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Flowery Branch City Council just trying to get along

POSTED: April 9, 2008 5:01 a.m.

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The five members of the Flowery Branch City Council attended a two-day team-building retreat with city staff members at Lake Lanier Islands this weekend in an effort to improve communication among members of the council.

Flowery Branch Mayor Diane Hirling said the retreat is "well-timed," due to recent disagreements that have arisen between members of the council regarding the minutes of a Feb. 6 city council meeting.

At the March 19 Flowery Branch City Council meeting, three council members, Allen Bryans Sr., Pat Zalewski and Mary Jones, voted for the third time against approving the Feb. 6 meeting minutes. Bryans said he does not want to approve the minutes as they are currently drafted, because he is concerned a comment Flowery Branch City Councilman Chris Fetterman made at that meeting could be libelous, opening the city up to possible litigation.

According to the Feb. 6 minutes drafted by Flowery Branch Clerk Melissa McCain, Fetterman questioned whether there is a conflict of interest in the city’s leasing of two Main Street buildings for staff offices. The two newly elected city council members, Fetterman and Craig Lutz, have consistently voted to approve the Feb. 6 meetings as currently drafted.

Hirling said she has high hopes that Janice Saylor, the government communications facilitator who will lead the Flowery Branch City Council retreat, will be able to catalyze communication within the divided city council.

"Hopefully, maybe, in this retreat we can come to some sort of agreement that we can get these minutes approved," Hirling said. "They’re just going to be on the agenda until they are approved."

On Friday afternoon, Flowery Branch City Council members joined Hirling, City Manager Bill Andrew and Planning Director James Riker at Emerald Pointe at Lake Lanier Islands for a "getting to know one another" session. Hirling said much of Saturday was spent in team-building activities that could help the council and staff to form and achieve new goals for Flowery Branch.

Hirling added that she feels Flowery Branch is at a pivotal turning point in its development, and cultivating proper communication between council members is crucial to its effectiveness.

"When I ran for mayor, I wanted to change the image of Flowery Branch — to bring respect back to it. What I’m hoping will come out of the retreat is that ... if you have a disagreement, that’s fine, but let’s do it with respect to the other party," Hirling said. "We’re heading in the right direction, we just need to keep on that same path."

Although the divided Flowery Branch City Council did not approve the Feb. 6 meeting minutes at its March 19 meeting, the council did unanimously approve the solicitation ordinance Lutz proposed.

"We’ve just had some people soliciting magazines or pine straw that weren’t on the up-and-up, especially in Sterling on the Lake," Lutz said.

He added that the subdivision has signs posted that state solicitation is prohibited, but until now, there has been no ordinance enforcing the signs.

The solicitation ordinance will require all door-to-door solicitors not associated with a government or 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization to obtain a city permit before they can legally traverse neighborhoods within Flowery Branch city limits. Violators of the ordinance could face fines of up to $1,000 and six months of jail time.

The ordinance will require solicitors to pay the city a fee yet to be determined in order to obtain a badge to be displayed on the upper front portion of the permitted solicitor as they knock on residents’ doors. For a solicitation permit to be granted, the solicitor must clear a criminal background check and present two forms of government-issued identification.

The ordinance also prohibits solicitors on Sundays, and limits solicitation times from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.



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