County considers hiring lake project manager
A Grady County delegation will fly to the nation’s capital later this month to discuss possible federal funding for the proposed 960-acre Tired Creek lake.
The delegation, led by County Commission Chairman Al Ball, will include County Administrator Rusty Moye, County Attorney Kevin S. Cauley and Tired Creek consultant and project manager Wm. Thomas Craig.
Officials will fly to Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, June 30, for a meeting with Congressman Sanford D. Bishop and members of his staff.
“We will fly up that morning, meet with the congressman and fly back to Atlanta that evening,” County Administrator Moye said.
County commissioners met Thursday to discuss various issues regarding the Tired Creek lake with financing one of the topics covered.
In addition to seeking federal funding for the project, county leaders are also investigating the possibility of bond financing for the lake.
County Attorney Cauley briefed commissioners on his discussions with attorneys who specialize in the issuance of bonds. He also presented commissioners with a reimbursement resolution for the board’s consideration.
According to Cauley, the resolution would allow the county to be reimbursed for lake expenses incurred prior to bonds being issued with proceeds from the bonds.
The county attorney said that execution of the resolution by the chairman does not in any way require the county to actually issue bonds.
“If we do the resolution now, and if we issue bonds later, this puts a mark in the process where any money we spend now we can pay ourselves back with bond proceeds,” Cauley explained.
The reimbursement resolution prepared by the county attorney declares the county’s intent to issue not more than $15 million in bonds. Vice Chairman Charles Renaud questioned that figure.
“Are we limiting ourselves at the beginning of the process?” Renaud asked.
The county attorney explained the county does not have any projected construction cost estimates for the lake and the only urgent matter is the purchase of the mitigation tracts.
“You can actually do more than one bond issue, depending on the need,” Cauley said.
Chairman Ball expressed his hope that a special option sales tax would be the primary source of local funding for the lake, and Cauley pointed out that bonds could be paid off with sales tax proceeds if voters approved.
“We need to keep the project moving and don’t let it go stale,” Commissioner Charles Norton said as he offered a motion to adopt the reimbursement resolution and authorize the chairman to execute the document. Commissioner Elwyn Childs seconded the motion and it passed unanimously.
Only County Commissioner Bobby Burns was not present at the meeting Thursday night.
In addition to financing, commissioners also authorized Cauley to exercise the county’s options on the mitigation tracts. The county attorney is drafting a solicitation for proposals for surveying the mitigation tracts.
“We are in the process of having all the tracts surveyed and plan on beginning to close the purchase of some of the tracts in the next 60 days. Acquisition of all the mitigation tracts will likely take a year or more,” Cauley said.
County Administrator Moye and Attorney Cauley also shared information with commissioners concerning creation of an authority that would manage the lake project during its development and the lake and other operations associated with it into the future.
Cauley said the earliest that an authority could be created would be the next session of the Georgia General Assembly, which convenes next January.
“You have some time to consider what powers you would want this lake authority to have. This authority could also be used as a financing instrument for the lake construction,” the county attorney said.
County Administrator Moye also strongly recommended that commissioners consider hiring a project development manager, who would initially be an employee of the county, but could be transferred into a lake authority employee later.
“You need to hire somebody to run this for the county. You need to hire a manager, a development manager,” Moye said.
Chairman Ball said the job description of the proposed new county post would be key. “What are we actually talking about as far as responsibilities and duties?” Ball asked.
Moye said he wanted the commission’s approval to begin work developing the job description.
“What you don’t want is the sentiments of the board to change the way this project proceeds. This board got the permit and the sentiments of this board are to build the lake, and that doesn’t need to change in the next big election. The project could go dormant in a heartbeat, and we don’t want that to happen,” Moye said.
Chairman Ball agreed and stated, “Personally, I am aware that to do this thing right, we need someone to coordinate it with focused energy and expertise. We and Mr. Moye don’t have the time to do it right.”
Moye added, “We have the ‘want to,’ but not the time.”
Commissioner Elwyn Childs asked how Moye suggested finding a suitable candidate. The administrator said the county should solicit applications not only in Georgia, but beyond.
“A lot of people have been ‘right sized.’ There are a lot of qualified people out of work. I think with the times such as they are, we could find a very qualified individual,” Moye said.
“We don’t need to let the project slow down,” Childs said, and Moye responded, “No, don’t let the momentum go.”
Vice Chairman Renaud said that Craig could be a valuable resource in developing the job description for the development manager.
Commissioner Norton said he was interested in seeing a job description for the position before he would support hiring a new employee.
Moye said he will be seeking professional help to develop the job description. “This position is so important to this project – this has got to be done right,” he said.
Without being obligated to hire any one, the board authorized Moye to begin drafting the job description for the proposed development manager and for Cauley to put together a proposal for the creation of a lake authority.
County officials, consultants and officials with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources will meet here Tuesday to begin work on the fisheries management plan for the 960-acre lake.
Prior to that meeting, commissioners and their consultants will meet with Dave Campbell from Schnabel Engineering to discuss the dam design. According to Moye, Campbell will already be in Georgia for a meeting with state officials on another project.