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Will the third time be the charm for local commissioners?

Mulligans abound for the McDuffie County Commission.

Nearly 16 months after commissioners were forced to vote twice on instituting a business license program because of an improper abstention from Fred Favors, they are getting the chance to right their own wrong, again.

A majority of counties in Georgia, and all the growing ones, have an occupation tax ordinance - otherwise known as a business license program - up and running. That's not the case in unincorporated McDuffie County though.

Commissioners ignored the proven benefits of the program - such as additional revenue, teeth to deal with delinquent businesses and providing law enforcement and fire personnel with knowledge of potentially dangerous operations - and shot down the program during their second vote on the issue within a month.

We used this very space in March of 2005 to offer commissioners a mulligan, which in golf is a do-over. They had deadlocked after Rev. Favors' abstention and were forced to vote a second time. We asked them to get the next one "in the fairway and do what's best for McDuffie County" by passing the ordinance.

They didn't take our advice or - more importantly - the advice of McDuffie County Sheriff Logan Marshall, County Manager Don Norton and Planning and Zoning Director Fred Guerrant, who worked fruitlessly on the ordinance at the behest of commissioners for months.

Since then, the county has paid for the absence of licenses with the almost-too-late discovery of several potentially dangerous businesses, others operating industry in residential areas and hotels delinquent on tax payments. Had the program been in place, those businesses could have been identified and dealt with early.

Given the recent problems, commissioners last week announced plans to reconsider the ordinance during their July 18 meeting. And at least two of the commissioners who voted against the ordinance before have changed their tune.

Commissioners Darrell Wester and Rev. Favors were the leading opponents of the ordinance in its first incarnation, saying it would add an unnecessary layer of government, wouldn't benefit the business community and would cause the county to enforce state licensing of certain professions such as cosmetologists.

Just last week, Dr. Wester said of the ordinance "I don't like this either, but everybody I've talked to cannot believe that we don't do this. They think we're going to get burned if we don't."

And Rev. Favors stated that he now "sees the positives of it."

Thank goodness it's not too late to get the ball rolling in the right direction. It's just too bad it will have taken commissioners three shots to get it right.

Web posted on Thursday, June 29, 2006

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