The city council Thursday night voted 5-1 — with Councilman Glen Cummins opposing — to overturn its policy of having one non-voting work session per month and one regular voting meeting, making both meetings per month now subject to voting.
The policy overturned by the council Thursday night was adopted by the same council May 17, 2012, and states no voting can take place in a work session, “except in cases of emergency.”
Mayor Gene Hobgood brought forward the possibility of doing away with the policy during the council’s last meeting, because he said the policy had been regularly violated by the council. Hobgood has said the policy of not voting during work sessions gives the public more time to be aware of what actions the city council might take.
But Councilman John Beresford said Thursday night the policy wasn’t necessary.
“Posted down on the front door, is the agenda for the meetings,” Beresford told the council. “Anybody that has any interest can come in and pick one up. What’s interesting: I haven’t heard one word about this big issue, from anybody.”
Hobgood spoke up and said he had heard from residents concerned about the council voting during non-voting meetings.
“I’m sure you have, because you’re pushing it,” Beresford said to the mayor. “I haven’t heard any of the other citizens say one word.”
Councilman Hooky Huffman said he didn’t see the need for the policy, and that there was no intent of “tricking” the public when the council had taken unscheduled votes.
For Cummins, it didn’t really matter if the council did away with its policy of not voting during work sessions, because three new council members will come on board in January to replace Beresford and Councilmen Bill Bryan and Bob Rush, who aren’t seeking re-election.
“The operating policies and procedures of this council is subject to change every two years anyway,” Cummins said during the meeting. “It’s definitely a moot point, because we may be getting — we will be getting — three new council members and they may have totally different perspective in January.”
Beresford told the mayor he didn’t like Cummins’ insinuation.
“My question is to you, Mr. Mayor, why have four more council meetings, because I just heard from one of our illustrious councilmen that anything we do and vote on was going to be overrode, possibly, next year,” he said.
“So we’re the lame duck, we’re the sham. That was an uncalled-for comment from the illustrious councilman.”
Hobgood said the council would have four more meetings in 2013 because the city’s charter says it has to meet twice a month and there are two more months in the year.
“Sounds to me like there’s no need to have them, because decisions have already been made,” Beresford said.
Also during the meeting Thursday, the council:
• Voted unanimously to reduce the speed limit on a one-mile stretch of Bluffs Parkway near the Cherokee County Conference Center from 45 mph to 35 mph. The Cherokee Board of Commissioners requested the change;
• Unanimously approved waiving construction permit fees for work at the waste water treatment plant; and
• Voted unanimously to approve an agreement with the Georgia Department of Transportation on the Main Street Connector Streetscape project.