The Calhoun City Council took advantage of a fresh start to a new year to introduce, during the regular meeting of the Council, directions the Council will go in 2017; these things had been discussed among the council members earlier in the day during their work session.
“I will mention a few things this Council talked about at work session that we are going to be working on in the new year,” said Councilman David Hammond. “We are going to be looking at ethics reform for elected officials to fully obtain openness and complete transparency. We’ve had a few issues with some opposing points of view over the last few weeks and we want to take any pro and con comment we get and try to make a better city, so we are going to be working with legal on doing an ordinance and adopting that.”
City council members have been answering questions from the community due to actions such as backdoor meetings with preferred residents and council members not adhering to local City law.
Hammond also mentioned expanding the City Council to six members. “We are looking real closely at expanding this Council from four members to six members,” continued Hammond. “That will be a charter change; it would be done on the floor of the (State) House. This Council will be looking at the ability to do that in a resolution and get it before the House and see if it makes it to the floor. A lot of communities have gone up in size as they’ve gone up in population; it gives you the ability to get a broader opinion. If we do this, we will be looking at establishing districts in the community and at-large positions.”
Hammond has mentioned population growth many times over the past year, however, according to U.S. Census numbers, during a three-year period from 2010 to 2013, the City of Calhoun’s population only grew by 225, a less than two percent growth, from 15,674 residents to 15,899 residents.
Land-wise, the City of Calhoun sits on approximately 15-square miles; splitting into six districts would make a district size approximately 2.5-square-miles. In comparison, the Gordon County Board of Commissioners is split into five districts over approximately 358-square miles, which is a district for every 60-square miles and, as of 2013 census numbers, 55,757 residents.
“I look for a debate on that in the following weeks,” said Hammond of the addition of new council seats.
Hammond continued with the implementing of the management changes in the Utility Department. “We have just incorporated the new management change at utilities and are looking to establish some baseline areas,” said Hammond. “We are going to be asking a community group to come in and assist with that, hopefully to make a wider acceptance policy doing whatever we do in the future,” said Hammond.
Hammond also mentioned the situation with the Calhoun Police Department. “We are looking at a police department. We want to move forward in the planning on that,” said Hammond. “I know that (City Administrator) Eddie (Peterson) has mentioned putting together a committee to work on that with professionals, both in construction and law enforcement, our existing staff. Councilman (Al) Edwards, with his extensive experience in construction, is going to work with us. We are probably going to be looking at bringing in one or two people in from the citizenry to sit in on that also, so we can move forward with that and get our department in a building that will work for the next couple of decades.”
The building that houses the Calhoun Police Station was discussed beginning in the spring of 2016. The building, which was built in 1928, has asbestos, lead paint and mold and the council mulled options for a good part of 2016 on how to move forward with either building a new facility, renting another facility or renovating the current building. The Council voted to take a tract of land located on McDaniel Station Road, which offered for not cost from the Gordon County Development Authority, and build a new station..
Finally, to help with transparency issues, the Council is looking into filming City Council meetings.”We are also looking at filming these Council meetings and making them available to either be accessed online or in some kind of a social post so that the citizens that are here can go on board and view what is actually being discussed,” said Hammond. “They can hear it from our own mouths and understand exactly what we are talking about and hopefully have a bigger involvement.”
According to Councilwoman Jackie Palazzolo, the video meetings will not be live-streamed but will be available online after the meetings.
The next meeting of the Calhoun City Council will be held at 7 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 23 at the downtown Depot Conference Room.