Flowery Branch City Councilman Joe Anglin requested the city attorney’s assurance Thursday night that there are safeguards against abuse of power by a mayor or council members during a state of emergency.
Anglin expressed his concern, and sought City Attorney Ron Bennett’s counsel, as the City Council undertook second reading of an ordinance designed to streamline the declaration of a local emergency. Ordinance 473 would grant the mayor or the Hall County Board of Commissioners chairman the ability to call an emergency without immediate approval by a council quorum.
Bennett assured Anglin that, by city charter, two council members can call a meeting, with less than 24 hours’ notice, to discuss and resolve any potential issues relating to the called emergency.
“Even before you get to the layers to protect against any abuse of power,” Bennett said, “I think it’s important to note that the grant of authority is limited to this: It’s an event of an actual or threatened occurrence of a disaster emergency which will result in a large-scale loss of life, injury to property or people, destruction or in the major disruption of community affairs which is sufficiently severe, and of such a magnitude, that warrants extraordinary assistance by federal, state and other localities.”
In addition to expediting emergency response, City Manager Bill Andrew said that streamlining the process would also provide for a reduction or waiving of fees for area reconstruction and the fast-tracking of processes for builders undertaking reconstruction.
“I’m fully confident that it meets the necessary checks and balances ... while giving flexibility to a smaller number for folks to deal with an emergency, ultimately for the protection of the people,” Bennett said.
In other council actions, the bid review for purchase and installation of three outdoor weather sirens was approved.
Warning sirens have been approved for three locations: 7406 Lake Crossing Drive in the Sterling on the Lake community; next to the city water tower on Roberts Drive and at Alberta Banks Park, which is off Jim Crow and Radford roads. An easement agreement was approved for the Lake Crossing Drive site.
“This project is being done in conjunction with the county,” City Planner James Riker said, adding that Hall County will cover upkeep costs for the structures.
Hall County Fire Services and Flowery Branch recently received a $25,000 grant from the Georgia Emergency Management Agency for the sirens’ installation.
Hall County Fire Chief David Kimbrell thanked the city for enhancing its warning system, which will cost $62,908, with the city responsible for the trenching and laying of 2-inch conduit and ground repair.
The City Council also gave its final OK to an ordinance setting the Nov. 5 general election. Council posts 3, 4 and 5 and the mayor’s seat will be on the ballot. The ordinance also sets qualifying for Aug. 26-28. Fees are $144 for posts 3, 4 and 5, and $180 for mayor.