Sky Valley tables chief search committee
Before Sky Valley can begin the hunt for a new police chief, it needs to form a police chief search committee.
During the city’s Tuesday council meeting, Mayor Hughel Goodgame initially proposed a committee comprised of Sky Valley residents and council members. Two of the proposed committee members, Councilmen Ed Steil and Milner Lively, were on the search committee that hired former Sky Valley police chief R.C. Mason.
Councilman Bob MacNair thought that members who served on the previous search committee should not be included on the new one. He did not make a motion on the idea, but requested that Steil and Lively be removed from the committee. Steil said he had no problem with being left off the panel, and thought the council should select the best candidates it could find.
Goodgame, however, was adamant that it would be beneficial to have committee members with experience.
“I personally feel the reason I put (Steil and Lively) on there is that it was important for this new committee to hear exactly what happened with the first committee and exactly what was done, what was not done, and I thought it was very helpful to have that experience of the previous committee to review the whole process that was gone through,” the mayor said.
The topic became contentious as residents expressed differing opinions and ideas. Some thought a larger search panel would be better to be more encompassing and thorough. Others thought a smaller committee was preferable to keep things from getting unwieldy.
Some community members expressed a willingness to assist on the committee.
One volunteer was Jack Fortsen, a former police officer. Fortsen said he had experience doing interviews and doing research similar to the research done in background checks. Another volunteer was Allen Piontkowski, who said he is a former New York police investigator with experience in conducting background checks.
“I think that you need to pare it down and get the best qualified people for this job,” Piontkowski said. “A contractor, even if he had 100 employees, he may not be the best qualified as opposed to someone’s who’s been a career law enforcement person who knows a system and can work it and can understand the ins and outs.”
After hearing feedback from residents and council members, Goodgame’s proposed panel was discarded and further discussion was tabled until the next meeting.
In other business, the council unanimously passed a motion to declare a property on Labelle Circle as surplus and put it up for auction. City Manager Linda Lapeyrouse said more information would become available when the city advertises it and discusses it at next month’s meeting.
After the meeting adjourned, council hosted a public hearing to record comments on the city’s Fiscal Year 2017 budget.
Some residents expressed concern regarding money set aside for potential improvements to the post office and city park. After it was suggested the city pull the budget item until plans are set, Goodgame noted it was a common practice to set aside funds for future projects.
“That won’t be done until everyone has agreed that that’s what needs to be done. Right now, the only thing that’s been done is Georgia Mountain Regional Planning is working on a conceptual plan and that’s only as a result of a public survey that we did in the community and a large majority expressed an interest into doing this,” Goodgame said.
Lapeyrouse said the city has $99,962 in reserve specifically for public land and buildings.
For the city’s proposed budget, the city’s mill rate would drop slightly from FY 2016, from 16.257 to 16.083. If approved, the city’s tax bill on a $100,000 property would be $643.32, compared to $650.28 in the last fiscal year.
In addition to the city’s mill rate, Sky Valley residents also are charged the county’s mill rate of 9.14 and the Rabun County Board of Education’s mill rate of 9.711, for a total property tax bill of 34.934.