Cherokee County delegation plans town hall Friday
by Joshua Sharpe
December 18, 2013 11:45 PM | 1245 views | 0 0 comments | 16 16 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Mandi Ballinger
Mandi Ballinger
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CANTON — Cherokee County representatives are reaching out to residents and officials Friday with a full day of meetings on the 2014 legislative session.

Beginning at 8:30 a.m., Cherokee County’s seven delegates in the state Senate and House of Representatives will meet with officials at the county administration building at The Bluffs, followed by a town hall meeting for residents at 6 p.m.

State Rep. Mandi Ballinger (R-Canton) said the purpose of the annual event is to give officials and residents an opportunity to voice their opinions or concerns before the Georgia General Assembly meets in January.

“It just gives us a forum if anybody has any issues or anything they want the legislative delegation to work on,” Ballinger said Wednesday. “I try to be as involved in the community as I can, and I think the other representatives and senators do the same. But this gives everybody a forum.”

The Board of Commissioners has the most to talk with the delegation about, with the topics including economic development, the Resource Recovery Development Authority and the requirements and compensation of the commission chair position, according to an early copy of the agenda provided by Commission Chairman Buzz Ahrens.

Ahrens said Wednesday commissioners will be discussing closing a loophole in state code that, in effect, allowed the RRDA to bind Cherokee County into guaranteeing bond debt for Ball Ground Recycling.

Ahrens said RRDAs generally are not allowed by state law to make such a commitment on behalf of a county, but elsewhere in state code, such boards can get around that by forming an intergovernmental agreement with the county.

“It’s a loophole,” Ahrens said. “I’ve talked about it publicly, and I’ve asked the attorney general to consider removing that from the state code.”

Also on the commissioners’ preliminary agenda for the meeting are plans to discuss with the delegates to somehow make it clear that the chairperson’s seat is an involved, full-time position, Ahrens said.

Exactly how the state Legislature can do that, Ahrens said he didn’t know, but it could result in a higher pay rate for the job that now pays around $37,000 a year.

Ahrens, who is running for re-election in 2014, said the discussion is about “awareness, not action,” and that the state could take up whenever it saw fit.

“This has nothing to do with me at all. I’m not lobbying for anything,” Ahrens said. “Here’s the ulterior motive: With an election coming up, there are people who are considering to run or will run for chairman. I want them to understand what it’s about.”

According to Ahrens, chairpersons in other counties are compensated more competitively than in Cherokee County, which could exclude some qualified people from running if they couldn’t live off the pay.

“I don’t know what the answer is, but I think it’s interesting to understand what the other (counties pay) just from the standpoint of competitiveness,” Ahrens said, reiterating again he only wanted to start a discussion with the delegates.

The Cherokee Office of Economic Development will kick off the day Friday with a meeting at 8:30 a.m.

COED Chairman Marshall Day said Wednesday the meeting is mostly to let the legislators know about the recent accomplishments of the economic development office, including the Inalfa Roof Systems plant being built at the Cherokee 75 Corporate Park.

Day added there are a few other “deals in the works” at COED, but those can’t be discussed during the meeting Friday.

After COED, the delegates will meet with the city of Holly Springs, which has a piece of proposed legislation to present.

Holly Springs City Manager Rob Logan said the proposed bill would change the election cycle in the city so that every two years there will be an even number of elections on the ballot. The city has six elected officials, with five city council members and the mayor, all serving four-year terms.

As it stands now, Logan said the city has three council seats and the mayor up for election every other election year, with the other two council seats hitting the ballot in the next election year.

According to an early draft of the bill, which the city had been working on with the late state Rep. Calvin Hill (R-Canton), whoever is elected in 2016 to the Post 4 seat now held by Karen Barnett would have to serve a two-year term for the changes to work.

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