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Utility overhaul moves forward

3/21/2012

By MEGHAN PITTMAN
The Brunswick News

A former chairman of the Brunswick-Golden Isles Chamber of Commerce is asking the chamber to oppose state legislation that will change the Brunswick and Glynn County Joint Water-Sewer Commission, even as it passed its first legislative hurdle Tuesday.

Tony Sammons, chairman of the chamber from 2000-2001 and member of the water-sewer board, urged the chamber during a meeting Tuesday to tell the local state delegation that they don't want the changes that are now working their way through the Georgia General Assembly.

Sammons, who is district manager for the Georgia Power Co., said the five citizen members proposed in an overhaul of the utility board should not be elected by the general public.

As proposed by the utility board and agreed upon by city and county commissioners, utility board membership would increase from five to seven members, two of whom would be elected city and county officials. The board had proposed allowing the grand jury to appoint citizens, who the board would review.

Allowing the public to vote on any of the other five is included in House Bill 1271, the legislation to change the makeup of the commission authored by Rep. Alex Atwood, R-St. Simons Island.

The two other House members of the state delegation, Reps. Jason Spencer, R-Woodbine, and Roger Lane, R-St. Simons Island, also have signed the measure.

"Call your representatives on behalf of the chamber and say that this is not what we agreed upon," Sammons urged the chamber. "We are willing to negotiate. It could be simplified. At least table it so we can make it right for next year.

"We don't feel like ... we should allow citizens to elect members to the board."

That request is too late for the House, which passed the legislation Tuesday.

If the Chamber of Commerce decides to get involved, it will have to speak to Sen. William Ligon, R-Waverly, the only member of the local delegation in the Senate. The Senate has not acted on the measure.

Commenting on opposition to his legislation, Atwood, who did not attend the chamber meeting, said changes outlined in the bill are generally supported in the community and are in the best interests of residents.

"The local legislative delegation tried, where we could, to follow many of the suggestions of the (water-sewer commission), the city and county commissions and the citizens of Glynn County," Atwood said.

"The legislation reflects and respects the best of those views, and I believe will help to further strengthen confidence in our governmental structure and the day-to-day operations of the (water-sewer commission)."

Atwood said feedback he has received has been positive, and called the overhaul measure balanced.

"This bill also allows average citizens to have a voice, be it from an appointed position or through the ballot box, whichever the citizens of our community determine is best for all concerned," he said.

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