County drops out of quarterly joint meetings with city

Published 11:26 pm Friday, August 22, 2014

Decatur County Board of Commissioners Chairman Frank Loeffler delivered a letter date Aug. 19 to Bainbridge Mayor Edward Reynolds Wednesday stating the county’s intention to end the Council of Governments joint meetings held quarterly between the two entities.

Loeffler’s letter expresses concern with an “unpublished agenda item to present a prepared issue City is deciding how to proceed with,” referring to the Bainbridge City Council meeting Aug. 5 when a presentation was made on the double taxation of Bainbridge property owners.

The most recent joint meeting took place Tuesday, July 29 at the Kirbo Center, where Bainbridge-Decatur County Industrial Development Authority Executive Director Rick McCaskill gave a presentation on the current state of industrial business in the community.

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“That joint meeting, we thought, was something we could come together on, and the whole time they’re working on this double taxation thing,” Loeffler said. “I (find) it very hard and (find) it very difficult to look at them and in the back of my mind wondering what they’re going to do next.”

According to a letter sent in response from Reynolds to Loeffler dated Aug. 21, the two sat down at Loeffler’s house Wednesday to discuss the future of Decatur County and Bainbridge.

“At this point, we only want to discuss service delivery inequities,” reads Reynolds’ letter, noting that at this point, the city has not sued the county, nor do they desire to. “It was necessary that we hear from the experts that we had hired over a year ago to research this matter on our own behalf.”

Reynolds said the item for the presentation by Bainbridge attorney Buddy Welch of Smith, Welch, Webb, & White out of McDonough, Georgia, was originally present on the agenda, but it was to be discussed in closed session. On the day of the meeting, the council chose to have the presentation in open session to avoid the appearance the City of Bainbridge was pursuing legal action.

According to Reynolds’ letter, Welch, David Kendrick, Michael Brown and Reynolds plan to meet with the Decatur County Board of Commissioners to discuss the service delivery agreement findings.

“We are not attempting to balance our budget at the county’s expense,” Reynolds’ letter reads. “We simply want to make sure the residents of Bainbridge are fairly taxed.”

Reynolds also urged the county commissioners to return to The Council of Governments, stating the meetings “provide us a forum to productively discuss issues and resolve disagreements.”

Loeffler said the county still has no plans to continue the joint meetings with the city, but his face-to-face conversation with Reynolds was beneficial, calling it a “coversation between two friends.”

“After I met with him, I think in time it is workable to put something back together,” Loeffler said. “But I think we need to resolve some of these issue right now.”