County seeks consensus in moving foward with lake project

With the dam for the Tired Creek Lake now complete Grady County officials are seeking to determine the best approach moving forward to complete the project and how best to manage it.
Grady County Administrator Carlos Tobar, who recently recommended the county commission nix its plans to issue $10 million in bonds to cover the cost of completing the lake project, pushed at Tuesday morning’s commission meeting for commissioners to reign in consultants who have been working in earnest with the Grady County Lake Authority on a suggested amenities plan, which includes a proposed marina,  multiple boat ramps, plus a splash pad and amphitheater.
Sticking points with members of the county commission and lake authority are estimates for construction of the proposed plan submitted by consultants Wood & Partners and ATM.
“There is confusion on what Wood & Partners is supposed to be doing,” Tobar said Tuesday morning.
The administrator said that it was his understanding the board wanted to focus on in-water elements of the amenities plan only, but he said that Wood & Partners is working on additional elements of the plan.
Tobar warned the consultants could be working on plans for lake elements the commissioners did not want but could still be billed for the design and planning.
The county administrator suggested Lake Authority Executive Director Mike Binion be placed in charge of monitoring the Wood & Partners contract.
Binion, however, is an employee of the authority and does not answer directly to Tobar, according to Grady County Commission Vice Chairman Charles Norton.
Norton said that is an issue that should be discussed, “Mike can’t have two bossmen. I think there’s an issue there.”
Commissioner T.D. David agreed and said the board should revisit Binion’s job description.
Norton indicated a discussion concerning these issues would take place during a joint meeting of the commission and lake authority Tuesday evening, but no such exchange took place.
Commissioners also talked Tuesday morning about why a meeting was never held for Norton, County Commissioner Ray Prince, and Charlie Johnson of Wood & Partners to discuss the budget estimates for the amenities plan.
Commission Chairman LaFaye Copeland told Binion to contact Johnson and inform him that he should meet with Norton and Prince to discuss the budget estimates.
Also during the Tuesday morning  meeting, Grady County Attorney Kevin S. Cauley suggested the board formally appoint Binion as the new contact person on the lake project. The board had previously appointed Cauley to serve as the contact person for all of the consultants and contractors working on the lake project on behalf of the county commission.
The county attorney said the time had come for him to relinquish that role, and he recommended they nominate Binion to that capacity.
“After Rusty (Moye, the late county administrator) passed I guess I was the only one on the county payroll left that had extensive knowledge of the project,” Cauley said.
Commissioner David asked Cauley if Binion was familiar with all of the contacts enough to be effective in the role.
Cauley said he would continue to be a resource for Binion as he always has been for the board on this project. “I just don’t want us to end up with too many cooks in the kitchen,” he said.
Vice Chairman Norton suggested the change be delayed for a week or longer.
“There is no rush, but I think it is time. I’m your legal counsel, but this is not the traditional role for your counsel. That’s not to say it hasn’t been interesting. I’ll look to your direction when you think the time is right,” Cauley said.
Norton said the commission should consider all options.
The county attorney reminded the board it was impossible for him as a part-time consultant to keep up with all the moving parts of the project. “A full-time employee is the appropriate person now. During the construction it was easy, because all I had to do was corral Schnabel and Brad Cole,” Cauley said.
A motion by Commissioner David to appoint Binion as the contact person, as recommended by Cauley, died for lack of a second.
Commissioner Elwyn Childs said if the lake authority made a similar recommendation he would be comfortable naming Binion the contact person.
Prior to the Tuesday morning meeting being adjourned, Vice Chairman Norton requested a closed door meeting for Thursday at 8 a.m. to discuss personnel.
When questioned by The Messenger why the closed session could not have been held Tuesday, Norton said it could have been, but he suggested it be held later in the week so that it did not interfere with the sale of $10 million in bonds, which was wrapped up Tuesday.

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