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Catoosa County commissioners have approved a resolution requesting the Georgia General Assembly to consider repealing two county-specific acts that currently restrict the board's purchasing powers.

The acts, County Attorney Skip Patty said during a board meeting on Jan. 19, were first approved in 1986 and 1987 after a dispute between two county officials, and have not been updated in more than 30 years.

Currently, commissioners must provide time for and solicit bids to be submitted before allocating funds for any purchase over $15,000.

"The amount is artificially low because it was adopted so long ago," Patty said at the meeting. "Fifteen thousand was a lot more money back in 1986."

The second rule requires the purchase of certain expenditures over $10,000 to be advertised in a local newspaper three times following the purchase.

"I don't know what useful purpose it serves in advertising after it's done," Patty said as Commissioner Vanita Hullander expressed her agreement that the act is "redundant."

If the General Assembly repeals the acts, the county board will then be able to draft new rules and have local control over setting limits and regulations related to county purchasing power.

"These acts are burdensome on the staff, and they really don't serve any purpose at the present time," Patty said. "What we have to do is ask our local delegation to repeal the acts because they are acts of the General Assembly and we don't have the authority to change them."

If the acts are repealed, County Manager Alicia Vaughn said the county could even decide to keep the old limits, although she echoed sentiments similar to Patty's, saying that the current thresholds add a lot of time to the purchasing process for county staff.

Regaining local autonomy would allow county leadership to do research and make timely decisions about what may be best for Catoosa financially as times change, she added. Vaughn, who spent six years as Whitfield County's chief financial officer before taking the helm in Catoosa in 2019, said having such specific purchasing limits controlled by state acts is rare.

Walker County Public Relations Director Joe Legge said his neighboring county has local control of its bidding threshold and advertising and is just subject to the state's general limits and rules, rather than specific county acts like the ones in Catoosa.

Vaughn called the move to repeal the acts a "housekeeping" issue and said that Chief Financial Officer Carol Roberts has been working to review and modernize Catoosa's purchasing policies since coming on board with the county in May 2019. Roberts also served as Whitfield County's chief financial officer before being hired by Catoosa.

"One of the job duties that she was given was to look at our purchasing policy and totally go through the whole policy. It had not been updated for years and years," Vaughn said. " She's to the point now where we're ready to come to the board and make recommendations for changes for the policy.

"But to do that, we needed to clean that up. It's almost like a housekeeping item. I mean, we just need to fix this so that the board can do this internally and address the whole policy."

Roberts said she also plans to evaluate Catoosa's emergency purchasing procedures, exceptions to policy, compliance with federal grant purchasing rules, and quote requirements.

Contact Tierra Hayes at thayes@timesfreepress.com.

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