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Richmond Hill may axe city manager job
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About a week after voting to terminate its contract with City Manager Mike Melton, the Richmond Hill City Council is considering eliminating the position from City Hall all together.
During a workshop Thursday at City Hall, city attorney Ray Smith gave a summary presentation to the council of proposed changes to the city’s charter. Those changes include eliminating a mandatory position of city manager, limiting how often one can serve as mayor and more.
“We feel like with the city manager type of government, you have an appointed person making decisions for the city rather than elected officials,” Mayor Harold Fowler said Friday of the proposed charter. “And we feel like elected officials are more in tune with what citizens want.”
The council will hold a first reading on the charter amendments at its next regular meeting at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday in City Hall. 
No action was taken during the workshop, and with little discussion among the council, it wasn’t clear if all members are onboard with the proposed changes.
“This is a radical change,” council member Russ Carpenter said.
Smith said the biggest change — moving from a “weak mayor/strong manager” form of government to a “strong mayor/no or weak manager” form of government — would basically be a return to the city’s type of government before 2005, when the city manager position was added to the current charter.
“This would allow you to appoint or hire a city manager as you see fit, rather than being stipulated by charter,” Smith said.
A second, related change would not allow a mayor to succeed himself or herself more than twice.
As an example, Smith said if council member John Fesperman was appointed as mayor to fill an unexpired term, he could run for and serve just two consecutive terms. He would not be allowed to seek a third consecutive term but could run again after another mayor has served.
The third change deals with power of eminent domain, in which the city can take possession of property for public use. In this case, condemnation for proprietary function would be added to the city’s charter.
“Proprietary function is where you want to build something like the City Center (for example), but you don’t have the property — so you condemn it,” Smith explained. “Is it a necessary function of the government? No. But can you (legally) do that? Yes.
“That wasn’t included in the (current) charter, so I added it.”
Smith explained Friday that the council must hold a first and second reading of the proposed charter before it can be sent to the General Assembly, where it will receive final approval or denial. 
Fowler noted Friday that the sooner the proposed charter gets to the state Legislature, the better chance the city has of getting it through the General Assembly this year.
In other business, the council heard presentations from two area civil engineering firms, Thomas and Hutton of Savannah and Hussey, Gay, Bell and DeYoung, also of Savannah. The council is weighing its options for its engineering needs, but no decision was made Thursday night.
The city’s current engineer is H&K Engineering Consulting of Savannah, which has been the city’s firm for the past two years.
Folwer said the council is “just seeing where we can get the best service.”

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