Commission Chairman Buzz Ahrens said during the board’s meeting Tuesday that it will discuss topics ranging from economic development to historic preservation and ethics at the 2014 retreat at Barnsley Gardens on Jan. 16 and 17. Other topics will include Cherokee’s strategic plan and a review of 2013, as well as the outlook for 2014.
Ahrens said Wednesday the purpose of the retreat was so commissioners could gather in a more relaxed environment than they normally experience at regular meetings, which are more rigid and formal.
“It provides an opportunity to sit down unencumbered and talk about things without time constraints,” he said. “It’s intended to be open-ended and no-holds-barred. It’s really interactive and it’s actually a lot of fun. And it’s extremely productive.”
Ahrens said the discussion at the board’s retreats — which have been annually for eight years — is more free-flowing and inventive than what is typically heard at regular meetings, when broad topics normally aren’t covered as extensively.
For Commissioner Jason Nelms, the subject of perhaps the most interest will be economic development, especially in southwest Cherokee County, which he represents.
“Look what’s happened (there) in the course of a year as the economy has improved,” Nelms said Wednesday. “I’m just really looking forward to see what happens now in 2014 as the economy continues to improve. It’s exciting for me just to think about being a part of helping that part of the county grow and provide jobs.”
Nelms said he looks forward to move developments like Cabela’s in the southwest Cherokee County, but in general, the county is “really well-positioned for new economic development.”
Commissioner Brian Poole also hopes to take up the subject of the economic growth during the retreat.
“I know there’s a great potential,” he said Wednesday. “I’d like to see us be able to step up and bring some new businesses in.’
Poole, who is entering his second year on the board, said he’s looking forward to 2014 in Cherokee County in general.
“I learned a lot (last) year, and I’m just looking forward to learning a lot more about the county this year as I go,” he said.
One thing in particular Poole hopes to learn in 2014 is the outcome of the criminal investigation into Cherokee County’s dealings with Ball Ground Recycling. He said he wasn’t sure if the topic would come up at the retreat or not, because authorities haven’t revealed details of the investigation yet.
“There’s not a whole lot we can say about the legal aspect of it until the report comes out,” he said. “I guess we’re kind of like everybody else, we’re in a wait-and-see mode. It’s just been a long, drawn-out process.”
The chairman said the board of commissioners has also sent an invitation to Canton Mayor Gene Hobgood and the Canton City Council so that they can discuss topics of general interest to both parties at the retreat. Several council members have indicated they plan to come, Ahrens said.
The talks at the retreat will be from about 2 to 6 p.m. Jan. 16 and from about 8 a.m. to noon the following day.
Also during the meeting Tuesday, the board:
• Voted unanimously — with Poole absent — to renew a professional services agreement with Rindt McDuff Associates, Inc. for Blalock Landfill closure for amount not to exceed $147,300; and
• Unanimously approved acceptance of ASPCA Grant Award and budget amendment in the amount of $3,000 for the care of impounded dogs at the county animal shelter, which had been seized from a Ball Ground man in October.