staff only. There were no official votes taken.

Financials: Realignment of CIP projects/contingencies to balance FY2017 budget; possible need to eliminate positions to balance budget; list CIP transfers on the trend analysis charts with budget presentation.

SPLOST: Consider funding a stormwater utility position from Stormwater Utility vs. General Fund; consider not eliminating Stormwater Utility if SPLOST passes; evaluate placing the Stormwater Utility on the property tax bill.

911 Radio System: Ensure cities are aware of need to replace existing radios with P-25 compliant radios.

Fire/EMS Training Center: Replace Fire & Emergency Medical Services Training Center with Fire Station #4; Fire Pumper & phased training center projects.

FCDA presentation: Consider FCDA $4.25/per capita – approximates existing allocation $225,000/year; evaluate requested five-year agreement; consider approving financial inputs for financial model tax incentive package; evaluate Joint Metro Development Authority.

Address assignment procedures: Develop formal county-wide address management policy and ordinance.

Signature capital project overview: Links master plan – consider selling 57.5 acres of land shown as greenspace adjacent to neighborhoods.

West Fayetteville Bypass: Critical project path is right-of-way acquisition; legal and staff coordinating efforts.

Kenwood Park master plan: Pavilion and restroom bids with targeted May release and June/July award.

Filter control system/zero waste: Implement WTP Enhancement as a Water Capital Improvement Project.

Recreation fee proposal: Approved to implement proposed recreational fee increase.

Open Meeting/Records/Parliamentary Procedures Overview: Consider implementing aspects of parliamentary procedures.

Mowing state route corridors: Request state delegation to increase maintenance of state routes; legislative package resolution.