The service delivery strategy dilemma between Rincon and Effingham County may be reaching an impasse and may need outside help to resolve, after Rincon sent the county a letter that has county officials up in arms.
In a letter to the county commissioners, Rincon officials intend to hold “one final opportunity to negotiate a reasonable service delivery area around Rincon” on Wednesday at 7 p.m.
Failing an agreeable outcome, the city is requesting that all parties go to mediation.
“It was ill-received,” commission Chairman Dusty Zeigler said of the letter from the city. “I’m not surprised. There are some folks who are living up to their reputation.”
The city is inviting all area elected officials to the meeting in Rincon in an effort to resolve the ongoing conflict over service delivery. The state Department of Community Affairs gave Effingham County an extension of the deadline for the verification date of the service delivery strategy to Oct. 31.
In the letter from Mayor Lee to the county, the mayor said the service delivery strategy is “intended to guide planning and services in the county and the municipalities of Rincon, Guyton, and Springfield for the next 10 years. Since that extension was approved by DCA, the county has done nothing different; and apparently has no plans to do anything different.”
The letter further states that Rincon City Council believes asking for mediation will be the only way that the city can get “fair consideration” and the citizens in the surrounding areas get efficient services at a reasonable cost.
Lee said that after months of unproductive meetings with the county, the city had made a “very reasonable written proposal” to the county commissioners requesting changes in the service delivery strategy, but that their proposal had been dismissed by the county.
“We tried to touch anything and everything we could,” Zeigler said. “We’ve been talking about things but haven’t nailed anything down yet.”
Rincon said that since both the county and the city would be using the same water bought from Savannah Industrial and Domestic Water to provide to their citizens, it was “presumptuous” that the county would think they could provide better and more efficient service to the area immediately around the city of Rincon.
The mayor said that one of the sticking points with the county is Rincon’s philosophy on annexation.
“We feel that we should reserve the right to require annexation for service,” Lee said. “It is not fair to the current citizens of Rincon to give service outside the city and potentially put them in a position of having to pay. And so we feel very strongly that if we provide service in most cases, we feel like it should be annexed in. Now the commissioners feel very differently about that for some reason.”
Lee pointed out that impact and other service fees are what keep Rincon’s citizens from having to pay property taxes.
In his letter, Lee also said that the county’s put its wastewater treatment plant in a bad location “just outside the city limits,” and the assumption that there are efficiency and cost savings for the county to pump sewage seven miles around the city is “nothing less than a land grab” by the commissioners.
Had the county placed the sewer facility further to the southwest, it might even have had enough customers to pay for it,” Lee said in the letter.
“As it is, the plant is inefficient and too expensive for the county to operate. The only thing strategic about its placement was the attempt to blockade the City of Rincon.”
The letter also cited Rincon’s willingness to send police and fire personnel to assist with incidents outside of the city limits and talks about the growth of Rincon and the record of annexations into the city.
The letter also claimed that Rincon has a good economy and that is why, “the county is trying to take over the services and control of the surrounding area.”
If the last attempt at negotiation fails, the city said “court action may be necessary to resolve this concern.”
The city is asking that the county draw the service area boundary line the same distance from Rincon’s city limits as it has been drawn around Springfield and Guyton. The city says then it can support the completion of this project.
“We’re still far apart on an agreement, I’m afraid,” Lee said. “I want our relationship (with the county) to be a good working relationship that will benefit all the citizens of this county, not just the citizens of Rincon, and not just the unincorporated areas. We need to be working together and we need to be working together for the benefit of all the citizens. And that means servicing these areas in the most economical, beneficial way that will benefit the citizens financially — not encumber the citizens with a financial obligation this is unnecessary. Whoever is best suited to serve areas by proximity, economics, by all the factors that would best determine, then that’s what we need to do.”
Said Zeigler: “We are all about to get a lesson in service delivery strategy.”