Troup County gives Hogansville notice its terminating fire services agreement, pending SDS approval

Published 4:39 pm Monday, March 1, 2021

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On Monday, Troup County officially gave the city of Hogansville notice that it will pull fire services from the city, if a Service Delivery Strategy agreement is not signed in the next 90 days.

Hogansville Mayor Bill Stankiewicz said Monday afternoon that his city had received the notice.

The Troup County Commission voted Thursday to terminate the intergovernmental agreement, which stipulates how the county handles fire services for the city of Hogansville. Under the agreement, 90 days notice is required to end the agreement.

That means if no SDS agreement is signed, the county will not be responsible for fire services in Hogansville after May 30. County Attorney Jerry Willis said Thursday that without an intergovernmental agreement it would be illegal for Troup County to provide fire services in Hogansville.

“As was clearly explained at the February 25, 2021 Commission meeting, Troup County can constitutionally only provide fire services within Hogansville by contract.  (Ga. Const. Art. IX, § II, Para. III),” says the termination letter sent by the county to Hogansville. “As was also clearly explained, given the uncertainty that any service delivery arrangement can be reached which would allow the county to continue to subsidize the operation of fire service with the City of Hogansville and the resulting potential for the county to be legally obligated by contract to provide a service that it cannot fund, it is necessary for Troup County to provide notice of termination of its current contract for fire services with the City of Hogansville.”

Stankiewicz said Monday that he was “mystified” by the county’s termination letter, as he thought more time was warranted after the four sides agrees to a SDS extension on Friday.

“Given recent public statements from the Mayor, if the City of Hogansville wishes Troup County to vacate the premises of Fire Station 11 and cease providing services immediately, Troup County will do its best to accommodate that request,” the termination letter reads.

The intergovernmental agreement, signed originally in 2000, states that if the agreement is terminated that Fire Station 11 belongs to the city of Hogansville.

Stankiewicz said fire services will be discussed during Hogansville’s meeting Monday night, with creating a fire department one of three options that he plans to bring up.

The county’s argument for ending the agreement, which is laid out in the termination notice, is that the county pays around $400,000 a year to operate Fire Station 11 in Hogansville. Hogansville currently pays $237,618 for those services, but that cost would drop to around $195,000 under the proposed SDS agreement. Given the lack of negotiations, the county said it’s unsure that it’ll be able to continue subsidizing fire services for Hogansville without a signed SDS agreement.

Stankiewicz said Fire Station 11 covers parts of unincorporated Troup County too, not just the city of Hogansville.

“I think that they’re using statistics like a drunk uses a lamppost, more for support than illumination,” Stankiewicz said. “We pay approximately $200,000 in property taxes toward fire services in the county. If you take the proportion of fire services to their total budget, and you take the amount of property taxes that citizens of Hogansville pay, it’s about $185,000 or so that our property taxes that go toward paying for fire services. So for them to exclude the credits and only include the debits is disingenuous.”

If a SDS agreement is signed in the next 90 days, Troup County plans to continue providing fire services to Hogansville.

“… In an act of good faith to Hogansville and its citizens, Troup County will, so long as funds are available in its general fund after an SDS agreement has been reached, stand by its proposal to provide fire services to Hogansville at an annual cost of $195,000,” the termination letter reads.

The fire services discussion is part of a larger service delivery strategy negotiation involving the cities of LaGrange, Hogansville and West Point, as well as Troup County.

The SDS is signed every 10 years and details how services are delivered to citizens within a county. It’s required in all 159 counties in Georgia.

The largest city (in this case, LaGrange), the county (Troup County) and half of the remaining cities must sign the SDS in order for it to pass. The LaGrange City Council and Troup County Commission have passed the proposed SDS agreement. Hogansville’s council approved it, but did not authorize Stankiewicz to sign it until all four entities were in agreement. Stankiewicz then vetoed it, noting in the veto that he didn’t feel the resolution was in the best interest of Hogansville.  Hogansville and West Point have agreed to work together in negotiations, and Stankiewicz said last month that he thought Hogansville got a better deal because of it.

West Point has not taken any action on the SDS, and West Point Mayor Steve Tramell has asked for the discussions to go to mediation, which is the next step if no agreement is reached by the deadline, which was just extended to June 30.

Originally, the deadline for an agreement was October, but the Department of Community Affairs approached the four entities in the fall and asked to move the deadline to Feb. 28. With no agreement in sight and the deadline looming, all four entities agreed to a SDS extension until June 30 on Friday.