Originally created 12/19/06

Issues to get attention at last

At today's Augusta Commission meeting, Mayor Pro Tem Marion Williams might get the title he wanted in January but doesn't want now, and the board will discuss how you'll be billed for garbage pickup and what you'll pay for it.

Both issues have been before the commission before without resolution.

If past discussions are any predictor of today's outcome, the meeting will have a lot of hot talk but little action.

With that in mind, Mayor Deke Copenhaver sent the commissioners a memo asking them to remember their code of conduct and to treat one another with dignity and respect.

The mayor said he had received a great deal of feedback from the public about the tone of the discussions during the Dec. 11 committee meetings.

"I must admit to all of you that I share in their concerns, as it is my opinion that the debate became personal at times and that the message conveyed to the public at large was not a good one, ultimately placing all of us in a bad light," the mayor said.

The mayor pro tem issue has been the occasion for acrimony in the past and certainly has the potential for the same today.

Commissioner Jerry Brigham has called for the board to fill the slot officially this year - an apparent effort to make Mr. Williams ineligible to be mayor pro tem again next year,

Mr. Williams has held the job this year as a holdover from his first term in 2005 because his abstentions in the January voting created a 5-4 vote for both his and Commissioner Andy Cheek's nominations, preventing a tie and an opportunity for Mr. Copenhaver to cast the deciding vote.

The mayor pro tem traditionally serves two years, but must be re-elected by the board both years. The issue of commission abstentions that was taken to court by citizen activist Woody Merry is now on appeal in the state Supreme Court.

Mr. Brigham said he thinks the January election needs to be resolved because Mr. Williams has served the entire year.

Mr. Williams, who is seeking the spot next year on grounds he has not had the normal two years because he was not officially elected, said it's too late now to make his title official.

"They must be voting on 2007 because 2006 is gone," he said.

"They should have voted me in in January, and they didn't."

He said Mr. Brigham must be trying to give him the Christmas present he has previously withheld.

Mr. Brigham didn't know whether his call for the election would receive enough votes to pass because he hadn't "politicked it."

"If it works out, it works out," he said. "If it don't, it won't, and there's nothing left to be done with it."

Also today, the commission will try to decide whether to keep billing residents for garbage on their property tax bills or on a separate bill from the city's solid waste department.

If the separate billing system is approved, every property owner who receives trash service would pay at least $276.

The commission has been trying to figure out a way to get the trash fees off the tax bills and make the solid-waste department solvent for three years.

At an engineering services sub-committee meeting last week, a request for a new garbage billing system got bogged down in debate and questions from newly elected Commissioner Johnny Hatney.

The item was moved to today's agenda without a recommendation.

Reach Sylvia Cooper at (706) 823-3228 or sylvia.cooper@augustachronicle.com.


The Augusta Commission will meet at 2 p.m. today on the eighth floor of the municipal building, 530 Greene St. Items on the agenda include:

- election of a mayor pro tem for 2006

- hiring legal counsel

- garbage service billing system

- environmental site assessment of soil contamination of the Hyde Park neighborhood


TO: Augusta Richmond-County Commissioners

FROM: Mayor Deke Copenhaver

DATE: December 13, 2006

SUBJECT: Next Tuesday's Meeting

As we move into the final meeting of 2006, it is apparent that there are several agenda items upon which there is not currently consensus within the body. Since our committee meetings on this past Monday, I have heard a great deal of feedback from the general public, as well as individuals in attendance at the meetings, regarding their displeasure with the overall tone in debate over several of these agenda items. I must admit to all of you that I share in their concerns as it is my opinion that the debate became personal at times and that the message conveyed to the public at large was not a good one, ultimately placing all of us in a bad light.

In our rules of procedure, it is clearly stated: "All commissioners must conduct themselves in a professional and respectful manner", further stating "Personal remarks are inappropriate." The rules go on to state that in discussion, "A Commissioner may condemn the nature of likely consequences of the proposed measure in strong terms, but must avoid a discussion of personalities, and under no circumstances may he/she attack or question the motives of another Commissioner or staff. The issue, and not a person, shall be the item under discussion."

With regards to the application of the above listed rules to next Tuesday's proceedings, I would like to encourage all Commissioners, though you may disagree on an issue, to treat each other with dignity and respect during debate. I would further state that it is my firm opinion that several of the agenda items which there may not be consensus on have been adequately debated during Committee and should require very limited debate in our meeting.

In closing, let me clearly state that we have been elected to lead this community and should do so by example. I have been told by citizens throughout this community time and again that the main thing that they want to see is the entire Commission setting aside our differences and working together for the good of the entire community. I believe that we should close this year on a high note by doing just that. I also think it would do us all some good to consider the season we are in with regards to our actions during the meeting.


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