Originally created 12/16/06

Charter change targets bidding



It's a proposal to save your tax dollars and help out local businesses, but fear of opening a Pandora's box might keep it from happening.

Richmond County school board member Jimmy Atkins wants the local legislative delegation to change the board's charter to give preference to local businesses during the bid process and to raise the dollar amount for bids that must be advertised.

The changes would save money spent on advertising and support local businesses by awarding them contracts if they are within 5 percent of the lowest bid, he said.

Others, however, say they fear that one change could turn into several changes, and they say whether money would be saved is questionable.

"My greatest fear is that once they start making changes, it doesn't stop," board President Marion Barnes said Thursday.

After discussions with local lawmakers, he said he couldn't support the proposal, saying that they told him of specific changes they wanted made.

They can change the charter without the board's prompting, but won't, he said.

Still, legislators want to be asked because they have specific changes in mind.

He wouldn't elaborate, saying the conversations were "confidential."

Any fear he has could be moot.

"At this point, I have no plans to change the charter," state Sen. Ed Tarver, D-Augusta, said Friday.

It would take approval from both Richmond County senators and two of the five House members to amend the school board's charter.

Mr. Atkins said Thursday that legislators assured him they wouldn't go against the will of the board.

Mr. Tarver said the delegation hasn't discussed making any changes, holding off because of "uncertainty" among some board members.

Would other amendments be made if the charter is reviewed?

"That's certainly a possibility," Mr. Tarver said, but he hasn't had time to study the charter for specific changes. He said he wouldn't have a problem with changing the charter without a request from the board if it was necessary.

For instance, the Legislature might need to clarify the number of votes necessary to take action, Mr. Tarver said. Over the summer, the school board asked the attorney general how many votes it took to fire the superintendent. One seat on the board was vacant at the time.

During Thursday's school board meeting, the discussion at times got heated, with quips being tossed between board members.

Helen Minchew worried that moving away from low bids could mean spending more tax dollars.

After a couple of failed motions and a substitute motion, the board authorized its attorney and other school officials to continue gathering information.

Reach Greg Gelpi at (706) 828-3851 or greg.gelpi@augustachronicle.com.

THE IMPACT:

Changes to the Richmond County school board's charter could award local businesses with more contracts. Changes might save money, too.