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County to discuss county manager idea
Mt. Tabor Road bridge to be repaired in 2012
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The county will have a work session at 7 p.m., Nov. 7 at the Historic Courthouse to discuss the possibility of implementing a county manager form of government.

An agenda item labeled "Administrative Officer Job Description" was on Tuesday's Newton County Board of Commissioners agenda, but because of technical difficulties, a scheduled PowerPoint presentation was not able to be made and the board deferred discussion to a work session.

Chairman Kathy Morgan said Tuesday that the board discussed a personal issue in executive session after its last meeting, and at the time the idea of altering the position of county administrative officer was raised. Current Administrative Officer John Middleton has said he will retire in December.

Morgan said she asked Association County Commissioners of Georgia attorney James Grubiak who said that discussions of job descriptions do not need to be in executive session. County Attorney Tommy Craig agreed.

According to Georgia Press Association lawyer David Hudson, "the ‘personnel' exception in the Open Meetings Act is for the discussion of the hiring or performance of some individual. The question of creating a position or whether to fill a certain position is a policy question that the law requires to be discussed in an open meeting."

Craig said commissioners made a variety of comments about the future of the administrative officer position, but no consensus was made last week. He said at least three separate ideas were given about how to proceed, and he suggested a work session be held.

Oxford resident Eva Sitton and county resident Dick Schulz both spoke during public comments and expressed their desire to have the discussions in public meetings.

Schulz said he would like the commissioners get out and gather input from the public on the matter, and he also said somebody needs to talk about the dysfunctionality of the board and asked the commissioner to consider whether they were qualified to hold office.

Repair of Mt. Tabor Road bridge
The Mt. Tabor Road bridge over the Yellow River was damaged during the 2009 flood and remains closed to large vehicles, including school buses, but it's scheduled to be repaired in late spring or summer of 2012.

The board approved paying $133,230 for the design of a repair which will stabilize the bridge.

The plan calls for the superstructure (top and railings) of the bridge to be removed and for some of the piers to be repaired and others to be replaced, said County Engineer Tom Garrett. The changes to the ends of the bridge will also reduce erosion of the surrounding soil.

Construction is expected to cost around $450,000 and the changes should allow the bridge to last for another 30 to 40 years. Construction is expected to take six months during which time the road will be closed entirely. Construction will have to be bid out once the design is completed.

Chairman Kathy Morgan said another large rain could cause the entire bridge to be destroyed; Garrett said that was a possibility.

School buses, fire trucks and vehicles weighing more than 8 tons can currently not travel on the bridge.

The county will contribute $500,000 of total funding from the 2011 SPLOST, while the Georgia Department of Transportation will provide $106,000.

Modular building at landfill causes stir
Plans to place a new modular building at the landfill to be used for office space, meeting and lunch breaks led to a surprisingly intense discussion Thursday.

The board approved a five-year lease purchase of a used modular building from Mod Space, a Lake City business, at a cost of $13,257 per year ($66,289 total). The item was budgeted in the solid waste fund, though the cost will be slightly higher than the budgeted amount of $13,040.

The board approved the 24-foot by 60-foot building by a 4-1 vote with Commissioner J.C. Henderson opposing the building. He asked why the county was purchasing the building even though it just had to lay off employees. Middleton explained that the money came out of the solid waste fund, which was separate from the general fund.

The old building at the landfill has been there for years and will simply be knocked down, Middleton said.

Future work sessions
In addition to a work session to discuss the future of the administrative officer position, the county has three other meetings scheduled, all at the courthouse:

- Insurance/risk management work session, Oct. 24th at 7 p.m.

- Alcohol by the drink/timeline for 2012 referendum work session, Nov. 14 at 7 p.m.

- Performance maintenance bonds public hearing, Nov. 1 at 6 p.m.