Some irked by fee study negotiations
Consultant deal ruffles feathers in Porterdale

PORTERDALE - The City Council voted to move ahead with an impact fee study and simultaneous update of the comprehensive land-use plan at Monday's regular meeting, but the decision did not come without some discord.

Councilman Robert Foxworth told the council Monday that he had negotiated with consultant Chris McGahee to conduct both studies and had been able to reduce the total cost of both projects by $3,000. The impact fee study will cost $27,000, while the comprehensive land-use plan will add $8,500 to the tab, he said.

Foxworth's negotiations came as a surprise to some on the council, who clearly thought that the project should be put out to bid before a consultant was selected.

Mayor Bobby Hamby said the council had agreed at its retreat earlier this year to send out requests for quotations (RFQs) for the combined projects before a vendor was selected.

"That was agreed upon by the council at the retreat," he said. "I didn't know that the council had approved for anyone to negotiate with anyone for this."

McGahee, who was present at the meeting, said that combining the two projects presents an opportunity for the council because much of the same information will be used in both studies. As it stands now, Porterdale is not listed as a Qualified Local Government by the state Department of Community Affairs because it does not have a current comprehensive land use plan.

According to DCA, Porterdale is one of about 40 local governments in Georgia that are not in compliance as a Qualified Local Government. Newborn, Mansfield and Oxford are also on the list. Noncompliance means that those governments are ineligible to receive funding from DCA, the Department of Natural Resources, Georgia Environmental Facilities Authority or the OneGeorgia Authority.

Hamby said Tuesday that Foxworth's negotiations outside the council's knowledge put the city in a difficult position.

"I felt like we were in a Catch-22 last night because Robert made it public knowledge what the fees were that McGahee had negotiated," Hamby said, adding that that action could expose the city to litigation. "It's not to say that I don't think Chris McGahee can do a good job; its just that proper procedures were not followed."

Hamby said he felt the city should have gotten RFQs for the project out of fiscal responsibility.

"Even if the charter doesn't say you have to do it, that's just good practice that you do for this amount of money," said Hamby. "We're talking both combined about $35,500. For that amount of money, that's no question that it should be put out (for quotes.)"

In the end, Foxworth was successful in getting the project pushed through, although other council members attempted to delay the action.

Councilmember Arline Hayes Chapman made a motion to postpone discussion of the issue until the council's next work session, scheduled for April 15. Councilmember Kay Piper, seconded the motion, which failed 3-2, with members Foxworth, Linda Finger and Mike Harper opposed.

Foxworth then made a motion to move forward with the impact fee study and comprehensive land use plan by McGahee. Harper seconded the motion, which passed 3-2.

Though the motion passed, it was clear that Foxworth's negotiations ruffled some feathers. In comments later in the meeting, Chapman asked that the council prepare to discuss clarification of "inappropriate negotiations by council members" at the April 15 work session.

Alice Queen can be reached at alice.queen@newtoncitizen.com.