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Former Flowery Branch council members ask to change minutes
Lutz, Swafford want public informed of discussions
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The Flowery Branch City Council also voted Thursday night:

  • To give final approval to allowing Newland Communities, the developer of Sterling on the Lake, the city's largest neighborhood, to build smaller homes than planned, including ranches, in a section near the front of the community.
  • To enter into an agreement with Hall County allowing the county to tap into a statewide fund that could net some $400,000 for the county's 911 center, officials have said. The state charges a 75-cent tax on prepaid wireless service.

 

Two former Flowery Branch City Council members, including one now serving on the Hall County Commission, pushed Thursday night for the council to flesh out minutes that are recorded as part of work sessions.

"It is good for the public to have an opportunity to be able to see the discussion that occurs," said Craig Lutz, who left the council in 2010 and is the South Hall representative on the Hall County Board of Commissioners.

He cited last week's discussion on a proposed housing change in Sterling on the Lake subdivision on Spout Springs Road.

"None of that is captured in your minutes," he said. "So, if a resident wanted to look to see what some of the discussion was, they can't see any of it.

"I'm asking you to please consider the transparency of this government and restore summary minutes. And if you don't want to, at least do a public vote. You all never voted to change the style of minutes."

Amanda Swafford, who was defeated in November by Councilman Damon Gibbs, said she understands that "summary" minutes aren't required by law, but "that doesn't necessarily make it right."

"As you can see from the attendance tonight, the majority of our citizens don't attend our council meetings, so their only exposure to your decision process tends to be through the media coverage."

Swafford said she would be "highly disappointed" if the council approves a proposed electronic system "that would automate the minutes ... if the voting minutes are the only thing that the council desires to keep."

The work session is a time when the council, as with many elected governmental bodies, airs out issues that may be voted on later, receives public comments and hears staff reports.

Flowery Branch holds its usually much shorter voting session immediately after the work session.

None of the council members responded to the remarks by Lutz and Swafford, but Gibbs asked for an update on the electronic system proposal. The system would place council reports and other meeting agenda items on the city's website for public access.

"It's something we plan on talking about during the budget process," said City Manager Bill Andrew.

City Clerk Marja Burney said the system will cost the city $432 per month. The city's budget process is taking shape, with the new fiscal year starting July 1.

The new system "would make it easier for the public to research, search topics, do different things and have information that's a little easier to access," Gibbs said.

Mayor Mike Miller said after the meeting that the council decided by consensus, not a formal vote, in January to switch to "action-only" minutes after observing that "extended meetings were putting a strain on personnel to complete the minutes."

 

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