Giving Control over Oconee Taxes To Walton County
So many things are going on in the county at the moment that it is hard to keep track of them. Unfortunately, most of these need our attention.
A very big issue is the draft contract that the Walton County Board of Commissioners has approved and sent to Oconee County for approval. The contract–legally an intergovernmental agreement–defines how the two Counties will manage and finance the proposed reservoir on Hard Labor Creek, in Walton County.
Ownership is clear. Everything belongs to the Walton County Water and Sewage Authority, whose members are appointed by the Walton County Board of Commissioners.
The agreement calls for the creation of an Advisory Committee, made up of the Chairman of the Walton County Water and Sewage Authority, the General Manager of the Walton County Water and Sewage Authority, and the Chairman of the Walton County Board of Commissioners, which appoints the Walton County Water and Sewage Authority. Each could designate someone else to serve in his or her place.
Oconee County is to be represented by the Chairman of the Board of Commissioners and the Chairman of the Oconee County Utility Department, who is appointed by the Chairman of the Oconee County Board of Commissioners. Or these two individuals can designate someone to represent them.
The Advisory Committee will advise the Walton County Water and Sewage Authority. This, by and large, means the Walton County Water and Sewage Authority will be advising itself. Oconee County will have little say about how things operate.
The Walton County Water and Sewage Authority will bill Oconee County for 28.8% of all costs. Oconee County will be obligated to pay the bills for land acquisition and construction of the reservoir based on property taxes. The County can use revenue from the sale of water to pay the annual project costs.
Oconee County has used very extreme estimates of water needs and sales to justify joining Walton County on the Hard Labor Creek project. If the estimates are wrong, as they are likely to be, the annual bills are going to have to be paid by property taxes as well. To pay the bills, the County has to sell water, so it is going to be promoting development to pay for this reservoir.
The more water that comes in to the County, the more that has to be treated at the County’s sewage plants. This means the Rocky Branch sewage plant is going to be expanded, pumping even more sewage water into Barber Creek.
At this point, the most important thing is that this agreement be discussed in an open meeting at which citizens have an opportunity to ask questions and state opinions. Two Commissioners–Margaret Hale and Chuck Horton–voted against joining with Walton County for the reservoir. We need one more vote to make sure that Oconee County doesn’t enter into a contract with disastrous results.
Write to the Commissioners today. If you feel comfortable surrendering control over your taxes to Walton County, please say so. If you want an open discussion in which the Commissioners have to justify putting Walton County in charge of Oconee County tax revenue, please write and say that.
Here is the contact information:
Melvin Davis, (Chairman), firstname.lastname@example.org
Margaret Hale, email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org
Chuck Horton, email@example.com
Jim Luke, firstname.lastname@example.org
Don Norris, email@example.com