It was a standing room only crowd at the Fayette County Board of Commissioners first meeting for the new year, with friends, family and supporters all wanting to be on hand to watch three new commissioners sworn in.
Probate Judge Anne Jackson performed the task of swearing-in incoming commissioners Randy Ognio, David Barlow and Charles Oddo.
The three were immediately plunged into the business of the county, as the traditional workshop session, which had been moved to later in the evening to accommodate friends and family, commenced. The first order of business was to select a new chairman and vice chair for 2013.
In a unanimous decision, commissioner Steve Brown was selected commission chairman. It was a little different when it came to selecting the vice chairman. Newly minted commissioner Charles Oddo nominated David Barlow for the position.
“This is a group of men...well, it’s difficult to choose from since they are all so qualified,” said Oddo.
However, Barlow turned down the nomination and instead nominated
Oddo for the position, which was quickly and unanimously agreed to by the rest of the board.
The first sign of change on the board came when the public comment portion of the agenda came up.
“A lot of things are going to be different in 2013,” Brown told the assembly. “We’re going to get rid of that piece of paper at the back of the room that you have to sign. If you want to speak, you can speak. It won’t matter if you’ve signed up or not. We know this is going to take some getting used to.”
Brown noted that if any member of the public has something to say about any item that is not on the agenda, they are welcome to come up at the public comment section and say what they have to say.
“If you want to speak on any item that is on the agenda, you will be able to do that after a motion is made and seconded. We’re going to allow you to speak and, this is a new twist, your input will be considered before we cast a vote.”
It didn’t take long for residents to start stepping up and resident Cherie Wiegertz stepped forward to express her concerns about the new stormwater assessment bills that have recently become the target of public discussion.
“This bothers me and I’ve been trying to research this and I have a few questions. First is there a way to amend that during year? Have you discussed what Fayette County can do? People are frustrated and there are a lot of people who can’t pay it. Will there be a committee to look into people who can’t afford to pay this?”
“Three members who voted for this are not longer on the board,” pointed out Brown. “We do have some significant stormwater problems and will have to figure out a way to pay for them. We’ve got metal pipes running under the county that should have a 25-year lifespan and we’re pressing on 40 years. As those pipes go, roads will collapse.
“I’ve answered at least 300 phone calls from constituents on this and I’ll tell you what I told them. We’re going to send an invitation to each person who received a bill and we’ll probably hold three public meetings to discuss the stormwater infrastructure. There has never been a plan to replace the infrastructure and I can tell you there are no funds to pay for replacement. We want you to help us figure it out.”
Brown said residents should receive some kind of notification between the middle and end of January.
“This isn’t a new issue,” added commissioner Allen McCarty. “This has been around for several years. We inherited an $18 million bill that has not been paid. It got kicked down the road to be taken care of later. We’re going to do the best we can to find a resolution to this problem.”
Commissioners also voted to hire Peachtree City resident, and former city councilman, Steve Rapson to take on the position of county manager to replace the recently retired Jack Krakeel. Rapson has, most recently, been employed as the city manager of Union City and was a former budget manager for Fulton County.
Rapson’s interview and resume impressed the review committee - made up of McCarty, Brown and then commissioners elect Ognio, Barlow and Oddo- that they announced their preference to hire him immediately after the first round of interviews were completed.