Roughly five years ago, the Bryan County Commission deeded a water and sewer system at the industrial park on I-16 to the Bryan County Development Authority.
Now, the county commission wants it back as part their efforts to create a county-wide water and sewerage authority or utility. The topic dominated discussion during Thursday’s Development Authority meeting, and one member isn’t so sure the Authority can legally give it back to the county.
Authority member Owen Thayer presented a motion reading that development board comply with a letter sent to the authority by county attorney Charles Brown regarding the board’s ownership of the water and sewer system.
Thayer said his interpretation of the legal advice in the letter from Brown would prohibit the Development Authority from deeding the system back to the county.
But County Administrator Phil Jones said that wasn’t the case at all.
"The county made a mistake when it deeded the water and sewer system to the development authority," he said. "We can fix it by deeding the system back to the county."
According to Thayer and his interpretation of a letter from Brown dated March 30,2006, the Development Authority would be breaking state law if it deeded the system back to the county.
"I just don’t want to violate Georgia law," Thayer said.
Though Brown wasn’t at the meeting to give his legal opinion, Jones said Brown would not have sent the Development Authority a quitclaim deed if he thought it would be an illegal transaction.
Carol Miller, the attorney for the Development Authority, confirmed her office had received quitclaim deed documents from Brown.Thayer also cited development authority code that stated the water system must be sold for fair market value. Miller said that was not an accurate interpretation and said the authority is able to deed things for free as they see fit.
Another part to the debate centered on whether the Development Authority can legally provide water to a mixed-use subdivision recently approved by the Bryan County Board of Commissioners. The community, to be located at the corner of Highways 80 and 280, would include 160 single-family homes and 40 town homes, as well as commercial and retail buildings.
Jones said Brown was clear in his opinion and the Development Authority would not legally be able to provide water to a residential subdivision. He again said deeding the water and sewer system back to the county would be the best way to solve the problem.
County Commissioner Rick Gardner, who was a guest at the meeting, said it’s in the county’s best interest to provide water to its residents. He said there should be no worries that water wouldn’t be available to tenants at the industrial park when the system is deeded back to the county.
"We have the same goals, which is economic development in our county," Gardner said. "I assure you that water will not be an issue."
Board member Linda Barker moved the issue be tabled until the body’s May meeting, and the motion was approved by the board, with Thayer as the only nay vote.
In other business:
-The board discussed looking at job descriptions from the regional development authority in choosing the right wording for an ad to be placed for a project manager.
-Linda Barker said she thought the Development Authority should seek more competitive bids before deciding which company to hire to install security cameras in Interstate Centre.
-The board approved a six-month extension for Evans Concrete to stay in their current location in the development park while the businesses new facility is completed.
-A contract with North Point Realty for the purchase of 18 acres from the Development Authority recently expired and the board discussed how to handle the earnest money, which would be paid to the Development Authority if the contract expired before any action was taken. Miller said the contract was ambiguous and by her interpretation the board could either return $5,000 of the nearly $15,000 in earnest money or return none at all. Board member Steve Croy said North Point Realty has been good to the Development Authority and Barker said the board should apply the money to North Point’s future projects if they request the money.
-The board approved the purchase of a device that would locate underground utilities.
-A lot was approved for sale to Jack Reese with Reese and Company. Reese is to purchase 4.12 acres and build a structure of 50,000 square feet or more. The land will be sold to Reese for about $35,000 an acre.
-The Development Authority Board talked about Interstate Centre II and the road work being done at the entranceway.
-After returning from closed session, the board approved a bid from United Community Bank for the purchase of land and to allow Chairman Frank DuBose and Treasurer Linda Bragg to sign all documents for the loan.