July 16, 2009
Neal Wagner -
COLUMBUS -- The Lowndes County Board of Supervisors Wednesday voted to retain a controversial board appointee one week after the topic sparked a lengthy verbal clash between two of the county''s government officials.
Board members voted 3-2, along racial lines, to uphold the board''s previous decision to appoint former Ward 5 Columbus City Council candidate Kenneth McFarland to the Lowndes County Industrial Development Board.
District 1 Supervisor and Board President Harry Sanders, District 2 Supervisor Frank Ferguson and District 3 Supervisor John Holliman voted to retain the appointment. District 4 Supervisor Jeff Smith and Leroy Brooks voted to remove McFarland from the industrial board.
The decision came little more than a week after the board voted similarly to appoint McFarland over former Ward 5 Councilman Jay Jordan.
The July 6 appointment caused a heated argument between Sanders and Brooks, and sparked a brief verbal confrontation between the two during Wednesday''s meeting.
"I make a motion that this board rescind its motion from last week to appoint Kenneth McFarland to the Industrial Development Board," Brooks said Wednesday.
"In order to rescind a motion, you have to have a two-thirds vote," Sanders responded. "In order to remove someone appointed previously, you have to have a two-thirds vote."
However, Brooks argued the two-thirds vote was unnecessary, accusing Sanders of "throwing a new clog in the game."
"We can remove anyone we want to," Brooks said. "All board appointees serve at the will and pleasure of this board."
"We can remove anyone we want with a two-thirds vote," Sanders responded.
After the board voted to retain McFarland, Brooks criticized Sanders for "trying to invoke some obscure Robert''s Rules of Order" to fit the situation.
"If you want to talk about Robert''s Rules of Order, go back and look at what some of the past abstention votes were," Brooks told Sanders.
"You jump on me all the time about not being able to follow Robert''s Rules of Order, but this rule is explicit," Sanders replied. "It takes a two-thirds vote to remove someone already appointed during a previous meeting."
Following the argument, Brooks vowed to continue to fight McFarland''s appointment.
"Next meeting, I''ll bring back an attorney general''s opinion," Brooks said. "You all are only delaying what I am going to bring back anyway."
In other business, the board:
n Amended previous board minutes to reflect a lower total investment from New Process Steel, which is scheduled to construct a steel-processing facility near the Severstal steel mill in the Golden Triangle Industrial Park off Airline Road.
Although the New Process facility originally was described as a $25 million investment, the company has lowered the investment amount to $10 million, said George Crawford, project analyst for the Golden Triangle Planning and Development District.
"They''re taking their inventory investment out of it," Crawford told the board.
Inventory investment represents the amount of unsold product produced and held at the processing facility.
Although the motion to amend the board minutes to reflect the company''s new investment amount passed 4-1, with Sanders, Holliman, Ferguson and Smith voting in favor and Brooks voting against, Brooks criticized the board for voting on an item not originally on Wednesday''s agenda.
"You are violating Robert''s Rules of Order by adding an item not originally on the agenda," Brooks told Sanders. "You''re wrong, and you''re using those rules only when you want to."
"If you want to be an obstructionist to economic development, then go ahead," Sanders responded.
"It just shows the contradictory nature of this board," Brooks said.
n Announced the county will apply for a pair of grants to fund the construction of an access road to the upcoming New Process facility.
The road is expected to cost about $584,000, Crawford explained. However, if awarded, an Appalachian Regional Commission grant would cover $300,000 and a Community Development Bloc Grant would cover about $104,000, Crawford added.
The remaining $180,000 would be funded by New Process.
n Voted to appoint Ferguson to the Columbus-Lowndes Development Link board of directors.
Ferguson will fill the vacancy left after Brooks'' July 6 resignation from the economic development board, and will serve on the board with Sanders until 2011.