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Mediation between city and county to begin Tuesday

After the City of Bainbridge’s November 2014 petition for mandatory mediation of service delivery strategy between them and Decatur County, the two entities will finally begin the process next Tuesday, March 10, at the Decatur County Courthouse.
William Sanders of Alexander & Vann in Thomasville was appointed as the mediator in January. Mediation is set to begin at 10 a.m. Tuesday and will likely continue into Wednesday.
Thursday, the Decatur County Board of Commissioners entered into a four-hour executive session during a special called meeting to prepare for the mediation process. Both Decatur County and Bainbridge have called for additional special called meetings next Tuesday at 9 a.m. before their meeting at the courthouse.
“I’m not going into it with a preconceived notion of what the perfect result is,” Bainbridge City Manager Chris Hobby said. “I don’t think there will be a perfect result. It’s all about negotiation.”
Decatur County Administrator Gary Breedlove  admitted the service delivery strategy between the city and the county was complex and will likely take all of Tuesday and Wednesday to negotiate. Yet he believes there will be some areas that can’t be settled during those two days.
“Because of the complexity, I don’t think we will have a complete settlement,” Breedlove said. “We’re expecting sufficient progress so we can say we agree to move forward, but we may need a little more time to work out the details of other areas. I think (the Board of Commissioners) are looking to make that progress.”
According to Hobby, the actual mediation process takes place in closed session. Any votes made by either party will be made in open session. Tony Rowell of the Hall Booth Smith office in Tifton will represent Decatur County. Buddy Welch of Smith Welch Webb & White in McDonough will represent Bainbridge.
Decatur County Commission Chairman Dennis Brinson said he was optimistic about resolving any service delivery strategy issues the city believes to exist.
“I definitely want this to be resolved,” he said.
Bainbridge Mayor Edward Reynolds noted some of the alleged service delivery inequities would be easier to resolve than others.
“I’m looking forward to having some open and frank discussions on where the services are,” Reynolds said.
Welch presented information to the Bainbridge City Council in August 2014 that said Bainbridge residents were being “double taxed” for services they were not receiving.
Bainbridge filed a petition for mediation between the city and county on Nov. 14, 2014. Upon receiving the petition, the superior court had 30 days to provide mandatory mediation via a judge who is not of the Decatur County circuit.