Looking over the agenda for Thursday night’s work session, Huffman, who is in his third year in office, said many of the topics of discussion were brought forward “out of spite” against the old council, which retired three members in January.
“It’s just that. ‘We want to reverse everything we can that was done before,’” Huffman told the council and Mayor Gene Hobgood. “We’ve gone back to look at these various things. Why all of a sudden (do) they show up on one agenda?”
On the agenda Thursday night were previously controversial topics such as Hobgood’s suggested 3 percent excise tax on car rentals, along with lowering the senior trash rate and storm water fees and doing away with the city’s fire district ordinance.
The rental car tax was shot down by the old council in 2012. The previous council also increased the senior trash rate and did not lower storm water fees, though it was urged to do so by a representative of city’s storm water board.
The council took no action on any of the topics Thursday night because the meeting was a work session. In its first meeting of 2014, the council voted to stand against a loose policy of the last council, which said votes could be taken during any meeting or work session.
Although Huffman, a regular ally of the recently retired officials, felt the topics were coming back up because of disapproval of the last council from the new council members and Hobgood, the mayor said Huffman was mistaken.
“I appreciate your opinion,” Hobgood said to Huffman. “I don’t agree with you, but I appreciate you.”
Huffman and the mayor have often been at odds on issues. In January, the councilman also accused Hobgood of making City Manager Scott Wood quit minutes before the first meeting of 2014, when the new council members came on board, which the mayor declined to confirm or deny to the Tribune.
On Thursday night, the mayor did, however, concede that some actions not previously possible under the old reign of government might now be possible.
“There were a lot of issues that I felt — and maybe some others felt — needed to be dealt with sometime ago, and we were just totally unable to do it,” Hobgood said. “I think now we may be able to do those things.”
Council-man Glen Cummins, who the council unanimously approved to be interim city manager in mid-January, said Canton residents wanted the subjects to be addressed.
“They’re being readdressed because I think the citizens have told us, via the election, that a lot of these are issues that they didn’t agree with that were done,” he said. “I’m just going based on what citizens have told me they want. I don’t see it as vindictive or anything like that. I see it as a pure thing.”
One of the issues Cummins brought before the council was doing away with the fire district ordinance, which the old council considered as a way to fund fire services in the city but isn’t being used.
Cummins said the ordinance had “no benefit whatsoever.”
Hobgood said the purpose of it was to “bypass the senior exemption,” a goal that the Georgia Attorney General’s Office previously questioned.
But, for Huffman, since the district isn’t being used, it isn’t hurting anyone.
“At this particular time, this is not doing any harm to anybody,” he said. “It’s not helping anybody, it’s just in a static situation.”
Huffman felt the fire district ordinance could be a “card in the hand” of the city during talks with Cherokee County on working together for fire services, which the two jurisdictions started talking about recently to build a new fire station in the Laurel Canyon area.
Like other issues up for discussion on the agenda, Huffman said the fire district was simply brought up to lash out at the old council.
“I honestly feel that way, Mr. Mayor,” he said.
Also during the work session, the council:
• Heard an update on Etowah River Park, which is now projected to be open about June, although officials previously shot for February. Bill Echols, Cherokee’s capital projects manager, told the council the cause of the delay was the rainy weather of recent months;
• Discussed a potential five-year agreement with Schnabel Dam Engineering for monitoring the Hickory Log Creek Dam in the amount of $17,500 per year, with the rest of the cost being picked up by the Cobb-Marietta Water Authority;
• Discussed a potential contract with Engineering Strategies Inc. for construction oversight during renovations at the city’s waste water treatment plant for about $234,000;
• Discussed granting Cherokee County’s request for a three-year commitment of $20,000 a year to help fund the Cherokee Office of Economic Development; and
• Discussed whether to pay an extra $3,600 to the architect working on plans for a building at the city’s reservoir to make up for what Cummins called about six months of indecision from the previous council.