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Knight fails in attempt to oust consultant

Grady County Commissioner June Knight failed in her bid Tuesday night to terminate the services of Tired Creek Lake development consultant Will Butler.
Knight made a motion to end the month-to-month contract with Butler, but her motion died for lack of a second.
“After the chewing out we got last Tuesday night, I believe we need to get rid of Will Butler. Get him out of our pocket, get the land appraised and get it sold,” Commissioner Knight said prior to making her motion.
“We need to show the citizens we have listened to them,” she said. Several of the concerned taxpayers who spoke at recent public hearings on the county’s proposed tax increase called for the firing of Butler. According to Knight, all of those in attendance at last Tuesday night’s hearing raised their hand in support of the consultant’s termination.
Vice Chairman T.D. David said the board also had to consider the opinions of taxpayers who were not present at the hearings.
Commissioner Knight said it was a “disgrace” that no one could say what the property was worth and she questioned how Butler could attempt to sell the property without knowing its value.
Accounting Manager Donna Johnson said she agreed with Commissioner Knight that the county needed to know what the property was worth in order to sell it.
Vice Chairman David asked if Knight and Johnson had read the market study that was done by Robert Charles Lesser & Co., LLC Real Estate Advisors last year. David said that the study provided the county with information of the projected value of the property based on a variety of development opportunities.
Commissioner LaFaye Copeland interjected that the motion had died and urged the board to move on.
Commissioner Copeland then spoke out against those who are critics of Butler, including Chairman Ray Prince and Commissioner Knight.
“You don’t like Will and that’s it in a nutshell. Let’s be completely transparent with these people and tell it like it is. You just don’t like Will. Why not let him see what he can do. We have beat this nail into the ground,” Commissioner Copeland said.
“Where do you draw the line?” Chairman Prince asked. “Do we give him the time he asked for?” he added.
Butler met with Lake Authority Chairman LaDon Toole, Chairman Prince and Commissioner Copeland last Wednesday to hear an update from the consultant.
“You sat right there and heard what he had to say. I was satisfied with what he reported,” Commissioner Copeland said to Chairman Prince.
According to Commissioner Copeland, Butler told the group that if he could not bring a developer(s) to the table within 90 days he would step aside. Chairman Prince said in an email recapping the meeting Butler had indicated it could be up to 120 days to wrap up a deal.
Butler is currently discussing with and meeting with “three to four” prospects who have expressed interest in developing portions of the lake property. The county commission had directed Butler to attempt to bring a single developer to the table through a Request for Qualifications process, but no developers responded to the invitation.
Since the expiration of the RFQ, Butler has reached out to prospects that had expressed interest but did not respond to the RFQ.
In addition to scheduling meetings with the prospects, Butler has contracted with an engineer to provide a working estimate for extension of City of Cairo water and sewer service to the perimeter of the lake property. Butler says he can have those cost estimates within 30 days.
Butler has also retained attorney Laura Benz to research the regulatory reach of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers outside the 100-foot buffer around the lake. He is estimating he will have the opinion of Ms. Benz within 30 to 90 days.
Lastly, Butler is in consultation with prospects that might be interested in acquiring portions of the property to place in conservation.
Tuesday night, Lake Authority Chairman Toole reminded the board that Chairman Prince has said he was in discussions with a potential buyer of the lake property, and said, “If Ray’s people come through, that’s awesome. Bring the deal before the authority and we will look at it.”
The lake authority chairman also encouraged anyone who knew of someone who might possibly be interested in developing the lake project to let him know and he would pass the information on to Butler.
“If someone brings us a better plan than what Will has, we owe it to the community to vet it out and bring it to the commission. Right now we don’t have a better plan, but I’ve told Will (Butler) we can’t drag this out forever. He said if he couldn’t come through in 90 days it would be time to do something different. By then, he will have exhausted what he could do to help,” Toole said.
“From sitting up here, I know we cannot please everybody, but we have to try and do what is best for the county,” Commissioner Copeland said. She added that there are always going to be citizens who think one way would be another way to go while others will think another approach is the step to take.
Commissioner Knight suggested the county will have spent another $20,000 to pay Butler before his estimated timeline expires.
Lake Authority and county commission critic Richard Jordan urged officials to “man up” and say that Butler was not working out. “Performance speaks more than words,” Jordan said.
Jordan also said he had nothing personally against Butler, but “when I was a CFO we paid for performance and he (Butler) has not performed.”
Linda Aycock, who last week spoke in opposition to maintaining a relationship with the consultant, told commissioners Tuesday night that she had nothing against Butler, personally, but that her concern was the amount of tax money that is being spent to pay Butler. “He has not proven himself,” she added.

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