SDS proposal revised, West Point holds out
After further negotiations, Troup County plans to pass a revised service delivery strategy (SDS) proposal at its meeting on Tuesday. County Manager Eric Mosley discussed the agreement at the board of commissioners work session Thursday night.
While the county and the cities of LaGrange and Hogansville seem happy with the revised proposal, West Point is not.
The SDS must be agreed to by the county, the county seat (LaGrange, in this case), and 50 percent of the remaining cities. If Troup County, LaGrange and either Hogansville or West Point agree to a proposal, it can be submitted to the state for approval.
But Hogansville Mayor Bill Stankiewicz said his city would ensure it didn’t abandon West Point. On the Hogansville City Council’s agenda for Monday night is a resolution authorizing the mayor to sign the agreement, but only if all parties (i.e. cities) agree. In Stankiewicz’s view, the negotiations are not finished until West Point is satisfied.
“From a negotiating point of view, way back when, eight months ago or so … West Point and Hogansville realized that we individually have no power. That the county could offer something to one or the other and then the other party has got no say in the negotiations,” Stankiewicz said. “So, we agreed … that we would strengthen our negotiating position by acting in concert. And by the way … I believe that we got a better deal because of that.”
The SDS is required by the state of Georgia for all 159 counties and outlines the delivery of government services in a cost-effective manner to citizens.
The plan covers topics such as utilities, emergency management services, fire protection and law enforcement, among many others.
Counties are required to submit their SDS document to the state every 10 years. The deadline to submit agreements between Troup County and its cities — already extended due to COVID-19 — is Feb. 28. If no agreement is reached by the deadline, a process called mediation begins. Penalties for missing the deadline can include loss of state permits and the freezing of state funding.
“Our hope in Hogansville is that that doesn’t happen, that we’re able to work this out,” Stankiewicz said. “Because the penalties are so severe for everybody … if we don’t agree, LaGrange suffers, the county suffers — road money, they lose [Georgia Department of Transportation] money. I mean I can’t imagine.”
Under the expiring SDS, Hogansville paid the county approximately $235,000 per year to operate Troup County Fire Department Station 11 in Hogansville and provide fire services to the city. Mosley wanted to increase that to $285,000, while Hogansville had asked to reduce it to $140,000. The county has now agreed to lower the price to $195,000 per year.
The county has also agreed to support a grant that Hogansville received for Lake Jimmy Jackson. Hogansville received an $87,000 grant for the lake, for which the county has agreed to provide matching funds of $40,000.
The revised proposal from the county offers West Point $100,000 to support recreation in West Point. The county also offered about $138,000 to do a crack seal on Kia Parkway, plus $1.5 million to help completely resurface Kia Parkway in the future.
“They’ll dangle the carrot and act like they’re doing some big offer,” West Point Mayor Steve Tramell said. “And it’s not. It’s just peanuts.”
Tramell said West Point is being double-taxed and should not be paying the same level of taxes for county fire service and county trash centers that they don’t benefit from. He also said the county hasn’t helped with road projects in his city and that it doesn’t help enough funding recreation or libraries.
“West Point mortgaged the farm to get Kia here,” Tramell said. “We went in huge debt to make that Kia project happen. We are now sending millions and millions of dollars to the county through [taxes from] all these [automotive] suppliers that are here, and we’re not getting stuff back.”
Tramell doesn’t know what happens next.
“We’re in uncharted territory here. We’ve not gone down this road,” Tramell said. “My argument is what do we have to lose?”
In an interview, Mosley said “the county has still not asked for anything” from the cities.
“Throughout the whole negotiations, we haven’t asked for a single penny from any of the cities,” Mosley said. “So, not much of a negotiation, if you don’t ask for anything.”
The revised proposal is essentially the same in regards to the county’s agreement with LaGrange. The city is taking over management of more than a dozen parks within the city limits after sustained complaints from residents that the county was not doing a good job maintaining them. Approximately $700,000 in county money will be rerouted to LaGrange for park maintenance. The city will also be in control of The Thread and Sweetland Amphitheatre.
LaGrange will also no longer subsidize nor have rights to the Construction and Demolition Landfill, which will become completely county-run.
Also, at the work session, Purchasing Director Diana Evans came to present the staff recommendation for awarding a bid for electrical and plumbing replacement and upgrades at the entrance and campground of Pyne Road Park.
The project is being funded by a 100 percent matching $100,000 Georgia Department of Natural Resources grant. Bids were solicited for replacement upgrades, and staff recommend the electrical upgrades be awarded to the low bidders, Ideal Electrical Contactors of LaGrange for $62,000 and that plumbing upgrades be awarded to Sheridan Construction of Macon for $91,160. Sheridan also has a LaGrange office.
The county received five bids.
The estimated timeframe for the project is seven to eight weeks. Ideal would start Feb. 22, and Sheridan on March 1.
Evans acknowledged the electrical bids were far apart in price. She and Jay Anderson talked with Ideal and went through the list of upgrades one by one “and make sure that even though this is less than half price, we are confident that we are going to get everything that was asked for in the specs and everything that will comply with all of the standards.”
Other bidders on the electrical upgrades named prices of approximately $117,000 and $160,000.