OUR VIEW: Time to negotiate SDS was last year

Published 10:30 am Wednesday, July 13, 2022

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It’s been over a year since the Service Delivery Strategy agreement was signed by Hogansville, LaGrange and Troup County, ending roughly 10 months of negotiations. West Point never even took a vote on the proposal, with West Point Mayor Steve Tramell arguing the city was being double taxed and paying the county for services it didn’t need.

They say that time heals all wounds, but after 14 months, it doesn’t appear that’s the case.

The county had its millage rate hearing last week, and Tramell showed up to argue against increased property taxes. He spent a lot of his speaking time going back to the SDS negotiations.

“At one point in the negotiations, we offered to give West Point everything back that they paid into the county budget … you refused that,” said Commission Chair Patrick Crews.

Based on the conversation, it appears that the county offered West Point a deal that would’ve prevented citizens from paying for services that the city already provides (like fire service) but also would’ve required West Point taking over services such as recreation.

Tramell countered, “so you won’t give me the rollback unless I take back recreation?”

At that point, the conversation turned a little personal.

“We put that offer on the table but you wouldn’t accept that… I think in the spirited negotiation, you failed to properly represent the citizens of West Point by taking advantage of that, and it’s come back to bother you tremendously,” Crews said.

“Oh, no, I sleep well at night. I don’t know how you do?” Tramell said.

County Attorney Jerry Willis then stepped in, basically saying that the conversation had moved away from what needed to be discussed.

And he was right.

SDS in itself is a poorly written process that requires 75% agreement, meaning when Hogansville, LaGrange and Troup County agreed, discussions were over.

That meant when those three entities signed, West Point was left out in the cold.

And regardless of which “side” you’re on, it’s clear there’s still some hurt feelings about that.

SDS is signed and will be in place for a decade, meaning new negotiations won’t take place again for many years, and it’s likely different leadership will be having those discussions. After all, Hogansville already has a new mayor since SDS was agreed to.

For now, it’s important that our city and county leaders get along. Both Crews and Tramell are professionals who represent themselves well, and it’s rare to see such candid conversation in such a public forum.

We understand that each views it as representing their citizens in the best way possible, which creates animosity when they don’t agree.

Quite simply, the time to negotiate SDS was last year.