Decatur County commissioners preparing response to city’s legal action

The Decatur County Board of Commissioners are preparing their response to the lawsuit filed by the City of Bainbridge on Friday, Nov. 14, which is essentially a petition for the Decatur County Superior Court to appoint a mediator for service delivery negotiations.

The City of Bainbridge’s lawsuit requests mediation and the scheduling of required negotiations between both local governments, based on a method of resolution described by state law.

Decatur County Commissioners were slated to hold a special called meeting with a sole agenda item on Thursday, Nov. 20. That agenda item was to hold a closed “executive session” to discuss a litigation matter. Decatur County Administrator Gary Breedlove said he expected that county commissioners would discuss their response to the city’s lawsuit on Thursday night. He said that Decatur County commissioners are seeking to retain their own attorney with expertise in the area of service delivery. (The city’s consulting attorneys on service delivery are Buddy Welch of McDonough, Ga., and David Kendrick of Bainbridge).

Decatur County commissioners are seeking to retain their own attorney with expertise in the area of service delivery.

Bainbridge Mayor Edward Reynolds contends that Decatur County commissioners to revisit the issue of service delivery agreements, which spell out what services each local government within a county is committed to providing, and what share of the cost each government will bear. The agreement to revisit service delivery reportedly came in early 2013, after contentious negotiations of how money from the one-cent Local Option Sales Tax (LOST) would be paid out.

Both the City of Bainbridge and Decatur County agree that there was an agreement to revisit service delivery–after being unable to agree on how the LOST money would be distributed, the two parties agreed to keep the same distribution formula as before, to prevent the Georgia Department of Revnue setting the formula for them.

However, while the City of Bainbridge says that Decatur County has been dragging its heels on service delivery negotiations, Decatur County Administrator Gary Breedlove said this week that from the county’s perspective, it agreed to negotiate only after the Georgia Legislature “fixed issues” related to a Georgia Supreme Court case related to how the LOST formula should be derived. (City and county governments across Georgia, including their respective membership associations, take different views on the matter.)

Breedlove said county commissioners have 30 days to respond to the city’s petition in Superior Court. The county administrator said he anticipates that county officials will hold to their position that “we are not refusing to meet or negotiate with the City of Bainbridge, we just need ample time to catch up … and answer the questions that they have been working on for almost two years.”

Stay tuned to for more on Decatur County’s response to the City of Bainbridge’s lawsuit; we are planning a followup article for Friday.

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