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Milton City Council continues deliberations on greenspace committee

Leaders divided on how to elect representatives



MILTON, Ga. — The Milton City Council continued discussion on the creation of the Milton Greenspace Advisory Committee at its Monday meeting, continuing the ongoing process that began when voters approved a $25 million greenspace bond referendum in November. At the meeting, councilmembers voted 4-3 to pursue a plan to staff the committee by selecting members in a single vote versus each councilmember appointing a representative from each district of the city, the process it has used to staff other committees and boards such as the Planning Commission, Equestrian Committee and Design Review Board. Councilmembers Joe Longoria, Burt Hewitt and Matt Kunz voted in opposition.

Prospective representatives will be reviewed by Milton city staff, who will then submit a list of recommended candidate to city leaders, the ordinance reads. Councilmembers will then consider the list before making a motion to approve the entire membership panel in a single vote.

Councilman Longoria was strongly in favor of councilmembers nominating their own representatives.

“If we have a list of skill sets that we were looking for on a committee, there is nothing to say that we couldn’t fill that with representatives from every single district,” he said. “This process that we put in to the document isn’t the only way we could get there. We could easily get there by using the method we have always used.”

Longoria said that he would “argue pretty strongly” that a Milton resident who voted in favor of the bond would expect the council to have a say in the greenspace committee nominations.

Councilman Kunz said he felt that he was voted to the council by his constituents with the idea that he would represent their stance. He would be doing so by selecting a nominee to the greenspace committee that best represented his district’s views.

Mayor Joe Lockwood said that though continuing that process would certainly be the easiest way, he felt it was not the best way.

“It’s the way we’ve done a lot of things, but I asked staff to research what the best way to do it is,” Lockwood said. “This is a lot of dollars and it needs to be done totally professionally.”

“All of our other committees make decisions that affect the city and affect the way the city goes, but they are not spending taxpayer dollars. This committee is actually going to spend taxpayer dollars so I asked staff to look all over the country and find the best way,” he said.

Kathleen Johnson, Milton conservation project manager, said the $25 million allocated for greenspace spending makes this committee different from others.

Councilmember Bill Lusk agreed.

“We’re talking about $25 million at stake. With that, this committee rises to a higher level,” he said. He urged councilmembers to move forward stating “We’ve set the wheels in motion now let’s get on with the program.”

Councilmember Karen Thurman was concerned that the process could become political if councilmembers nominated committee representatives.

“I don’t want to have a member of the committee worrying about if they are pleasing me,” Thurman said. “I want a committee that totally thinks on their own and does what they believe is best for the City of Milton, not what is best for any particular councilmember.”

“If you have a councilmember appointing a person, politics are going to be involved,” she said.

Within the vote to keep the committee member selection process in place, council added that each district should be represented and that an effort would be made to represent all of Milton’s geographic regions.

The city has received 17 applications for the greenspace committee and city staff will begin reviewing the applications next week.

It has not yet been decided how many members will be on the committee.

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