With a June 30 deadline approaching, representatives from Effingham County and the municipalities hope they can iron out a service delivery strategy.
Officials from the county, Guyton and Rincon met briefly Tuesday night — there were no Springfield officials present because Springfield had a regularly-scheduled city council meeting — and will meet again this coming Tuesday.
“We’ve got to work out some service delivery plans,” said Rincon City Manager Michael Phillips.
Rincon and county officials have a couple of stumbling blocks on the water and sewer services areas, particularly the Grandview and Heritage tracts. The county has an agreement in place with the Grandview tract owners to provide water and sewer service — but the property, along Old Augusta Road, is less than a half-mile from Rincon’s wastewater treatment plant.
“This is where we have a conflict, where we are not comfortable at all,” Phillips said. “We would be landlocked. We don’t like this at all.”
Phillips said the Grandview tract would be better served by the city. But County Administrator David Crawley said the contracts with Grandview came about only when those developers couldn’t work out an agreement with the city. The letters of credit from the developers allowed the county to secure loans from the Georgia Environmental Facilities Authority.
“We are bound to them as much as they are bound to us,” commission Chairman Dusty Zeigler said.
Rincon city council members said they may be amenable to an agreement on the Heritage tract, which is north and west of the city limits.
“All of us paid for that plant,” council member Ken Baxley said of the county’s wastewater treatment plant, not far from the western limits of Rincon. “We’re not out to cut the county’s revenues, because it’s our money, too.”
Phillips said he anticipates more areas asking to be annexed into the city and Crawley added that water and sewer service is the “carrot” to entice growth.
We’re not trying to grow the city just for water and sewer,” Baxley said.
Crawley suggested a water and sewer commission could resolve some of the issues, but Guyton alderman Les Pevey was opposed to the idea.
“The taxing has to stop somewhere,” he said. “We don’t need another taxing authority.”
County officials and Rincon representatives agreed that the property owners need to be included in future talks.
“We need to get these people on board,” Rincon council member Scott Morgan said “and it needs to be sooner rather than later. At some point, we’ve got to look at what’s best for everybody.”
New fire districts received a thumbs-up from county, Rincon and Guyton officials. Local fire chiefs had worked out the map earlier this month. Rincon council members had questions on the distribution of the fire fees, which has not changed since 2002 even though the number of houses in their coverage area has increased, according to Baxley. Crawley said adjusted house counts should be available now that the county’s aerial maps are completed.
The cities and county need to agree on the service delivery strategy by June 30 in order to attain qualified local government status from the state Department of Community Affairs.