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County holds off on KAF settlement
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Effingham County commissioners tabled executing an agreement with King America Finishing at a special called meeting Wednesday afternoon.

After a brief executive session, commissioners voted to authorize Chairman Wendall Kessler to sign a new local option sales tax distribution certificate and tabled a measure to allow Kessler to sign an agreement with King America Finishing.

“Due to issues raised in executive session, I ask for this to be tabled,” Kessler said of the item.

Commissioners would not divulge what the agreement with King America Finishing is or what led to it being tabled, but it may be part of the commissioners’ agenda at their next meeting.

Commissioners voted June 18 to retain Savannah law firm Oliver Maner under the auspices of seeking legal redress against the Screven County-based textile firm. The plant has been under heavy criticism since a May 2011 fish kill that affected more than 70 miles of the Ogeechee River and killed more than 38,000 fish.

The dead fish were found downstream of the plant’s discharge pipe into the river. No fish that had succumbed to columnaris, a bacteria, were found upstream of the pipe at the time.

The county owns Steel Bridge Landing along the Ogeechee River, adjacent to Highway 119 and near the county’s boundary with Bulloch County.

A consent order was issued against the company but later withdrawn after complaints that there wasn’t public comment or input. A new consent order required third-party testing of the discharge for 18 months and for the company to pay $1 million in fines to go toward supplemental environmental projects.

The EPD discovered the company was operating a fire-retardant process line that the agency did not known about.

The state has issued a draft discharge permit for King America Finishing, which faced more than 60 lawsuits in state and federal courts as a result of the fish kill.

Commissioners, who agreed to new LOST allocations in April, voted to re-authorize Chairman Kessler to sign the same agreement, in light of a state Supreme Court decision involving Turner County’s LOST settlement with the city of Ashburn. Justices threw out the “baseball” arbitration that resolved that negotiation.

The county and the cities were on the verge of entering arbitration under Atlantic Judicial Circuit Judge Ronnie Rahn, but they reached an 11th-hour decision on how to split the one-cent sales tax.

“We wanted to be extra cautious,” said assistant county attorney Elizabeth Pavlis. “The last one was signed under the cloud of baseball arbitration.”

In a unanimous decision, state high court justices called the judicial resolution of the LOST proceeds to be a “clear violation of the separation of powers doctrine.”

Under the agreement, the county will receive 74.41 percent of LOST proceeds, lowering its share by nearly 3 percent from the previous level. Rincon’s percentage was upped to 16.71 percent, while Springfield will receive 5.86 percent and Guyton 3.02 percent.

Wednesday’s commissioners’ action did not change the anticipated collection levels.

“There is absolutely nothing different,” Kessler said.