And then there were — just — two.
With only two sitting members left, the Hoschton City Council's ability to hold votes and conduct business will be on ice until April.
Although the council had a meeting slated for Jan. 13 — and did a preliminary call to order with a roll call, a prayer and the pledge to the flag — the council couldn't hold an official meeting to discuss or transact business since it no longer has a quorum of members.
Following last week's resignation of council member Hope Weeks, who qualified to run for mayor and had to relinquish her council seat to do so, only two members of the council are left — Shantwon Astin and Adam Ledbetter. (See other story for city election updates.)
City attorney Thomas Mitchell told the small crowd of citizens that without a quorum, the city can't do business and that the meeting "fails for the lack of a quorum."
If there is some kind of major emergency before the March election to fill two empty council seats, Mitchell said the city would have to go back to court and seek a solution that would allow just two council members to vote. The town had previously gotten court clearance to hold votes with three members, but without a mayor following the resignation of Theresa Kenerly in December.
Saying there would likely not be any meetings until April, mayor pro tem Ledbetter joked that the next three months would be "a vacation for everyone."
Ledbetter and Astin did take some comments and questions from citizens on Jan. 13, including a comment from planning and zoning board member Jan Gailey who questioned why Ledbetter had attended the Jan. 10 meeting of the city's planning and zoning board, saying that was improper.
Ledbetter said he had never attended a planning board meeting before and wanted to see how it operates. Mitchell said it wasn't improper for Ledbetter to attend the meeting.
WORK AROUND FOR FINANCES
While the council may not be able to meet for a few months, it did anticipate the problem and last week, adopted a tentative spending plan that will allow the town to function financially without an official council vote.
In a called meeting Jan. 9, before Weeks resigned her position on Jan. 10, the council approved a resolution and a spending policy plan that raises the threshold of spending limits that won't require council approval.
In the past, any spending above $2,500 by the city that fell outside the budget required council action. But that would tie the hands of the city today in an emergency, or an immediate need.
The new system drafted by the town's lawyer and financial consultants would require bids and council member approval set at various thresholds, but won't require a city council vote. The new system would allow the town to respond to immediate needs, but still have bids and informal consent of council members.
Several actions were tabled by the council Jan. 9 and could be on hold until April.
The council had hoped to appoint a city court judge to hear code violation citations, but ultimately tabled action following a lengthy discussion. The city has not had a municipal judge in several years, a situation that prevents enforcement of city code violations.
Two people have submitted resumes to be named city court judge — Dennis Still, who is city court judge for the City of Lawrenceville, and Eric Crawford who is chairman of the Jackson County Board of Elections.
There was some discussion as to whether or not Crawford could legally serve as municipal judge while also serving as elections board chairman. City attorney Mitchell said he was "85 percent sure" that Crawford could do both. The BOE's bylaws only prevent board members from holding elective office, but not appointed offices.
Weeks said Still's rate would be $175 per hour with a $350 minimum per court session while Crawford's rate would be $100 per hour with no minimum.
Ledbetter made a motion to table action on the matter. Astin agreed to second the motion to table action after learning that the city would have to also hire a court clerk.
The council also tabled action on appointing a citizens' advisory committee, a project spearheaded by Astin. He said the council was still researching how to set up such a council and exactly what it would do.
The council also took no action on appointing members to the city's ethics commission after learning that Ledbetter, acting as mayor pro tem, could proceed with that on his own. Ledbetter will appoint three people to a committee and those three people will create a pool of six citizens who can be called on to hear city ethics complaints.
In routine action Jan. 9, the council:
• agreed to get estimates on fixing a broken sidewalk due to tree roots in the Village of Hoschton subdivision. The trees, road and sidewalks are on city right-of-way and have been an ongoing problem. Residents in the subdivision said they would like to keep trees along the streets, but the roots are causing damage. Some council members said they would attend the next HOA meeting in the neighborhood to further discuss a longer term solution.
• approved spending up to $10,000 to update the city's online municipal codes.
• approved 10 city events for 2020.
• approved allowing American Street Rodders the use of the city square on the third Saturday of each month April through October.
• approved allowing the Hoschton Heritage Arts Council to use the train depot for three dates in 2020.