Moreland will vote on 4-year council termBy W. WINSTON SKINNER
Moreland residents will have an extra item on their ballots on Tuesday – a referendum on whether to change the town council from two-year terms to four-year terms.
“We have a big election coming up July 31,” Mayor Josh Evans said at the monthly council meeting in the town hall at the Moreland Mill. “The town’s going to have the referendum on the ballot so we can go to four-year terms.”
The small south Coweta town came close to having to hold its own elections – a circumstance that would have required U.S. Justice Department approval and thousands of dollars in expenses not included in the town budget.
The council had been discussing the need to move to four-year terms for a couple of months when a vote was taken in February. Councilman Allyn Bell, who had taken office in January, voted against the proposal to increase the length of the terms.
“I’m totally against four-year terms. We can’t get people to run for two-year terms,” Bell said at the February meeting.
With the current arrangement, because of staggered terms, Moreland is the only town that holds elections every year. Coweta County Election Superintendent Jane Scoggins currently handles the elections for the town, but the town was informed several years ago that they needed to adjust their term lengths.
Prior to the February meeting, Evans talked with State Rep. Billy Horne, who told him he would submit the local legislation only if the council voted unanimously for the proposal. Horne also told Evans he would need the notice by mid-February.
Evans told the council at the February meeting that it would cost the town “about $5,000” to hold an election. The town would have to hold a separate election from the county-state-national election that might be taking place at the same time.
When other council members talked about the expense of holding separate elections, Bell was unmoved. “We spend money on other things,” he said.
When a city holds an election on a date when there are county, state or federal offices on the ballot, the town pays only a $250 setup fee. When a city has a separate election handled by Scoggins’ office, the city reimburses the county for the cost of poll workers and ballots.
The county will not be able to hold Moreland’s election this year because, during a presidential election year, the qualifying deadlines for municipal elections in Georgia are not early enough to make the November ballot. Scoggins said towns were informed by the state of that fact in 2004 or 2005, and all of Coweta’s other municipalities long ago arranged their elections so that they do not have elections on presidential ballot years.
“Everybody was in the same boat,” Scoggins said in February.
If Moreland had to hold its own election, the council would have to designate a place for the vote, get their own ballots printed, arrange for poll staff and count and report the votes. Someone with the city – which hires only one part-time employee and contract maintenance workers – would have to complete a course to get certified to hold the election.
The council held another meeting Feb. 29 and unanimously voted to ask Horne to submit local legislation. That process led to the ballot measure that residents of the town will see when they vote Tuesday.