At right, The Talking Rock Council in deliberations at their April meeting.
"The governor's secretary called me today," reported Mayor Peter Cagle near the start of Talking Rock's town council meeting Thursday evening, April 7. "The change on the charter has all been approved through the state legislature. It's now gone to the governor's desk to be signed."
Changes to the Talking Rock town charter, asked for by the council and now awaiting Governor Deal's approval, would establish two things for Talking Rock town government. First, election cycles for council members would be staggered, so no election could ever seat a council wholly without governing experience.
The second change would establish a new way of manning any council seat or the mayor's chair left open by an untimely death or by resignation or removal. With the charter change, the empty chair would be filled without a special election, saving the town money.
In the case of an open mayor’s chair, the mayor pro tem would serve until the next regularly scheduled election. In the case of an open council seat, the mayor and remaining council members would appoint a replacement to serve until the next regularly scheduled election.
A small town operating on a limited budget, Talking Rock means to spare the expense of holding a special election in such cases, as the cost normally runs to thousands of dollars.
In other state related business, Mayor Cagle said the deadline to apply for LARP (Georgia's Local Assistance Road Program) arrives at the end of April. Through LARP, state government provides some funding to local governments for local road paving.
While Georgia's government continues to suffer at present from a state revenue shortfall, funding through LARP remains limited. Still, Talking Rock has applied for state paving help to resurface Second Street and Talona Street, the mayor said, to be in line for what money may flow, if any.
"A town like Talking Rock with a population its size (approximately 45), we're pretty much at the bottom of the barrel for getting any funding from the state," Cagle allowed.
Under new business, Town Clerk Carol Opdenhoff told the council this year's audit of town government by an outside auditor nears completion. She reported the auditing firm this year is a south Georgia company doing the work at half the price asked for by the previous auditor. "He wouldn't cut us any slack this year," Opdenhoff said of the town's previous auditor. "In fact, he raised the price." She shopped elsewhere.
Clerk Opdenhoff also presented council members with copies of an affidavit to be officially filled out whenever the council moves from public session during a council meeting into a secret executive session. "There are three appropriate reasons we can have one," the clerk said.
Under Georgia’s open meetings guidelines, the three things that make closed council deliberations allowable are discussion of active lawsuits involving town government; discussion of personnel issues involving a town employee; discussion of real estate acquisition by town government.
"And we haven't qualified for any of 'em so far," Clerk Opdenhoff said.
Also under new business, the council announced the town Easter egg hunt, scheduled at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday, April 16. Approved was a $300 limit for town-bought candy to hide. The council also gave the go-ahead for purchase of a new gasoline-powered string trimmer for use by the town maintenance man, the limit on that purchase set at $400.
In addition, the mayor said he would price the job of re-graveling Talking Rock's Third Street and Old Federal Road to seek council approval for that work at the next meeting.
Mayor Cagle also announced a town clean-up day Saturday, April 30. Anyone who would like to join city leaders as they plant flowers and generally spruce the town is invited to take part. The local Boy Scouts have already committed to participate, the mayor said.
In line with sprucing the town, Councilwoman Angelia Payne reported a park bench broken in Town Park. Resident Keith Gravley reported a bench swing also damaged near the creek in the park.
Councilwoman Lynda Cagle told other council members she is putting together a new proposal for an overall park plan she hopes to present during the next council meeting. She asked the council to hold off until the new plan is presented before buying a new park bench to replace the broken one. The council agreed to wait, and Councilman Charles Opdenhoff accepted the task of mending park equipment, where practical, in the meantime.
The next regularly scheduled meeting of the Talking Rock Town Council is set for 6 p.m. Thursday, May 5.
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