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Service to city varies by board
Most panels advisory, meet when necessary
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Forsyth County News

A new year means another term for the 15 members recently reappointed to various boards for the city of Cumming.

For some, like the three members of the Cumming Planning and Zoning Board, reappointment means attending monthly meetings.

But for the five members of the Recreation Board, meetings are few and far between.

“To tell you the truth, I don’t remember [the last meeting],” George Pirkle said. “It’s been a while. It’s been over a year.”

Greg Little, director of the city’s recreation and parks department, said the panel is "an advisory board for the recreation department," which handles day-to-day operations.

“If we’re facing a major policy change, we would go to them and ask for advice,” Little said.

City Administrator Gerald Blackburn said the Recreation Board has been around for more than 40 years, established as a requirement to receive state and federal recreation funding.

“They don’t have any funding responsibilities," Blackburn said. "But if they want to add programs and things like that, they’re the ones that would meet and discuss it and either give some direction to Greg or come to meet with the mayor and council."

Cumming Mayor H. Ford Gravitt and Richard May serve on the Forsyth County Health Board. The mayor, or a designate, must serve on the board as well as one appointee from city council.

The board, required by state law, is primarily responsible for overseeing the budget for the Forsyth County Health Department.

Gary Helmuth, environmental health specialist with the department, said the budget is made up of fees generated by the health department, state grants and aid, and county funds.

The seven-member health board meets on a quarterly basis, said Helmuth, adding that the district health office in Gainesville oversees department operations.

The board for the Cumming Housing Authority also meets quarterly, said Janice Smith, the authority's executive director.

The authority is responsible for a 50-unit public housing complex in the city. Smith works with qualified applicants, often placing them on a six- to 18-month waiting list for the low-rent housing.

The authority’s operations must meet U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development standards. Smith said the board doesn’t oversee daily operations.

“They basically vote on policies and procedures,” she said. “They vote on and approve all kinds of things. The budget is one of them.”

With a monthly meeting, the Planning and Zoning Board may be the city's most active group.

The three members meet the third Tuesday of each month, prior to city council meetings. Members receive $75 per meeting, Blackburn said.

Like the county’s planning commission, the municipal board approves zoning issues, variances and other development requests.

“We’re a little different than the county board," said member Ralph Webb. "Because when they hear something, their board will carry over six months while they’re studying that.

“We’re not like that. We’re a little more efficient.”

The city also handles far fewer requests than the county, and doesn’t receive as many housing requests.

“We never have had dozens of cases,” said Webb, who has served on the panel for about 15 years. “We’re the city, so it’s all commercial pretty much.”

During his tenure, Webb said he’s handled cases ranging from setbacks of only a few feet to the Market Place Boulevard road project. Lately, the workload has dropped off.

“In the last year, we’re lucky to see one a month,” Webb said. “Everything is slow right now.”

Webb and all other members of the city’s board agreed to serve another term this year, prior to being reinstated Jan. 20.