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Resolution may protect departments from reorganization

By Justin Boron

The Clayton County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday night adopted a resolution that would require a unanimous vote from commissioners to dismantle, eliminate, or reorganize any county department.

The move, which passed 4-1, comes as preface to hearings on a report that recommends a dramatic reduction in the number of departments in the county, although it doesn't advocate any staff reductions. The meetings are scheduled for Sept. 13 at 10:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. at the county administration building in Jonesboro.

"This is one of the most important resolutions that we're going to have to pass," said Commissioner Charley Griswell, who proposed the measure.

County Commission Chairman Eldrin Bell was the only dissenter, saying in the meeting that the law already provided for a vote on changes to the county government's structure.

But Griswell wanted a stronger resolution that requires five votes to make any changes to the departmental structure.

Michael Smith, the county attorney, said from his research, he didn't think the county commission could change the number of votes required to approve an agenda item.

"You can't make that change through home rule," he said.

Also at the meeting, a several citizens came before the board to reiterate their concerns about committing local taxpayer money to the commuter rail project.

The Board of Commissioners has forwarded to state officials an agreement in which it promises to fund the operating deficit for the rail project. The deficit is estimated to be at $4.5 million after five years.

Commissioner Wolé Ralph voted against the resolution that enabled the deal.

A total of $87 million in federal money and $19 million in state money has been devoted to the project.

Bell said the board would be pursuing alternative funding sources to alleviate the burden of taxpayers.

"There's not a single person on this board that wants to see the people of this county pay singularly for commuter rail," he said.