While I understand other cities have donated to charities in the past, I will not violate the law and the trust given to me by the citizens of Guyton.Mayor Russ Deen
GUYTON — Heeding legal bindings cited by its attorney, the Guyton City Council isn’t extending a charitable hand to Habitat for Humanity of Effingham County.
During its regularly scheduled meeting April 13, the council dashed Habitat’s desire to have tap fees waived or reduced for the future owners of ongoing projects on Fourth Street Extension.
“Upon review of Georgia statutes and the city’s current charter, it would not be legally permissible to do this,” said David Mullens, assistant city attorney. “That’s just simply the way the current charter is written and I’d be happy to review that in more detail with you but that is the advice that we have given the city and the mayor at this time.”
Mullens was speaking to Habitat President David Sharp, who sought a clarification of the City of Guyton’s fee structure. There is a $600 meter and administration fee for any new city service, Mayor Russ Deen said.
Sharp addressed the council during the public comments section of the meeting.
“Just to let you know, all the cities in Effingham (County) — Springfield, Rincon — have not charged us tap fees,” Sharp said early in his remarks.
The mayor and council were unmoved by Sharp’s point.
“While I understand other cities have donated to charities in the past, I will not violate the law and the trust given to me by the citizens of Guyton,” Deen said Friday.
In 2019, a Guyton citizen donated a Fourth Street Extension lot to Habitat. Since then, Habitat houses have also been planned for three properties adjacent to it.
“So the confusion is on the tap fees,” Sharp said. “Do we have to pay a tap fee because we have now inherited those lots and paid for those lots? That’s where the question comes into.”
Deen said one Habitat lot doesn’t have an existing water or sewer tap. One has a water tap but no sewer tap.
“If there is not an existing tap there, there will be a charge for a tap there,” Deen said.
One lot has both and would not require fees, Deen added.
Sharp said it is customary across the state for local government entities to give Habitat homeowners a financial break.
“... (Fees are) generally reduced or not charged at all,” he said.
While addressing the council, Sharp cited other reasons why he believes the fees in Guyton should be eased.
“Also, we are developing four lots that needed to be developed, that haven’t been developed,” he said. “Now you are going to have a new homeowner coming in. I am hoping that they shop at Parker’s. I’m hoping that they go to Subway. I’m hoping that they walk down Main Street.
“I’m hoping all of that so now you have four new families coming in that want to be a part of your community.”
Sharp reminded the council that Habitat homes aren’t given away.
“They have a mortgage just like you do so we are trying not to pass that (tap fee) expense to the homeowner,” Sharp said.
On Thursday, Habitat Executive Director Jimmy Rutland said he has started an online campaign to raise money for the fees because the sewer work must be completed before getting all the lots ready to build. Donations can be made at tapfees.habitatec.org.