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County commission deadlocked on release of RFQ

The Grady County Commission has once again delayed release of a Request for Qualifications to potential developers of the county’s property around Tired Creek Lake.
On Tuesday, the board was deadlocked 2-2 on releasing the document and the subsequent advertisement of the Request for Qualifications (RFQ).
Commissioners Keith Moye and LaFaye Copeland voted in favor of the RFQ release, while Chairman Ray Prince and Commissioner June Knight voted against its release. Vice Chairman TD David, a vocal supporter of the Grady County Lake Authority and its consultant Will Butler, was unable to attend Tuesday’s meeting due to poor health.
“Have any of y’all read the RFQ? Do you understand it (the RFQ)?” Commissioner Knight asked her fellow commissioners.
“No,” responded Chairman Prince, who added, “Every time I read it you pick up something else.”
Knight said when she got through the first seven or eight pages she was “lost,” but she said it read as if the county was becoming a developer of the property, which she said was “not helping the county.”
“We are not developers and I’d like to ask this question, who wrote the RFQ?” Commissioner Knight said.
Grady County Attorney Jennifer Herzog said that the draft was put together by Butler and was revised by herself and members of the county commission as well as the lake authority.
“Do you think it says we are to be the developers, Jennifer?” Commissioner Moye asked Herzog.
The county attorney said no and noted that the RFQ was intentionally drafted broadly. “What it says, is here is this property we have, come tell us how best to develop it. If the county is not interested with what is suggested then move on to other options,” Herzog said. The RFQ, according to the county attorney, also contemplates one developer offering to buy all of the undeveloped property around the lake.
“So, we’re not the developers?” Moye asked and Herzog responded, “No.”
Commissioner Copeland said none of the board members would ever understand all of the RFQ, but she trusted the recommendations of Butler and the lake authority and was in favor of putting it out to see who comes forward interested in developing the property.
The county is facing debt service payments later this year that includes not only interest, but also principal payments on the bonds issued for the construction of the lake. Commissioners recently admitted they had no financial plan for the lake when the project ramped up and a permit for the dam was issued.
County officials are hoping that by developing the property and putting it back on the tax digest, additional ad valorem tax revenue would be generated that could reduce the burden on existing taxpayers to pay for the lake project.
“I’d like to keep this moving forward. People keep saying nothing is getting done and if we don’t do it today, we’ll be putting it off another month,” Moye said.
“We’ve beat this horse to death,” Commissioner Copeland said. She suggested Vice Chairman David could be reached by telephone and could vote on the matter.
“I don’t think we need to do that,” Chairman Prince said. Prince said that David was undergoing medical tests and should not be disturbed.
“He had expressed his feelings to go forward at the last meeting,” Commissioner Moye stated.
Following the deadlocked vote, Chairman Prince said that, “until I understand it a little better” he could not vote to release the RFQ and Commissioner Knight said she opposed it because, “my district doesn’t like it.”
The commissioners have had a final version of the RFQ since April 16 and Butler and the authority have been waiting for the commission’s o.k. to begin publicizing it.
During Tuesday’s meeting the board heard from two members of the public on the RFQ issue.
Richard Jordan requested to be placed on the agenda under petitions and presentations to discuss concerns with county projects. He said it concerned him the county had spent $38 million on a project with no “solid financial plan to pay it back” and he accused the commissioners of having “no desire to have one now.”
Jordan said the county has suffered many financial failures but he predicted, “The RFQ will be the final nail in the coffin.” He attempted to ask questions of the county attorney regarding the RFQ, but County Attorney Jennifer Herzog suggested she and the board, as well as the authority and Butler, have an opportunity to review his questions and prepare an “educated, well-informed response.” She suggested a joint meeting with the authority and commission might be wise.
On the other hand, during the public comment section of the agenda, the board heard from former county commissioner Charles Renaud who urged the board to proceed with the RFQ release.
“It’s time to move this project forward,” Renaud said.
One thing commissioners could agree on Tuesday was appointments to the selection/review committee.
As part of the RFQ process, a selection committee to rank and score the submissions from prospective developers has been called for by the lake authority. The authority recently appointed Authority Chairman LaDon Toole and former authority member Travis Bryant to serve along with Will Butler on the selection committee. The authority recommended the county appoint two representatives to round out the five-person panel.
“I’d like to be on there,” Commissioner Copeland said Tuesday.
Commissioner Knight questioned leaving Butler on the selection committee, but Chairman Prince noted that was the action of the authority.
Moye then offered a motion to appoint Chairman Prince and Commissioner Copeland as the county’s representatives on the committee. His motion was seconded by Commissioner Knight and approved unanimously.

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