OUR VIEW: Four signatures would mean a whole lot more than three

Published 10:30 am Tuesday, June 1, 2021

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Last week, after 10 months of negotiations, Troup County’s Service Delivery Strategy agreement was approved, ending a saga that went on for far too long.

In case you missed it, Hogansville, LaGrange and Troup County agreed to the proposal, which satisfies the law. West Point did not approve it, never taking a vote on it.

The fact that there are three signatures on the document instead of four is telling. 

For anyone not up to speed, SDS is meant to ensure the delivery of services to citizens in a cost-effective manner. The guidance dictating how it works is very vague, meaning a lot of the interpretation is left to the cities and the county to sort through.

While we agree with letting local governments sort through their own problems, the law lends itself to long, drawn-out negotiations. It’s not extremely clear and in our opinion probably needs to be reevaluated.

Thankfully, it’s only required every 10 years. (Though, we also wonder if that timeline should be shortened.)

In review, our local negotiation has been very complicated.

Early in the proceedings, Hogansville and West Point declared publicly that they were working together — even hiring the same SDS attorney.

Whether you agree or not, that decision to stand in solidarity kept negotiations going, as it gave both cities more negotiating power. When the first deadline came in February, all four entities decided to move forward with extending the previous SDS through June.

Then, the county pushed Hogansville by giving notice that it was not going to provide fire services in the city any longer, if a SDS agreement wasn’t signed in 90 days.

In the end, both Hogansville and the county realized it would be beneficial to both if Troup County continued providing fire services to the city.

As the clock ticked toward June’s deadline, the county sweetened the deal, giving Hogansville two years of free fire services, and understandably, the city just couldn’t refuse a deal that good. There’s a lot more to the agreement, and plenty to parse through if you like sorting through government documents, but fire services was the sticking point between the county and Hogansville.

Those three entities signing was a decision that should be celebrated. It means sanctions won’t be implemented and ongoing projects will continue without a gap in funding.

But there’s also another party in all this. West Point isn’t happy and doesn’t feel it’s getting a fair shake. Our understanding is that West Point hasn’t been involved in recent SDS discussions, as little progress has been made between the county and the West Point to come to an agreement.

It’s simple to write that our local leaders should be able to figure this out. It’s just too complicated to oversimplify it to that point.

But West Point does need to be brought back into the fold. And frankly, with the largest employer in the county within its borders, West Point’s importance shouldn’t be undervalued.

SDS can be renegotiated and resubmitted at any point. Assuming the Department of Community Affairs accepts Troup County’s submission (it requires 30 days to review it), there will no longer be a set deadline requiring all of our local leaders to try to beat the clock, so there would be time to negotiate and to figure this all out.

On the flip side, without a date on the calendar to meet, the urgency to get approval from West Point might fizzle out.

We hope that doesn’t happen. While we think a break in talks should be encouraged (10 months is a long time), we encourage local leaders to continue these discussions in an effort to understand West Point’s argument. Four signatures would mean a whole lot more than three.