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The Local Agenda: Commissioners talk Hall transit
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The Hall County Board of Commissioners is scheduled to "discuss" Hall Area Transit at today's work session meeting ahead of talks about the general budget process.

"Discuss" is the word used on today's work session agenda, but it could turn into a debate to establish how committed the commissioners are to transit services.

Hall Area Transit, which consists of the Red Rabbit fixed routes and the Dial-A-Ride curb-to-curb services, is funded through federal and state grants, with shared responsibilities from Hall County and the city of Gainesville.

Commissioners could discuss the consequences of abandoning some of the transit's programs, said Commissioner Ashley Bell.

The topic is coming up after repeated questions from some commissioners about the wisdom of accepting federal grants that require local commitments to fund the transit system.

Commissioner Craig Lutz has raised concerns about the "strings attached" to federal grants, requiring monetary obligations to the program years down the road.

"It appears to me that we're in a situation now where we can't take these things for granted any more," he said Monday. "I'm afraid this is just a never-ending cycle, which causes us to (be bound) in future relationships down the road."

That concern was raised again at a March 5 work session in which the commissioners decided to apply for a grant to share the costs of the Dial-A-Ride program.

In last summer's budget process, Lutz said, he discovered it was difficult to reduce county costs for programs funded in part by federal dollars, due to restrictions in the grants.

Bell, a supporter of the transit system, suggested the commissioners review all their options - as well as the consequences to those options - and talk about the system.

"At some point we have to make a fundamental decision," Bell said at the March 5 work session. "It's fair to have that debate, so let's just have it."

Flowery Branch may change public comment period

After hearing complaints from two former Flowery Branch City Council members last week, current members have decided to tweak their proceedings somewhat.

Craig Lutz, now on the Hall County Board of Commissioners, and Amanda Swafford both said they would like to see the council return to publishing minutes that summarize discussions, which primarily take place during work sessions

In January, the council opted to record only specific votes and other actions that normally take place during the voting session.

But during its retreat Saturday, the group seemed to agree informally to move the public comment period from the work session to the voting session and then City Clerk Marja Burney could summarize in the minutes that speaker's position on a particular issue.

Also, the city could record the work sessions so that "folks could take a CD away from here and it's smooth, easy listening as you drive down the road," Councilman Joe Anglin said.

"If they wanted to do that, they would, of course, have to pay the cost of producing the CD."

Also, council members agreed that moving the public comment time to a point after the council and city officials have discussed an issue might answer residents' questions before they step up to the podium.

"A lot of times, they are just uninformed about what's going to be said," Councilman Damon Gibbs said.

Aaron Hale covers government issues for The Times. Share your thoughts, news tips and questions with him:

Jeff Gill covers South Hall for The Times. Share your thoughts, news tips and questions with him:


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