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Commissioners begin changes to agenda process
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Effingham County commissioners are changing the way they put together their agendas, and more changes could be coming.

In a 4-1 vote, commissioners approved amending their rules of procedure, giving the county clerk flexibility to add more information or new items, with supporting documents.

Commissioners raised concerns about agenda policies, community relations director Adam Kobek said, and five changes were made. The biggest change made, according to Kobek, was the preparation of the agenda. Information on agenda items is supposed to be submitted 12 days before the meeting.

Under the changes adopted by commissioners, the clerk can add items and supplemental material but not later than one day before commissioners receive their information packets on agenda items.

“It is contemplated to happen between the 12-day deadline and when commissioners get their information, not after the agenda has been set,” interim county administrator Toss Allen said.

Among the issues raised by the 2012 audit, completed last month, were the commissioners not enforcing their meeting agenda policy consistently. In the finding, auditors noted that on several occasions items were added to the agenda, though supporting documents were not included until after the deadline.

“We got written up,” said Chairman Wendall Kessler.

Also approved was having agenda summaries — if agenda items were discussed, approved, tabled or turned down — available two business days after a commission meeting. Citizens also can submit written requests to one commissioner, rather than multiple board members, and wording also was changed in the section on staff and commissioners’ reports.

Commissioners also amended how items can be removed from the consent agenda, should a commissioner wish to discuss the item in question. Instead of requiring a motion and a second, the chairman can move the item from the consent agenda if a commissioner has questions about it.

Some commissioners also want to find ways to speed up the process for items that are approved through the consent agenda. Consent agenda items are made up of rezoning requests primarily.

“I would like to see us have one reading and that would cut down on a lot of this,” said Commissioner Phil Kieffer, “except for the things that absolutely require it … any way we could speed it up for the homeowner and the developer.”

“Anything we can do to put the citizens through less,” added Commissioner Vera Jones.

County attorney Eric Gotwalt explained that second readings on zoning matters are done to make sure stipulations are met and that the zoning map stays updated with any amendments to its text.

“The county was getting 10 to 15 rezonings at every meeting in the early 2000s,” he said.

There also are changes and corrections to the zoning map text on rezonings before they go to the commissioners for final approval.