By Joel Hall
The Clayton County Board of Commissioners (BOC) had the first reading of an ordinance Tuesday that -- if approved -- would make the board's vice chairmanship an internally elected position, rather than a rotating one.
The ordinance, likely to come to a vote next Tuesday, would alter the County Code of Ordinances and allow members of the board to select a vice chairman once a year. Under current codes, the vice chairmanship rotates from commission district to commission district.
Commissioner Wole Ralph, the board's current vice chairman, has held the position for the last two years. According to Ralph, Commissioner Gail Hambrick ceded the rotation of the vice chairmanship to Ralph upon joining the board in January of this year.
Ralph said the duties of the vice chairman include approving the agendas for all BOC meetings, serving on several committees, including the BOC Finance Committee, the Southern Regional Medical Center hospital board, and the BOC Solid Waste Authority.
"It used to rotate annually," he said. "It would move to being elected annually ... the board members would chose the vice chairman. The notion is that if somebody wants to be vice chair, then, they could be elected."
On Jan. 6, the board voted 3-2 (with Chairman Eldrin Bell and Commissioner Michael Edmondson opposed) to create the board's Finance Committee. Ralph was later selected by the board, in his capacity as vice chairman, to be the chairman of the Finance Committee. The chairman of that committee receives continuous updates from the county's finance director, and other department heads, on the financial status of the county.
On Jan. 20, the Finance Committee chose Ralph, Hambrick, County Finance Director Angela Jackson, Chief of Staff Alex Cohilas, and Director of Policy and Planning Wade Starr as the standing members of the Finance Committee.
At the time, Bell said the creation of the committee "steps outside of the authority of this board given by the state of Georgia."
Ralph said his appointment as BOC vice chairman gives him no more power than any other voting members of the board. "Everything that comes before the committee comes before the board," he said. No duties are carried out by the committees unless "they are delegated by the board," Ralph added.
Bell made no comments about the proposed abolition of the rotating vice chairmanship during Tuesday's meeting, and could not be reached for comment after the meeting.
In other action, during Tuesday's meeting, the board voted unanimously to spend $350,000 in Special Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) money to purchase property belonging to Virginia Stephens, the wife of deceased Clayton County educator, Walter "Reed" Stephens.
The property, which abuts a 24-acre plot of green space off Walt Stephens Road, will be used to a create a multi-modal cart-path system, according to Edmondson. Edmondson said the purchase is a big step toward creating "a Peachtree City-like pedestrian cart-path system," connecting the 24-acre "Reed" Stephens Nature Reserve (owned by the county) to Clayton County International Park, the county's future recreation center off Ga. Highway 138, M.D. Roberts Middle School, and Rum Creek Park.
"There is $10 million allocated in this current SPLOST toward green-space acquisition and development," he said. "The general idea is to connect these various resources. Studies show that places rich with infrastructure have a higher quality of life. [The property purchase] is a big piece toward an embraced, environmentally healthy lifestyle that allows people to get to, and from, places without getting into their cars."
Edmondson said the county hopes to begin construction on the cart-path system by the spring of next year.