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Staff photo by Erin O. Smith / Attorney Chad Young said a public facilities authority would allow the board of commissioners an avenue to engage in tax-exempt bond financing to construct or renovate public facilities.

The Catoosa County Board of Commissioners will meet Tuesday to consider a resolution related to creation of the Catoosa County Public Facilities Authority.

Numerous citizens spoke in opposition to the board voting on the resolution at its meeting last week, citing a lack of understanding among commissioners and citizens of the purpose of the authority and how it would function.

Under Georgia law, a county can create a public facilities authority to construct and operate new facilities or repair and renovate existing facilities such as buildings and parks that are owned by the county and open to public use by citizens.

To create such an authority, the county must adopt a resolution requesting the authority's creation and submit local legislation for consideration by the General Assembly.

As written, the legislative act does not require the authority to comply with annual audits by an independent accounting firm or comply with purchasing standards the county now observes, Catoosa resident Roger Nelson said.

If leasing, selling or otherwise disposing of property or real estate, the authority would not need to comply with any other provision of law requiring public bidding or any other announcement to the public, the act states.

The authority would also be allowed to select the employees of its choosing with or without bidding.

"If this has been that important and that critical of a deal, it just seems like to me it should have been addressed years and years ago," Catoosa resident Charlie Lamar said. "The fact that this is the last meeting that you can vote on it before it has to go to General Assembly to happen in this following year just seems like to me it's just one of those things that's getting shoved in before everybody understands it."

Nelson said the act's language is reminiscent of the old Hospital Authority of Catoosa, Dade and Walker counties that controlled Hutcheson Medical Center. That authority left Catoosa owing $6.2 million in a settlement agreement with Erlanger Hospital.

The facilities authority act does not include a provision that the members of the authority avoid conflicts of interest, Nelson said. He also took issue with the board's composition, which would include three commissioners and two citizens.

"There should be no more than two commissioners on the board and perhaps five citizens so that those commissioners don't necessarily be a quorum by themselves," Nelson said, further suggesting that each commissioner choose one of the five citizens.

Attorney Chad Young said a public facilities authority would allow the board of commissioners an avenue to engage in tax-exempt bond financing to construct or renovate public facilities.

The authority would not have the ability to tax citizens or incur debt on behalf of the county. Revenue to repay bond financing could be either special purpose local option sales tax funds dedicated to that purpose or funds from the county's capital projects fund with the approval of the board of commissioners, he said.

The special called meeting will be held Tuesday, Feb. 9, at 1:30 p.m. in the public meeting room of the Catoosa County administration building, 800 Lafayette St., Ringgold.

Contact Emily Crisman at ecrisman@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6508.

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