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.
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
revealed. There 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
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?
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.
biggest issue is -- will the people still have access and a voice in
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?