City of Bainbridge and Decatur County officials have been meeting for two days at the Decatur County Courthouse, as part of a court-ordered mediation to resolve service delivery issues.
The State of Georgia requires each county’s local governments to maintain a service delivery agreement that spells out which services each government is to provide and who is responsible for the cost of providing the service.
The City of Bainbridge sued Decatur County in November 2014 after, in the city’s opinion, Decatur County officials did not respond to requests to update the service delivery agreement. The City of Bainbridge has been researching the operation of Decatur County government since Fall 2013, with the help of consulting lawyers.
The mediation began Tuesday morning at 10 a.m., with Bainbridge Mayor Edward Reynolds, the City Council and Decatur County commissioners met for an orientation with the mediator, William Sanders. After the orientation, a subset of the two elected boards has been meeting to discuss service delivery. Also present are multiple attorneys for both sides, Bainbridge City Manager Chris Hobby and Decatur County Administrator Gary Breedlove.
After meeting throughout the workday on Tuesday and Wednesday, with only breaks for lunch, both city and county leaders indicated they might be close to wrapping up. The media was invited to what was supposed to be an open meeting between the City Council and Board of Commissioners at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday. However, that never happened, with both the city and county remaining in separate meetings with their attorneys until well after 6 p.m.
Mediator William Sanders said the mediation process was supposed to be confidential and therefore, its participants weren’t supposed to discuss their progress until mediation was completed. Privately, officials on both sides said discussions had been “productive” but it was unclear what agreement might be forthcoming.
The City Council and Board of Commissioners have announced they plan to hold a joint open meeting in the main courtroom of the Decatur County Courthouse at 7 p.m. on Thursday, March 12. The stated purpose of the meeting is to announce a resolution regarding service delivery. We will keep you apprised of what happens at that meeting.