MILTON, Ga. — The City of Milton is set to conduct its own 2023 municipal elections, and it likely will save a bundle doing it.
The City Council voted unanimously Dec. 19 to administer the election for the council’s three Post 2 positions up for grabs next year. The election will be conducted “absent any impediments,” Milton City Manager Steve Krokoff said.
A six-member committee, which studied the feasibility of Milton running its own municipal elections, made its recommendation to the City Council Dec. 5 on grounds of big cost savings.
The committee reported that in the first year, the city is looking at an expense of $72,254 to run its 2023 municipal general election. In subsequent years, with one-time costs out of the way, it is estimated the city will pay $56,589.
Up till now, Fulton County conducted the city’s municipal elections.
If the city were to renew its agreement with Fulton County for 2023, the Milton Municipal Election Feasibility Committee projected the cost to range from more than $186,000 to almost $190,000, excluding the cost of a potential runoff election.
It turns out that estimate was based on a previous discussion with Fulton County, which reported the cost per voter was expected to rise from $2.96 to more than $6.
But at the Dec. 12 Fulton County Registration and Elections Board meeting, Elections Preparation Manager Nadine Williams said the cost per voter will be $11.48 per voter in 2023. With the revised cost, Milton would be expected to pay more than $350,000 for Fulton County to run its 2023 municipal election.
“We use the machinery that we are required to use,” Board Chair Cathy Woolard said at the Dec. 12 meeting. “Increased costs are not costs that we have chosen to bear, but they are costs that are put on county voters as a result of the State Legislature and the decisions that they make.”
While the packed Council Chamber was mostly filled with supporters, who clapped after every public comment that called out Fulton County’s alleged mismanagement, two residents felt differently.
Milton resident Robert Fricton said he voted in 77 elections in Fulton County and never had a problem with Fulton County. He said he was never worried about election security before, but Milton-run elections raise that concern.
“It’s not about the money,” Fricton said. “This is something about trying to get an election that someone besides the citizens of Milton have controlled.”
Fricton called out the two residents on the elections committee, Mark Amick and Lisa Cauley, for lacking trustworthiness. He also suggested an alleged partisanship among the City Council.
“I know you’re all Republicans,” he said. “I don’t know if you’re deniers or not.”
Milton City Councilman Rick Mohrig, who was one of two councilmembers on the elections committee, later addressed Fricton’s concern over election security.
“This isn’t something that Milton can just come up with,” Mohrig said. “We have to follow what the state mandates.”
In other business at the Dec. 19 meeting, Milton Public Works Director Sara Leaders looked for direction on potential revisions to the city’s traffic calming program.
The program had been a highly contested issue earlier this year when the White Columns Homeowners Association installed radar feedback signs. At the time, HOAs were not required to petition the neighborhood before acting on their behalf.
The White Columns HOA sought the city’s cost-share agreement after installation, which was approved by the City Council in August.
Leaders asked for the City Council’s direction on whether to require neighborhood support of 67 percent and to remove the HOA provision in the city’s traffic calming program, which allows HOAs to act on behalf of the neighborhood. Other options were to eliminate the cost-share agreement altogether to make traffic calming a private issue or require the City Council’s approval on traffic calming measures.
Councilman Mohrig suggested striking out the HOA provision to ensure homeowner buy-in. He also said the city should keep the program but eliminate the cost-share agreement, one out of several sections in the ordinance.
Councilman Paul Moore agreed with Mohrig and said the neighborhood was not properly represented by the HOA.
Milton Mayor Peyton Jamison said he would like to exclude the City Council from HOA matters but supported the petition agreement.
Also at the Monday night meeting, the City Council extended a moratorium on development and design permits in the city’s Mayfield District to allow city staff time to develop the area’s zoning ordinance. The moratorium will end in June 2023.
“The last thing we want to do is to continue holding up the people’s property, so the sooner the better,” Mayor Jamison said.
Milton resident Sally Rich-Kolb opposed the extension because she had been waiting to sell her property.
“I’m not sure if this is ‘eminent domain,’ but it sure does feel like it,” Rich-Kolb said.