Road projects are a constant in the city of Cumming and Forsyth County, and many city residents may not realize, under city rules, most adults living in the city can be pressed into service to work on roads up to eight days a year.
While everyone pitching in might make projects go faster – and it’s unlikely Mayor Troy Brumbalow or the city of Cumming would make such a request to the citizens – the requirement is still part of the city’s charter, along with some other rules that might not have a big need to be enforced in 2019.
But Brumbalow said while certain parts of the charter will never be used, he has no intention of taking them off the books.
“I just think it’s so neat, and I’d never want any of that stuff to be taken out or changed because it does show, kind of like the Constitution, how the city was started and what the thoughts were at that time, and it’s totally different today,” Brumbalow said.
The Town of Cumming was established and chartered in 1834, and was renamed to the city of Cumming in another charter in 1845, according to information from the city. The city’s current charter repeals another charter approved in 1885, though officials could not say for certain when it was passed.
The first mayor referenced in the charter is Roy P. Otwell, who served two separate terms from 1929 to 1956 and again from 1959 to 1960.
The charter has a number of seemingly archaic rules that would have been more pressing for a small, rural community.
For example, one section gives the city council the ability to prevent “horses, mules, cattle and all other animals or fowls from running at large or being tied or tethered on streets or sidewalks” along with preventing “the keeping of hogs within the city limit.”
Brumbalow said that rule came up while running for his office when talking with a neighbor who had chickens in their yard.
“She asked, ‘So if you get elected, you’re not going to take my chickens away, are you?’” Brumbalow said. “I laughed because I had read the charter. I went, ‘No, the chickens are good, but you can’t have hogs.’”
Under the rules for road maintenance, “all persons between the ages of 21 years and 51 years” can be obligated by the city council to work on roads and those who refuse the week’s-worth of labor are subject to a fine “in the sum not exceeding” $10, which would have been more painful when originally written.
More serious than a $10 fine, those not working on roads could also be subject to “compulsory labor on the streets in the chain-gang.”
“It’s neat to know every adult in the city can work on the street crew if our coffers got too low,” Brumbalow said. “I’m sure that would go over really well.”
The charter also lays out some interesting regulatory powers, such as the ability to regulate “theatrical exhibitions, merry-go-rounds, circuses, and shows of all kinds” and “traveling venders of patent medicine, soaps, notions and all articles.”
The council could also make rules for some businesses not likely to come to the city any time soon, such as blacksmiths, livery stables, steam gins and sawmills.
To prevent the outbreak of disease, the city can also establish a “pest-house.”
“Now we have Northside [Hospital Forsyth ]. Everybody that needs to see a doctor,” said attorney Molly Anderson with Miles, Hansford and Tallant, which provides the city’s legal services. “That’s still stuck in the charter from way back then discussing smallpox and things like that, so that’s another interesting flashback.”
Anderson said while there are parts of the charter that won’t be enforced, it’s cheaper and easier to leave the rules on the books than go through the process of updating the entire charter.“The goal when you are making a charter for the city is to make it flexible enough and give enough power to the city officials to be able to deal with any issues that spring forward without having to redo the charter every few years,” Anderson said. “One of the great things about the city of Cumming charter is it’s held up for a long time, even though you do have some funny outliers that are set in there.”