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Lawmaker: Forsyth County commission won't expand this year

FORSYTH COUNTY — Forsyth’s state legislative delegation has decided not to pursue a proposal in 2016 to add a sixth member to the county commission.

The new member would have been an at-large chairman voted on by the entire county and who could have taken office as early as January 2017.

Under the present setup, the five commissioners are elected by district-only voting and determine a chair, who serves in the post for a year at a time, among themselves.

In an email Friday, District 25 state Rep. Mike Dudgeon of south Forsyth noted that the decision concerning the county’s governing body was made after “more deliberation and public input.”

According to the email, which Dudgeon indicated was on behalf of the seven-member, all-Republican delegation, the lawmakers still feel “a countywide chair is an idea worthy of investigation at a future date.”

Pete Amos, the District 1 commissioner who currently serves as chairman, said he was not expecting such an announcement.

“I’m surprised, but I think the delegation has done the right thing,” Amos said. “After a couple of town hall meetings, maybe the consensus was that we don’t need the sixth person as a chairman right now.”

Citing recent town hall meetings and feedback from residents, District 27 state Sen Michael Williams of District 27 said there was little support to add the new position.

“Not a single person present [at the town hall meetings] was in support of a sixth commissioner,” Williams said. “We also received several emails and phone calls, all in opposition to this idea.

“We thought if nobody wanted it, why move forward.”

Williams added that he did not see the delegation moving to expand the commission in the near future, though that could change after the next census in 2020.

“There still is talk about in a couple of years when we do the census to possibly reconfigure the commission,” he said.

However, the delegation still will seek public input on the commission’s makeup through ballot questions in the May 24 primary.

“[It] would ask various questions about the makeup of the commission, just to get a better feel for what the public wants,” he said.

Williams said he wants to see a question on a potential move back to countywide voting, which was in place prior to 2010, and was changed in response to a ballot question.

After the possibility of adding a sixth member surfaced, the commission floated several alternatives. Those included expanding the commission to seven members to avoid tie votes; leaving the setup unchanged until after the results of a straw poll of voters; or revert to countywide voting.

In the end, however, commissioners decided not to send any of those to the legislative delegation. And Amos said Friday he did not see the commission moving forward with those proposals.

“In my opinion, I think we ought to sit tight on any alternatives, since the state has [decided to] sit tight on what they want to do,” he said.

Dudgeon announced the sixth member proposal during a pre-legislative breakfast last month.

It was made at the same time the delegation said it would not pursue the formation of Sharon Springs, which could have become the county’s second city and covered much of south Forsyth.