County withdraws termination notice regarding Hogansville fire services
The Troup County Commission voted Thursday to rescind the 90 days notice it had given Hogansville to end an intergovernmental agreement regarding fire services.
The decision means the county will continue providing fire services in Hogansville as Service Delivery Strategy talks continue.
Troup County had given Hogansville notice on March 1 that it was pulling fire services from the city if no SDS agreement was reached in 90 days. The county said at the time that it was unsure it would be able to fund a fire department in Hogansville if no SDS was signed.
That decision meant at the end of May, Hogansville would’ve needed another way to provide fire services to its citizens — whether that be through another intergovernmental agreement or by starting its own fire department.
Now, that is no longer an issue — at least as long as progress continues toward a SDS agreement. The commission voted unanimously on a resolution to withdraw the termination notice, meaning the county and city are back to working off of their original intergovernmental agreement regarding fire services. That agreement was signed in 2000 and gives the county the right to provide fire services in the Hogansville city limits.
The resolution passed Thursday allows Commission Chairman Patrick Crews to give a new notice terminating the fire services agreement at any time, if SDS discussions have broken down. According to the resolution, if a SDS agreement is reached, the county will continue fire services in Hogansville for the remainder of 2021.
County Attorney Jerry Willis referenced several times that it was his understanding that Hogansville wants to start its own fire department.
“Our hope is that negotiations with SDS will go good, and we will be able to provide those services through the end of December,” Crews said. “As Mr. Willis pointed out, their goal in the next seven or eight months is to create their own fire department, and it’s going to take a little time to do that and their people need some assurances that they will have fire services during that time.”
However, when reached after the meeting, Hogansville Mayor Bill Stankiewicz said the city has no plans to start its own fire department. Stankiewicz said Hogansville only looked into starting its own fire department out of necessity, since the county had sent notice it would be withdrawing fire services from the city.
“We started to get our own fire department because they gave us 90 days and they were going to suspend service. Our intention all through SDS has never been to have our own fire department,” Stankiewicz said.
Stankiewicz said the county and Hogansville have looked at the fire services situation and determined it’s obvious that it makes no sense for either party for Hoganville to have its own fire department.
“It will cost us both more money,” Stankiewicz said.
Willis also said during the county meeting that Hogansville wanted to handle its own parks and recreation. Stankiewicz said all of the cities have determined that it’s best to handle their own parks, but that the county should continue to handle recreation.
“That was never a point of contention,” Stankiewicz said.
Regardless of some of the confusion, Stankiewicz was glad that the county made the decision it did Thursday and thought it continued the progress from last week’s meeting.
“I’m glad that they did it,” Stankiewicz said. “I think it’s in keeping with the framework that we talked about last Thursday.”
Where things stand with SDS
The continuation of county fire services in Hogansville was the latest positive momentum in SDS talks. Last week, the sides announced that they’d met and had a productive meeting.
The result of that meeting included canceling planned mediation for April 23.
The SDS is required every 10 years in all 159 counties and is meant to ensure delivery of services to citizens in a cost-efficient and effective manner.
The deadline for a SDS agreement is June 30, but it has to be submitted to the Department of Community Affairs, which requires a 30-day review process. An original deadline was set for the fall, but that was moved due to COVID-19. A second deadline was the end of February, but right at the last minute all four entities agreed to a SDS extension through June.
The extension allowed local governments to avoid sanctions, which would impact state-funded grants, and allowed for more time to negotiate.
The SDS agreement must be agreed upon by the county seat (LaGrange), the county (Troup) and half of the remaining cities (Hogansville and West Point). LaGrange and Troup County voted to pass a proposed SDS agreement in February. Hogansville passed it as well, but with the stipulation that Stankiewicz couldn’t sign it until all four cities were in agreement. Stankiewicz then vetoed it. West Point did not vote.
Attorneys are currently working on a new SDS proposal, which could be ready to review as soon as next week.
All four parties expressed optimism when reached last week.
“Are all the details ironed out? No. And could the thing fall apart? I guess,” Stankiewicz said Thursday. “But we had a framework that would satisfy all the all the parties.”