Cauley to draft lake authority bill
Grady County commissioners instructed County Attorney Kevin S. Cauley to begin drafting local legislation to create a Tired Creek Lake Authority that will be responsible for the management and operation of the lake and related facilities and activities.
Commissioners met Tuesday afternoon to discuss the prospects of creating a lake authority with the county attorney.
“We’ve talked about this numerous times before but you need to decide first if this is something you want to do, and then we need to get going on it,” Cauley said.
“The legislative session will be here before we know it, but we still have plenty of time to get the legislation together and get it in front of our legislators when they convene in January,” he added.
The consensus of the board is to proceed with preparing a draft. Commissioner Al Ball, whose term expires at the end of this year, urged the board to make their wishes known up front.
“I’d hate to see us tell Mr. Cauley to prepare a draft and find when he is done that the majority is not in favor of it. It’s not fair to Kevin or a wise use of county tax resources. If we know now the majority is not in favor of the idea of an authority, there is no need to go forward with it,” Ball said.
All of the commissioners indicated support for the concept of the legislation, but each one has issues that they said they feel should be addressed through the process.
Commissioner Charles Norton said he is opposed to a large authority and thinks it should be no larger than six to eight members. Cauley suggested an odd number to prevent the likelihood of a tie.
Commissioner T.D. David threw out the number of seven members as a starting point, and Chairman Elwyn Childs suggested five. Childs said his thinking is that each commissioner could appoint a representative from his district.
Cauley said it may be possible for the authority membership to be more centralized. David agreed and said it is more important to select the best possible candidates regardless of residency.
“They may all be in your district,” Commissioner David said to the board chairman. “I like local involvement. The more local involvement, the better,” David added.
Both Chairman Childs and Commissioner Norton said it is important to have a variety of interests represented including finance, forestry and more.
Commissioner Ball also encouraged the board to embrace the appointment of a representative who may be considered an “environmentalist” to prevent possible problems in the future.
Commissioners were also vocal that the authority not have taxing authority or the power to incur debt without the approval of the board of commissioners.
Attorney Cauley said it is not his intention to include taxing authority in the proposed legislation. He said the duties, responsibilities and powers of the authority would be determined as the process moves forward.
Cauley suggested he consult with Savannah attorney Jonathon (Jon) Pannell, who has worked with other jurisdictions to create similar authorities. “Jon can share the pros and cons of what powers and responsibilities to give the members of the authority. This is all they do,” Cauley said.
“It’s good to know someone has invented the wheel and we don’t have to reinvent it,” Commissioner David said.
Although the expense of constructing the lake will always be the responsibility of the board of commissioners, Cauley said the operation of the lake and associated facilities, such as a marina and campgrounds, would be the responsibility of the proposed lake authority.
Vice Chairman Billy Poitevint pointed out that once the authority is created, it would take new legislation to change the authority or to dissolve it. Cauley noted that is correct, but that was true for any authority such as the Grady County Joint Development Authority or the Grady County Hospital Authority.
Commissioner Norton recommended Cauley investigate if Bibb County has a lake authority to manage and operate Lake Tobesofkee, which was built in 1969. “They might give us some advice,” Norton said.
Norton admitted the board would be giving up some authority over the lake project by creating an authority, but he said he also believes the county would be saving resources through an authority.
Cauley said the authority would also provide a resource for continuity and history of the project. “We have all gone through this together for 10-plus years, but this lake will survive us all. There is some history of the project that needs to be known and documented for the future. I see this authority as a source for continuous knowledge,” he said.
With the recent passing of County Administrator Rusty Moye, Cauley said a “huge resource” of knowledge about the lake has been lost. He also pointed out the county is already facing issues on finances and a construction schedule that need attention immediately and there is no one in the county organization to handle the project.
Commissioner Ball said the board cannot expect to hire a new county administrator who could come in and manage the day-to-day operations of the county as well as take responsibility for the lake.
Commissioners agree that a full-time person, whether an executive director of the authority or a county department head, would have to be hired to manage the lake and lake operations.
Cauley suggested that if commissioners decide on whom to ask to serve on the authority prior to the legislation being enacted, the group could meet without authority as a committee and become familiar with the project.
The board instructed Cauley to proceed with the drafting of the local legislation and agreed to schedule another meeting once the draft is complete.
In other lake news, Cauley briefed the commissioners on the master lake plan and the dam design approval.
According to Cauley, the county’s consultants anticipate approval of the lake master plan and safe dam designation in the “next few weeks.” The approval of the lake master plan will clear the way for the county to begin harvesting timber at the lake site.
“Sounds good. Real good,” Commissioner Norton said.