Warner Robins council pushes for more in depth work sessions

chwright@macon.comMarch 21, 2013 

WARNER ROBINS -- The agenda for Friday’s daylong meeting of Warner Robins mayor and City Council labels it as a work session. But it’s not what the six council members said they envisioned.

“To me, I look at this as a fact-finding thing,” said Councilman Mike Davis. “Overall, it’s not bad. Is it a work session? No.”

Council members said they have requested time for them and Mayor Chuck Shaheen to dissect individual issues, maybe even resurrecting their Thursday precouncil meetings. They’ll hear information Friday, but keep pressing for those public discussions, they said.

In an e-mail sent Thursday evening, Shaheen wrote that Friday's meeting the first time the city "has had a work session to discuss SPLOST funds and other priority topics."

"We know that when mayor an council work together, we can accomplish great things for our city," he wrote.

The meeting, to be held in the McIntyre Room at the Recreation Department, begins at 8 a.m. Topics will include a recreation plan, natural gas initiatives and a new fire station.

In e-mails sent to Shaheen since October, council members repeatedly have asked to set aside time for lengthy discussions on one major topic at a time.

“It seems that most all the council members are in agreement, but it doesn’t appear that that’s what the mayor wants to do,” said Mike Daley, who has been the most vocal and detailed in those e-mails, which The Telegraph obtained through the Georgia Open Records Act.

In recent months, the mayor’s office arranged the eight-hour day that includes eight topics and 12 speakers.

A 90-minute segment is broken down into three presentations about the special purpose local option sales taxes Warner Robins oversees. An afternoon 30-minute segment on redevelopment includes four subtopics.

“There are some things we’re really looking forward to,” said Councilman Paul Shealy. “The fire station is a biggy for me.”

Shaheen said Monday that he especially looked forward to the city transit topic.

“Basically, (it’s) just to let the council be aware of transit service in our city compared to other cities, or lack thereof in our city,” Shaheen said.

Precouncil revisited

In October, council rescheduled its precouncil meetings held Thursdays prior to Monday regular meetings. They are now held 90 minutes before the regular meetings.

Council members said the past few months have shown they need to discuss items more fully and as a whole.

Councilman Daron Lee pointed to a recent commercial truck parking ordinance council rescinded just two weeks after passing it and national outcry from truckers.

“I don’t think our communication is at the level where we can sit in a room at precouncil and then go vote,” Lee said. “I don’t think the time allotted is conducive enough to make quality decisions.”

Lee and Councilman Mike Brashear said they want to go back to the old format. Shealy and Councilwoman Carolyn Robbins said they want Thursday work sessions as needed. Davis did not address the Thursday sessions.

Daley said he wants the Thursday meetings to be work sessions but for Monday precouncils to remain.

“You need to have a dress rehearsal before you have your formal meeting,” Daley said.

Daley pointed to the sessions that Congress, the state Legislature and Perry hold prior to votes.

Daley and Robbins both named the SPLOST as a topic the council needs to hash out together. Daley said of particular concern to him is how they will overcome a shortfall in the 2012 SPLOST even though they’ve already financed the money earmarked for the law enforcement center.

The work sessions would be “another way to demonstrate to everyone the transparency of our mayor and council and letting everyone see us working together on these projects,” Daley said.

To contact writer Christina M. Wright, call 256-9685.

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