Decatur County forms committee to renegotiate with Bainbridge, implement service delivery strategy

Published 6:44 pm Friday, April 17, 2015

After signing a legal agreement in March with the City of Bainbridge on service delivery strategy, the Decatur County Board of Commissioners formed a committee Tuesday to renegotiate certain parts of the agreement.

“I understand it’s a court document,” Decatur County Commission Chairman Dennis Brinson said. “We understand that mediation is over, there is no more litigation. But there are some things that are very detrimental to Decatur County.”

Brinson specifically referred to an enterprise fund, a part of the signed agreement, that lumps the Decatur County Prison, Landfill, Industrial Park and water and gas facilities into a single account. Revenue from one source can be used to pay off debts in others. This poses a problem for the county when the prison has been reportedly losing more than $2 million a year.

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“The prison being in the enterprise fund will almost assuredly deplete the revenues from the others,” Brinson said. “It should have never been in there, and we are now having to deal with that. As a county, we don’t need to be dealing with that.”

Brinson, along with District 6 Commissioner Pete Stephens and District 4 Commissioner Rusty Davis, make up the county’s negotiation committee.

“Right now we’re fairly satisfied with the way the agreement stands,” Bainbridge Mayor Edward Reynolds said. “I don’t know if we would be changing the agreement, from our perspective. How some of those things are implemented will be some things we discuss. If some of those things are causing (Decatur County) trouble, we need to have a conversation about that.”

Stephens said mediator William Sanders presented the county with no other options during mediations sessions in March, which has now put them in a stressed situation. In terms of the prison, the Board of Commissioners is concerned about raising taxes in the unincorporated areas of Decatur County to pay for the loss in revenue.

The agreement has yet to be implemented by Bainbridge or Decatur County.

“How do you renegotiate a deal you signed before you implement the one you are already in?” Bainbridge Councilman Phil Long said. “They had legal representation as well as we did. Nobody in that room made them sign that agreement.”

Councilman Luther Conyers echoed Long’s sentiments, calling the agreement “a done deal.”

“We all signed it,” he said. “The county had the same amount of time we had to study each item.”

The city of Bainbridge filed a petition for mandatory mediation in November 2014.

Mediation between Bainbridge and Decatur County lasted two days, March 10-11 at the Decatur County Courthouse.

In an attempt to settle disagreements on an alleged double taxation within the city, where city residents were being taxed for services they didn’t receive, both entities agreed to a new contract with new responsibilities.

“It’s an agreement, but things have to be worked out,” Davis said. “There may be some things that they are willing to help us with and realize we have some real problems.”