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County looks at service lines
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Discussion of service delivery lines has prompted Effingham County commissioners to revisit the possibility of a countywide water and sewer commission.

Commissioners are expected to take a look at proposed service delivery lines after a presentation from county engineer Steve Liotta and Assistant County Administrator David Crawley on potential boundaries. Currently, the county’s three cities service delivery areas include their city limits and a half-mile extending from those limits.

“This map can be changed in the future,” Liotta said. “But we have negotiated boundaries we feel we can live with and maintain so that developers will know whose boundaries they are in and who they will have to deal with for water and sewer service.”

He also said the new service delivery map will prevent developers from pitting the governments against each other for the best deals.

“It wouldn’t be developer shopping,” Liotta said. “That’s the main point of the hard lines, to keep the developers from being able to shop and pit the two entities against each other.”

Under the current agreement, the cities have the right of first refusal to serve an area within its half-mile boundary from their limits.

“These boundaries in this agreement are in essence hard lines, unless the two entities get together and negotiate a change to the service line,” Liotta said.

“We wanted to encourage developers to use municipal services, whether it was the county’s or the cities’,” said assistant county attorney Eric Gotwalt. “We didn’t want a hodgepodge of little sewer services everywhere.”

In the case where a city couldn’t serve an area on the service delivery boundary, but the county could, the county and city could negotiate a change to the service line. Currently, any change to the service delivery lines requires agreement from three of the four local governments.

But the hard lines to the service delivery maps under consideration worried some commissioners.

“We need to discuss that more before it’s presented as hard lines,” said Commissioner Hubert Sapp. “That hard line bothers me. If you are unable to service that area, the next closest one should be able to service that.”

Said Commissioner Jeff Utley: “I think a water and sewer authority is the answer.”

Liotta said a water and sewer commission could be set up to be a nontaxing body and to administer the service delivery for the entire county.

“It would prevent developer shopping or pitting the municipalities versus the county or versus each other,” he said.

Said Crawley: “It’s a fair way to control costs, a fair way to make sure services are put into areas.”

Commission Chairperson Verna Phillips said the board would be open to the creation of a water and sewer authority.

“Let’s provide services,” Sapp said. “Let’s not say we’re going to provide services and collect fees and not provide anything. That’s happened in the past.”