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Rare stalemate scraps meeting
Board balks at agenda with chairman absent
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Forsyth County News

Forsyth County commissioners couldn’t agree on what to talk about, so they called off their whole meeting.

Tuesday’s work session ended in less than 10 minutes after the commission split 2-2 on whether to adopt the agenda.

“Merry Christmas everybody,” Commissioner Jim Harrell said as he left the room after the meeting adjourned.

Commissioners Brian Tam and Patrick Bell opposed the agenda measure.

Commission Chairman Charles Laughinghouse, who could have been the tie-breaking vote, was absent due to family obligations.

The agenda will instead be moved to Monday’s special called meeting, originally intended solely to adopt the 2010 budget.

The dissension began Tuesday when Bell proposed adding an item to the meeting’s agenda, which requires the support of four commissioners.

The commission voted 3-1 in favor, with Commissioner Jim Boff opposed.

When it then couldn’t agree on the agenda, none of the day’s business could be conducted.

After the meeting, Bell said he “couldn’t agree with the agenda as a whole without that item on there.”

The extra item came at a request from the developers of the second phase of Settlers’ Lake subdivision in northeastern Forsyth.

They would like the county to return some of their $2.2 million in sewer reserve money. Doing so, Bell said, was important to the survival of the project.

Attempts to reach the developers were not successful.

Boff said in the meeting that he did not want to discuss the issue without the chairman, Laughinghouse, present.

Bell told Boff he could vote without Laughinghouse there.

“I would have valued Commissioner Laughinghouse’s input,” Boff said afterward, citing the chairman’s seven years of service on the panel.

Boff added that he didn’t know anything about the proposed item prior to the work session.

It appears only Bell and Laughinghouse had discussed the matter prior to the meeting, though it was not clear whether they had agreed it should be brought up Tuesday.

Bell said he felt the commission should have at least discussed the topic, regardless of whether it took action on the matter.

Contacted later Tuesday, Laughinghouse said he was surprised to hear the meeting couldn’t get started.

It was just the second agenda stalemate he could recall during his time on the commission.

Harrell, who said he understood the positions of each commissioner during the meeting, felt the group would overcome its inner arguments.

“Surely we’re more grown up than that,” he said. “We have to put these little disagreements behind us ... I’m sure that we will.”

They’ll get a chance to do so Monday, when the agenda will include the budget, as well as the item Bell proposed.

Tam had little to say on the matter, other than that all issues would be resolved Monday.

Any urgent matters will not be affected by the move, since these topics still can be heard in 2009, said County Attorney Ken Jarrard.

“I think it is highly unlikely we will go through another thing like we did today,” he said.