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Finally, Leon County responds to Grady officials

Leon County officials finally responded last week to a request from Grady County to discuss face-to-face issues raised regarding the 960-acre Tired Creek lake project.
After numerous attempts by Grady County Attorney Kevin S. Cauley to coordinate a meeting on behalf of the Grady County Board of Commissioners and its consultants with members of the Leon County Board of Commissioners and their representatives, Cauley received a written response last week from Leon County Attorney Herbert W.A. Thiele.
Thiele wrote that the Leon County Board of Commissioners was aware on Feb. 22 of Grady County’s desire to meet, but voted anyway to authorize the Leon County Attorney’s Office to join in the lawsuit filed by Georgia River Network and American Rivers vs. the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Grady County.
The Leon County attorney further stated, “We disagree with your characterization of the issues as set forth in all of your correspondence. Nonetheless, and in an effort to show intergovernmental cooperation, we (meaning attorneys for Leon County, and our scientific staff and consultants only) would be willing to meet with you and your experts at a mutually convenient time and place. In the interim, my office is continuing to pursue my commission’s direction.”
After consulting with Grady County leadership, Cauley responded Thursday in a letter to Attorney Thiele accepting the offer to meet.
Cauley noted that Grady County officials and their consultants would like to meet “provided that we meet prior to Leon County entering legal action . . .”
The Grady County attorney said that the meeting would allow for Grady County to present the most recent information on water quality and quantity as well as discuss the permit conditions within the federal 404 permit that assures Leon County will not be adversely impacted by the Tired Creek lake project.
Cauley requested three or four dates convenient for the Leon County attorney and the county’s consultants to meet, and even suggested since Grady County’s consultants would have to travel that the proposed meeting be held in Leon County.
As of Tuesday, Cauley has not received a response including dates for a joint meeting, nor has Leon County filed court action to join in the suit against the federal 404 permit issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
“I was not expecting an immediate response,” Cauley said Tuesday.
At its Feb. 22 meeting, without any notice to Grady County, the Leon County Board of Commissioners discussed the legal action taken by Georgia River Network and American Rivers and then voted 6-1 to join in the suit against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Grady County contesting the issuance of the federal 404 permit issued by the Corps to Grady County on May, 28, 2010, to build the 960-acre lake.
The suit was originally filed on Nov. 5, 2010, the same month that Grady County commissioners authorized the issuance of $15 million in bonds to finance the construction of the lake. Just over $4.5 million of that total has been encumbered to date.
Grady County Commission Chairman Charles Norton is hopeful Leon County officials will meet with Grady County’s consultants before joining in the lawsuit.
“If they will meet with us before they file court action, I think we will be moving in the right direction. They need to learn what this project is all about,” Chairman Norton said.
The Grady County commission chairman said if Leon County files suit first, he would be opposed to any meeting.
“If they won’t meet before they file, then I’m for letting it take its course,” Chairman Norton said.
Grady County officials were never made aware that Leon County commissioners would be discussing the Tired Creek project at their Feb. 22 meeting. It was only by chance that Cauley learned of the agenda item from an independent third party.
At the Feb. 22 meeting of the Leon County Commission, only Vice Chairman Akin Akinyemi voted against Leon County joining in the suit. Akinyemi expressed his opinion that the Leon County commission should alert Grady County officials of their concerns and allow Grady County to make a presentation before voting and investing public funds to join in the lawsuit.
At Tuesday night’s Grady County Commission meeting, the board approved payment of $3,564.26 from the law firm of Cook, Noell, Tolley & Bates, LLP of Athens of which Edward Tolley, who is representing Grady County in the lawsuit in federal district court is a member. The invoice approved this week covers services rendered during the month of February.

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