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The Jasper County Charter - What is it and why change it?

THE JASPER COUNTY CHARTER—WHAT IS IT AND WHY CHANGE IT?

The BOC, the County Manager, and the County Attorney recently met in a retreat to discuss issues concerning Jasper County.  One of these issues is changing the county charter—or as the county attorney terms it, Jasper’s enabling legislation. 

 

 The County Charter states how much the BOC members get paid, how they are elected (by district), what their terms are, what their duties are, etc.  It also states we have a county clerk and what the duties of the clerk are.  The county charter states that the BOC members can be reimbursed for out of county travel, meals, and lodging when performing business for the county.

 

How will the Commissioners change the charter?  What exactly are they proposing?  Most of what has been done in public has been presentations by the County Attorney. These presentations deal with “some things need to be changed”, but WHAT exactly the changes are have never been revealedThere seems to be a huge lack of communication between the commissioners and the public when it comes to the new proposals.

 

One thing that has been discussed by the county attorney is changing the county form of government.  Instead of being governed by a Board of County Commissioners, Jasper would change to a County Manager form of government.  This comes in spite of our history of having had several managers over the past 8 years without being allowed by the present county charter.   The County Manager would be in charge of everything, including the budget, the finances, purchasing, personnel (hiring, firing and disciplining), etc.  He’ll even review and edit the minutes.  (If you attend BOC meetings, you will see this change is already taking place—even before the charter has been amended.)  If the County Manager does everything, when and what action will occur in public meetings?  What will actually be discussed in open meetings? If the County Manager is going to do all the work, and all the BOC members will do is come in and vote—yes, no, or maybe (table)—then why do they need raises?

 

The Taxpayers Watchdog Group proposes public hearings to educate the citizens on the changes to the charter, especially before submitting anything to the State Legislators for approval.    We would like public hearings on the form of government options.  We think there should be input from the people to let the BOC know if they want to continue with the County Manager form of government.  After all, we’ve not had much success with it in the past (3 county managers and 3 interim managers over the last 8 ½ years).  Should we consider having one county commissioner elected “at large” who would serve as the full time Chairman and Chief Executive?  The Chairman is already considered the Chief Elected Official by State agencies.   Jasper County Citizens may prefer this to a hired county manager.   What would be the cost of each proposal?  What would the differences be?  Why would one be more effective than the other?

 

 We suggest that at least 3 public hearings are needed.  One hearing should focus on the positive aspects of changing to the County Manager form of government or to some other form (as well as distribution of the proposed changes).  One hearing should focus on the negative aspects of changing, and the final hearing should be for public comment on how the citizens would like to be governed.   It is the responsibility of our elected leaders to educate us on both sides of the issue.   The people need to understand how their government will work and how much it may cost them. 

 

The biggest issue is -- will the people still have access and a voice in their government?  These public hearings should be attended by the Commissioners themselves--meaning they will hear and comment on the presentation of the information and answer the questions.  This will allow citizens to know that the Board of Commissioners understands what is going on, what the changes will be, and why they are proposing the changes.  Public hearings should be held BEFORE the County goes forward with changes the public knows little about at this time.  After all, our County Government belongs to the Citizens and Taxpayers of Jasper County.   The citizens (OWNERS) need to fully understand the proposals and the reasons for them.   WHAT IS THE RUSH ANYWAY?
 

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