Lowndes County files petition with Superior Court to Resolve Service Delivery

| January 23, 2017

Release from Lowndes County Board of Commissioners 

LOWNDES Co. – The Lowndes County Board of Commissioners has filed a Petition with the Superior Court to resolve service delivery issues.

The Cities have claimed they would take the matter to court but have not followed through.

The County’s Petition asks the Court to rule the existing strategy agreement remains in effect. The service delivery law specifically says the agreement “shall remain in effect until revised.” OCGA § 36-70-25.1(f). The agreement itself also says it shall remain in force and effect until it is revised.

The County’s Petition also asks the Court to rule the County and the Cities remain eligible for state administered financial assistance and permits. Based on the service delivery law, local governments included in a verified strategy remain eligible. OCGA § 36-70-27.

The Board of Commissioners represents all residents of the County. This includes residents who have chosen to live and own property outside the Cities.

The Board of Commissioners preferred and tried to resolve the matter. It delivered to the Cities a compromise agreement on November 29. The Cities have chosen not to present an alternative agreement since then. None of the Cities has even voted on the County’s compromise.

The County’s compromise accepts requests of the Cities that do not harm residents outside the Cities. It declines requests that would help Valdosta financially but harm residents outside the Cities.

Regarding water and sewer, the County’s compromise protects the interests of residents and property owners outside the Cities while also permitting rational changes to service areas at the time reasons for a change arise.

Valdosta’s proposal communicated before and after mediation would undermine the stated intent of the service delivery law to avoid duplication of service and competition between local governments. This is because it would allow Valdosta to extend service anywhere in the County’s service area without County approval.

Valdosta’s proposal would make residents in areas into which Valdosta extends service beholden to a mayor and city council for whom they do not vote for delivery of public water and sewer service.

In addition, residents and property owners in areas into which the City extends service would be forced to agree to annex their property in order to receive public water and sewer even though they have chosen to live and own property outside the Cities and do not want their property annexed. This is because Valdosta links annexation and service delivery by requiring a property owner to agree to annex his property in order to receive delivery of city water and sewer.

Valdosta claims the County has stifled growth by not accepting any requests to extend water and sewer service. The truth is the County has not declined even one request from the City since the existing agreement has been in effect. This is because Valdosta has not asked even once to extend its service area since the agreement was approved in 2008.

Valdosta also claims its proposed change is needed for economic development, but it has not cited even one industry which looked elsewhere because of the existing agreement.

Valdosta claims the County has not negotiated in good faith. Yet, Valdosta now says it will bring back other issues even though it consistently said it had given up all issues except water and sewer service.

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