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Commissioners want to fill seats on MPO boards
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Effingham County commissioners are looking for someone to represent the county at the Coastal Regional Metropolitan Planning Organization’s meetings.

As a result of the 2010 Census, a portion of southern Effingham County was included in the Savannah urbanized area. With that, Effingham gets a seat at the table of the CORE’s MPO. MPOs are required by federal law to undertake transportation planning for those areas with populations greater than 50,000. The MPO’s new area includes all of Chatham County and Richmond Hill, along with parts of Bryan and Effingham counties.

County commissioners earlier this year approved a memorandum of understanding to become members of the CORE MPO, and Gov. Nathan Deal has executed the MOU.

There are four committees of the MPO — a technical coordinating committee, an economic development and freight advisory committee, a citizens advisory panel and an advisory committee on accessible transportation.

County Administrator Toss Allen said he broached the issue of volunteers for the citizens advisory committee at the last Effingham Transportation Advisory Board.

“There was nobody who jumped out of their chair,” he said. “We need to find a name at some point for citizens advisory committee.”

The citizens advisory committee is mandated to meet twice each fiscal year. Its membership includes three residents of Chatham County, three from Savannah and one each from Bloomingdale, Garden City, Pooler, Port Wentworth, Thunderbolt, Tybee Island, Vernonburg, Richmond Hill and Effingham County.

Allen pointed out that getting that many private citizens has been problematic for the committee.

“What I understand is they have a low participation rate of citizens,” he said. “They have trouble asking people to show up.”

Jack Garvin offered his services, in case the commissioners have difficulty finding someone.

“This sounds like an ideal job for a troublemaker from Clyo,” he quipped.
Commissioners weighed drafting Alan Zipperer, a citizen representative on the county transportation advisory board, for the citizens advisory committee.

“He’s knowledgeable about transportation,” county commission Chairman Wendall Kessler said.

The technical coordinating committee has a spot for an Effingham County staff representative. That committee meets one week prior to the MPO board’s meeting. By nature of their positions, Allen and Effingham Industrial Development Authority CEO John Henry are members of the economic development and freight advisory committee.

The MPO’s board also has a seat for the Effingham County commission chairman or a designee. It is the only spot on the MPO’s board reserved specifically for an Effingham resident. The CORE MPO board is scheduled to meet six times a year.

Kessler said it is important for the county to have a seat on the MPO board of directors.

“It is my belief and opinion that regardless of who this board elects to represent us, we need to be there and let our wishes be known,” he said. “I think we need to be there.”

Kessler said he already knows of one meeting conflict he may have for the MPO board.

“Y’all just be prepared that if I have a conflict, I’m going to be calling one of y’all,” he told commissioners. “I think we need to be represented.”

Kessler said his reading of the by-laws is that if he is chosen as the county’s MPO board representative, he can designate someone to take his place for a meeting.

“If anyone else wants this, my feelings won’t be hurt,” he said.

Commissioners also approved an engagement letter with Savannah law firm Spiva Lewis to serve as counsel in condemnation proceedings for the widening of Herbert Kessler Road. Attorney George Lewis, who has worked for the county in past instances, is charging $275 per hour, with associate attorneys to be paid $125 an hour. Paralegals assigned to the case will be compensated at $50 per hour.

“We have been to court several times on this issue,” Allen said.

Former county attorney Eric Gotwalt also may continue to assist the county and Lewis in the case. Effingham native and attorney Lee Newberry was named county attorney at the June 23 meeting. Newberry has been a partner in a firm with Ted Carellas but is starting his own practice in Springfield.