Snellville City Council: Senator looks to stop ties
Balfour considering changing city charter

SNELLVILLE - Sen. Don Balfour wants to break the tie that keeps coming up at Snellville City Council meetings.

The legislator from the town "where everybody is somebody" says politics has caused "gridlock" in the city government, and he will hold a public meeting Thursday to determine how to move things along.

"The city's challenges are too great to have institutional gridlock," said Balfour, a Republican who chairs the Senate's powerful Rules Committee. "Many citizens have asked what can be done to change this problem."

Snellville often makes headlines because of the personal scuffles among council

members, including the recent police complaint from the mayor about a councilman's yard.

But Balfour is most interested in the council makeup, where five council members and the mayor all vote on matters, often ending in a 3-3 tie. To stop the stalemate, Balfour is considering changing the city charter to add or eliminate a council district or to only allow the mayor to vote in the case of a tie, which is the policy of the Lawrenceville City Council.

"There appears to be many instances where split votes are keeping matters from progressing to a conclusion," Balfour said. "People there seem to believe there is a problem with city government being at an impasse which is resulting from having an even number of voting members on issues."

Robert Jenkins, the councilman who faces a police warning about the condition of his yard, said he wants the charter to return to the policy of the mayor only voting in the case of a tie. The voting privilege was changed in 2001.

"If the senator can help move that forward, I'd be happy for the help," Jenkins said, noting that no one would want to give up a council seat and adding one would be a waste of money. "If (the mayor) wants to get anything done, he'll have to convince three people."

"I want to hear what the people say about it," Jenkins said.

Mayor Jerry Oberholtzer, who has said in the past he does not want to give up the mayor's voting privilege, and two other council members did not return calls Monday.

Balfour's meeting is set for 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the Snellville City Hall at 2342 Oak Road. He said the meeting will last only an hour, and he wants to focus on "positive" and "level-headed discussion."

SideBar: If you go

What: Town hall meeting on Snellville's charter

When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday

Where: Snellville City Hall, 2342 Oak Road