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Lawmaker gets Ludowici officials to consider changing charter

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POSTED: May 1, 2013 10:01 a.m.
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State Rep. Jeff Chapman talks with Ludowici officials Monday during a meeting about whether the city’s charter should be changed.

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Ludowici officials questioned why state Rep. Jeff Chapman called a hearing on changing the city charter at the hearing Monday.
Chapman said residents asked him to review the document to see if it should be updated. Approximately 50 people attended the hearing that was supposed to be in the Long County Library, but was moved to city hall because of the turnout.
Chapman said the document was written in 1928 and has been amended nine times.
Mayor James Fuller and the three members of the city council voiced concerns about the hearing. Fuller asked what was wrong with the charter, and Councilwoman Mary Hamilton asked how many people had approached the lawmaker.
Chapman told Fuller he felt the document was convoluted and confusing. He told Hamilton that several citizens had approached, but that one would have been enough for him to look into the matter. Hamilton also said if residents had concerns, they should have gone to the council first.
Price Chapman and Janis Goode said they both had gone to the council, but that nothing had been done.
James Wasden said the mayor and council had done good things and that no one was blaming them. Wasden said the document is old and much of it is outdated.
Fuller said many concerns voiced to him and the council about the charter actually were governed by state law.
City Attorney Joe Kitchings said the council was open to suggested changes, but that changes should not be mandated.
After much discussion, there were two primary concerns brought up by Price Chapman and Goode. Chapman said the mayor’s veto power gave him too much power. It takes a two-third council vote to overturn a veto. For a five-seat council that requires four votes.
The second issue was special elections for vacated council seats. Goode said when a seat is vacated, the council can appoint a replacement if less than two years are left on the term. She said she believes elections ought to be called unless there is less than a year left.
The mayor said information he had from several governing bodies made the two-year limit appear to be normal.
Rep. Chapman said, “I believe that the biggest problem is that there has been a lot of misunderstanding.”
He asked Fuller and councilmembers to work for a compromise. Fuller and councilmembers said they would. Fuller said city hall would be opened 45 minutes before regular meetings to give residents and officials time to discuss changes, starting May 14.
“This is a good time for the city government and the citizens of Ludowici to start working together,” Councilman Mark Chesser said. “Tonight has been a good start
Councilwoman Gwen Davis said, “After the June 18 election we will have a full council with more representation and more people to work with.”

 

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