The Cherokee County Board of Commissioners will be looking for input from members of the public on local funeral processions at its next meeting.

Commissioners voted at their meeting Tuesday to schedule the public hearing for their 6 p.m. meeting on Jan. 21. In addition, they also set a public hearing on a proposal to prohibit the takeoff and landing of aerial vehicles on county property.

County Manager Jerry Cooper outlined a revision of local law that would require funeral homes to coordinate with the Cherokee Sheriff’s Office, allowing the CSO to arrange and prepare for the procession. It will also require all funeral processions to be led by a local or state law enforcement vehicle, while all vehicles in the procession must be marked, be it with a flag, placard or magnetic decal or, at the very least, having its four-way flashers turned on.

Cooper and Chief Marshal Ron Hunton said there have been a handful of instances where processions, including some coming from outside Cherokee County and going to Georgia National Cemetery, have been led by private vehicles and as a result, have created traffic issues or even been involved in a wreck with other vehicles not in the procession.

Hunton said one reason for requiring law enforcement vehicles to lead funeral processions is to ensure the safety of everyone involved. He said officers have spoken with private funeral escort services to explain this is not being suggested to put them out of business, but instead keep them safe. They could still take part, but would have to contact local law enforcement ahead of time to ensure a vehicle is available to take the lead.

While in discussion during the work session, Commission Chair Harry Johnston said in his experience, he has always seen funeral processions being led by a law enforcement vehicle and that funeral homes will not allow a procession if it does not have a law enforcement vehicle to lead the way. Cooper said this is typically the case, but not always. There are some times when funeral homes will work with a private funeral escort service to lead the procession.

Also at Tuesday night’s meeting, Cooper told the board that the law regarding aerial vehicles would be specifically tailored to manned aerial vehicles taking off or landing on county property, while also explaining that the term “manned aerial vehicle” as covering paramotors, ultra-light aircraft, hot air balloons, airplanes, paragliders and hang gliders, or anyone descending out of one of these vehicles. Drones and other unmanned vehicles were not included, as they were covered in a law the county approved in the recent past. Primarily, he said that the county wants to update the law so that anyone wanting to take off or land a vehicle like these on county property have obtained permission to do so from the Cherokee Recreation and Parks Agency.

During the work session earlier in the day, Cooper said federal regulations restrict what the county can do with regards to the vehicles while they are in flight.

“We can’t stop them from flying over, but without permission, we can stop them from taking off or landing?,” Johnston asked, receiving an affirmative answer from former CRPA Director Bryan Reynolds. Johnston then asked if this was essentially just broadening and clarifying an ordinance that is already on the county’s books, which Reynolds also answered yes to.

Although this change to the law would require people wanting to take off or land on county property to have all the proper permission, Reynolds restated what he mentioned to the CRPA Advisory Board at its meeting in December, that there is a provision included that exempts such vehicles that have suffered a mechanical malfunction or other such issue while in flight and need to make an emergency landing.

The Jan. 21 meeting of the Cherokee County Board of Commissioners will begin at 6 p.m., following the board’s 3 p.m. work session.

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