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Town Residents Surprised To Find They Have A Government

December 11, 1988

WOOLSEY, Ga. (AP) _ Some residents of Woolsey, population 186 more or less, have just discovered they have a mayor and a city council, and they don’t like them one bit.

Suddenly civic-minded residents have also learned that election notices are posted on an old Coke machine in a car repair garage. There’s a city charter, too - tucked in a drawer in a city councilman’s home.

The charter provides for elections every September but there haven’t been any in some time because no one has run against the incumbents. Albert Berg Sr. says he lost the mayor’s job 12 years ago to Lawrence Zeller, but Zeller said he thinks he has been mayor now for only five or six years.

The government meets at the fire station to discuss city business ″when something comes up,″ according to Zeller.

″We got a peaceful little town here,″ Councilman James Carden said. ″We’re not trying to hide anything. The people that are complaining have been here five months, a year, if that long,″ he told the Atlanta Journal and The Atlanta Constitution.

People from nearby Atlanta have been moving into the area, bringing along citified ideas of how government should operate.

But the newcomers aren’t the only ones looking surprised. Says Cynthia Carpenter, who has lived on the town’s main street for seven years: ″Until a few months ago, we didn’t know who the mayor was, which was probably negligence on our part.″

The town government started becoming an issue when construction began on a convenience store on the town’s main street.

Neighbors were outraged. They got madder when they discovered Carden had sold the land - apparently zoned residential - to a developer and then, they claim, he voted with the rest of the government to rezone the land commercial.

Some people want an injunction to halt construction, and a recall move is afoot.

″I want it stopped,″ said Earline Lockhart, who moved to town five months ago. ″Even if the same men are re-elected I want them to know that they aren’t going to govern without the rest of us being informed.″

The mayor insists the land was rezoned in 1964, but residents found a letter from the council to Fayette County building officials, dated Dec. 8, 1987, that says the council ″has approved the zoning of Land Lot 203 to be commercial.″ The residents take that to mean the rezoning was done at about that time.

There are no signs announcing council meeting times.

The only sign announcing the September elections is posted on the 1961 Coke machine in Carden’s car repair shop every August.

″That’s the only place it’s been posted. The people in Woolsey that do not know when it’s time for an election have not talked to people in Woolsey or those on the council,″ Zeller said.

Since 1984, the state has required towns to post election results. Woolsey has not sent the state any results since then.

Woolsey’s fire, police, water and building inspectors are provided by Fayette County. Woolsey’s officials are not paid and there is no city budget, city taxes or business license fees.

Homeowners complained about the zoning flap to the Fayette County Commission last week but the commissioners said there was nothing they could do.

The commissioners invited Zeller and the councilmen but they declined to attend. Zeller said they didn’t want to answer questions from the floor.

″It’s a very hostile thing, answering questions from the floor,″ the mayor said.

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