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Tempers flare at Monday's Snellville council meeting

SNELLVILLE - "Politics in Snellville is killing Snellville," Councilwoman Kelly Kautz said during Monday night's public hearing and City Council meeting.

Discord among the mayor and council members was evident as tempers ran high and accusations of impropriety and unethical behavior were exchanged.

The first barbs of the evening were exchanged during consideration of a de-annexation request. Vintage Communities Inc. was requesting to de-annex 2.95 acres on Janmar Road from Snellville into Gwinnett County to develop a high-end subdivision. The reason for the request was that Gwinnett does not have a 20 percent open space requirement, and Snellville does. Snellville's requirement made the project less profitable and more difficult for Vintage Communities to develop.

The de-annexation request was approved, but Mayor Jerry Oberholtzer voted against it.

Public Safety feasibility study negotiations under scrutiny

For a couple of years Snellville has been in the process of commissioning a public safety feasibility study. This study would provide city officials with a road-map of the Police Department and public safety needs in the coming years.

Beginning in January 2005, the city asked vendors about their qualifications to perform such a study and solicited pricing, but never went beyond that point. With the recent months of turmoil surrounding the city manager's ultimate resignation the ball got dropped, mayor pro-tem Bruce Garraway said.

Garraway spearheaded an initiative Monday night to proceed in negotiations with Precision Planning Inc. in which the city would ask the company whether it could perform the study for $12,200 or less. The $12,200 price is the lowest bid that came in 2006 and was submitted by a vendor other than Precision Planning.

Councilwoman Barbara Bender objected to Garraway's suggestion, saying that in the business world such a suggestion would be considered a poor business practice. Bender asked Garraway why the three vendors who originally proposed a price were not being asked to provide updated pricing this year. Garraway responded by saying that Precision Planning was involved in both the City Center and Senior Center planning.

"I do not feel like this is the way a governing body should proceed," Bender said. "You just don't go into negotiations to get a price and then shop that price around to other vendors. It just doesn't happen that way in the business world."

Jenkins supported Garraway's proposal, saying that the entire process was handled improperly in 2006, so Bender's objections were invalid.

Oberholtzer then accused "a council member" of secretly forwarding the low-bid price to a competing vendor, and said the action was unethical.

Amid the controversy, Garraway moved to postpone the matter indefinitely. Council members voted in agreement.

Citizens Advisory Committee nominations spark controversy

In a resolution Garraway added to Monday night's agenda just before the meeting began, the mayor pro tem resolved to resend a list of resident nominees the Georgia DOT requested. These residents will serve to advise officials on the U.S. Highway 78/Ga. Highway 124 intersection project.

"There has been some confusion about whose names should be on this list," Garraway said. Oberholtzer replied by accusing some council members of removing two of his nominations, Joe Anderson and Brett Harrell.

Garraway replied that Oberholtzer met with a DOT representative after the approved list of nominees was submitted and changed the list without the approval of council members. The mayor replied Garraway had no business talking with the DOT on the city's behalf.

Oberholtzer accused some council members of exchanging "secret e-mails" and having "improper discussions" on the subject, thereby embarrassing Snellville with regard to the DOT.

The discussion deteriorated from there, and Jenkins issued an invitation to Oberholtzer to "modify" his behavior or resign his office.

"The citizens will vote on who sits in this chair in November," Oberholtzer replied.

Council members voted to approve resending the list of nominees originally agreed upon to the DOT. Bender voted against the resolution because of its last-minute introduction Monday night, and Oberholtzer also voted against it.

Bender said toward the end of Monday night's meeting she was embarrassed to be an elected official in Snellville at that moment and that she was not aware of any confusion over the list of nominees until five minutes before the meeting

began.