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Citizens committee wants more autonomy
Wayne Stradley forced off board
Replacement of the northbound bridge on Thompson Bridge Road/Ga. 60 over the Chattahoochee River in North Hall could begin by 2024.

A government-sponsored citizens group pegged to study a potential North Hall Parkway may have hit an obstacle.

The potential crossing would be an east-west road spanning North Hall.

Gainesville officials are questioning the Citizens Advisory Committee’s ability to create a subcommittee with members outside the advisory group — as was done April 27 when the parkway subcommittee was formed.

“City staff believes the vehicle for the desired level of citizen input already exists” within the Gainesville-Hall Metropolitan Planning Organization structure, which includes the advisory group, City Manager Bryan Lackey said Monday.

The MPO is the Hall area’s main transportation planning agency.

Georgia's Spencer Ralston follows his shot April 14 at the University of Georgia Golf Course in Athens.

“We believe the CAC has the ability to form subcommittees from within its own existing membership to allow a few individuals to take the lead in researching a project and then report back to the whole CAC,” Lackey said.

He went on to say that allowing members “to form their own subcommittee from whomever they choose has an unintended consequence, which is a lack of diversity of thought.”

The issue is poised to come up at Thursday’s quarterly meeting of the citizens group as part of a review of proposed changes to the group’s bylaws.

In response to the city’s concerns, advisory group Chairman Wayne Stradley said Monday in an email, “While there is merit to (Lackey’s) position, I do not agree and told Mr. Lackey that it should be left up to the CAC for a vote.”

Also, in emails, Stradley said there’s an issue of autonomy.

“Either the CAC is a ‘citizen’ committee, representing the citizens, or not,” he said.

“I think the CAC should be autonomous and able to form subcommittees as long as they know the purpose, the members and (have) a deadline.”

The MPO has three committees: the citizens group; a technical coordinating group comprising city planners, engineers and other officials; and the policy committee, made up of top elected officials in the Hall area.

The citizens and technical groups can only recommend actions. Final decisions are made by the policy committee.

Bylaw changes are being proposed by all three committees. To become effective, they must first get the approval of the policy committee, which is set to meet next Aug. 8.

If the policy committee ends up not allowing the citizens group to include non-members in a subcommittee, the North Hall “subcommittee group could continue to exist, but it just would not be called a subcommittee of the CAC,” MPO transportation planning manager Sam Baker said.

However, “nothing prevents now or in the future for a CAC member to form a citizen-led group to conduct any study on any transportation issues,” he added. “It just will not be a subcommittee of the CAC.”

And Lackey said the city values such input.

“The residents and business owners within the areas of study are on the ground every day for multiple hours,” he said. “Their familiarity of the area in question will help us to identify issues and potential solutions.”

At the April 27 meeting, Stradley was skeptical of a government-sponsored study.

“A lot of these studies don’t go out and interview people,” he said. “They don’t drive out to see what (a potential route) looks like.

“We can’t stop growth in this county, but we at least should have some control of it.”