Monday, December 12, 2011

Oconee County Officials Optimistic Settlement Near in Pinewood Estates Water and Sewer Dispute

BOC Meeting Planned

Oconee County officials told residents of Pinewood Estates South mobile home park tonight that the county is “cautiously optimistic” that it has reached a settlement with the owners of the park that will keep water flowing beyond the proposed Jan. 13, 2012, shutoff date.

County Attorney Daniell Haygood told me after the meeting that the county plans to call a meeting of the Board of Commissioners for Wednesday to review a tentative settlement.

The Board would go immediately into executive session, he said, but, if it agrees to the settlement, it would make an announcement when it comes back into regular session.

Haygood told me the breakthrough in the discussions came only today.

About 90 people, mostly residents of the mobile home park tucked behind the busy commercial development on Epps Bridge Parkway, attended the meeting at the Civic Center tonight.

As they had in a similar meeting in the same place on Nov. 28, they expressed frustration that they are caught in a dispute over water and sewer services between the owners of the park, Georgia General Kipling Land LLC, and the county. The park is located on Old Epps Bridge Road.

The county announced on Nov. 11 that it proposes to cut off water and sewer services to the mobile home park on Jan. 13, 2012, because, according to the county, the owners had not paid water and sewer bills for nearly a year.

Oconee County filed suit in April in the Gwinnett County Superior Court against Georgia General Kipling Land and is seeking $48,436 in unpaid sewer and water fees plus additional charges for service prior to the time of the trial, plus a 10 percent late fee, plus interest.

The county also is asking to be awarded $142,500 for unpaid sewer capacity fees.

County Administrative Officer Alan Theriault began the meeting tonight by advising the residents that the county believes an agreement will be reached by the end of this week.

“I think I can sum it up by saying we are very, very close” to an agreement, he said later in the meeting.

Residents, many speaking through an interpreter provided by the county, were concerned about what happens if no settlement is reached.

Residents said they are paying their bills on time. Often, they said, they pay $100 or more per month for their water and sewer services.

The mobile home park purchases water and sewage services from Oconee County and then resells those services to the residents of the park.

Attorney Thomas Mitchell, representing Oconee County in the dispute with the park owners, told me after the meeting the average amount the county has been charging Georgia General Kipling for water and sewer has been $7,300 per month.

The mobile home park has about 110 lots.

As was true at the earlier meeting, the residents were well organized and very articulate.

One difference this time was they were represented by an attorney.

Adam Cain, who spoke at the meeting, told me after the session ended that the group had not filed any legal action against the owners of the mobile home park, though they were reserving the right to do that in the future.

Cain said the priority is to get a settlement between Georgia General Kipling and the county so the water and sewer services are not terminated in January.

One resident of the park made a particularly strong case in asking for such a settlement.

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