BOC doesn't see the City's new development authority as a solution

The Elbert County Board of Commissioners aren’t seeing the City of Elberton’s new proposal for a county-wide economic development authority as a solution.

Instead, during a county work session Thursday night, the commissioners believe a resolution signed off on by the Elberton City Council last week leaves unanswered questions about how this new development authority would function.

“There are questions about who hires, who fires, who evaluates (an economic developer),” said County Commissioner Casey Freeman. “I believe we’ve been in that row of stumps before. Nothing in this proposal is spelled out.”

After months of going alone without any assistance in funding the Development Authority of Elbert County, Elberton and Bowman, the county commission finally pulled its funding of the authority earlier this year. Soon after the authority’s Economic Developer, Rusty Warner, resigned, as did all seven members of the development authority.

In recent weeks Mayor Larry Guest and County Commission Chairman Lee Vaughn met with Athens Tech President Andrea Daniel and an economic development consultant who discussed a different configuration of the authority and who should serve on a new authority board.

The council, last week, voted to create a new authority that would include Vaughn and Guest as members of the authority board, and also appointed two city representatives to that authority – Daniel and former authority member Greg Gunter, who was the first to resign from the development authority earlier this year.

But at the county commission work session Thursday, the board of commissioners had several questions about how the authority would be any better off configured the way the city proposes.

“The proposal says the hiring and firing of an economic development would be up to an executive committee composed of the mayor, the commission chairman and the authority chairman,” said Elbert County Administrator Bob Thomas. “The authority was created to take politics out, and this proposal puts politics back in that body.”

Thomas said the city’s proposal says nothing about how the authority would be funded, which would seem particularly important since the authority fell apart earlier this year over the lack of funding.

County Attorney Bill Daughtry told the commissioners that the functioning authority that was created in 1982 specifies that there would not be elected officials serving on the authority.

The city’s proposal runs afoul of that rule, said Daughtry, and he added there needed to be clarification on several points of conflict between the authority’s chartered rules and the city’s proposal.

Thomas said after the meeting that the commissioners had not seen the city’s entire proposal until Thursday’s work session. He said the city shared its proposal with him on the Friday before the council signed off on the resolution at its Monday, June 3 meeting.

Although County Chairman Lee Vaughn was involved in the consultation over a new authority, he was not in attendance at Thursday’s county work session.

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