WILL BUTLER, who is a consultant for the Grady County Lake Authority, has been facilitating meetings between local leaders and officials in Leon County to mitigate issues concerning Tired Creek Lake.
Grady County Administrator J.C. (Buddy) Johnson III, expressed his animus Tuesday morning for detractors of Tired Creek Lake consultant Will Butler, the Grady County Board of Commissioners, the Grady County Lake Authority and Tired Creek Lake in general.
Johnson’s remarks were made during Tuesday’s meeting of the Lake Authority, which was the first since a majority of the authority’s new members were installed.
All seven members of the authority, including incumbents Chairman Steven Childs, Eric Cohen, and Ray Prince, as well as newly appointed members Laura Register, Chip Wells, Bob Ponder and Stephen Francis, were in attendance.
Since a majority of the Grady County Commission was anticipated to be in attendance, public notice of a joint meeting of the two entities was properly advertised. County commissioners on hand for the meeting, in addition to Prince who serves as the board’s representative on the authority, were Commissioner June Knight and newly elected Commissioner Phillip Drew.
Johnson opened by saying there is a group of people who hate Butler and another group who love him, but that he came here with no ties and that the reality is Butler is doing a “great job” for the county and has saved the county a minimum of $500,000 in mitigating issues involving the lake raised by Leon County.
“You’re getting your money out of Will Butler. Like it or lump it I don’t care,” Johnson said.
The Grady County administrator said that Butler has assisted the county staff and attorneys representing the county in negotiating with Leon County officials to come to an understanding and to eliminate Leon County from constantly raising issues with the lake to officials with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Johnson says that Leon County has caused problems for the county for 15 years or more. “They are creating issues we have to hire lawyers to represent us in and to work out a solution. It’s been complaint after complaint after complaint. No investor will ever be interested in developing the lake as long as Leon County is fighting us,” Johnson said.
According to the county administrator, Butler is also working to mend fences between Grady County and Tall Timbers.
“Will Butler is not a fraud and he is not my best friend. I have no ties with him, but I can tell you he is very well respected in Leon County. I’m so tired of hearing that Will Butler is a fraud. He is the real deal,” Johnson said.
Johnson shared with members of the Lake Authority information from recent meetings that have been coordinated by Will Butler and included Laura Benz, the county’s attorney specializing in the federal 404 permit and interaction with the Corps, as well as Leon County and Tall Timber officials over the course of the last several months.
Johnson said that Leon County officials are now looking for ways the two counties can cooperate rather than fight.
According to Johnson, two separate groups of investors have expressed interest in the lake project and Butler is in discussions with them.
Johnson said that Leon County officials and Tall Timbers representatives do not want to see a mobile home development or hog farms around the lake. “They want to see it successful. After all, they will benefit from it, too, because people will be going down there to the big city,” the county administrator said.
“I want you all to understand where I stand. People can say what they want, but Will Butler could lay a golden egg and there would still be folks who hate his guts. The day he is not viable or not doing his job will be the first day I will say to him to go somewhere else,” Johnson said.
Lake Authority members and county commissioners also discussed scheduling a meeting where Butler could come to update both bodies. “He isn’t here today because he had a conflict, it wasn’t that he just blew it off. He wanted to be here,” Johnson said.
The group decided to target Wednesday, May 1, at 10 a.m. for a joint meeting and Wednesday, April 24, as an alternate.
On Tuesday morning, Johnson also voiced his strong objections to naysayers who turn to social media to criticize those working to make the lake project successful.
Johnson said that citizens who go on social media to blast county leaders and express their judgement of how “stupid” county officials are, are killing any chance of attracting developers to look at the Tired Creek Lake project.
He said those who participate in such social media diatribes are “idiots.” Johnson said without a doubt potential developers are seeing and reading such social media posts.
The county administrator said that such social media posts turn off developers. “They don’t want to come here because they don’t think we have our act together. You are telling people who could make it great to walk away,” Johnson said.
Richard Jordan, one of the most vocal critics of the Lake Authority, Will Butler, and county officials spoke during the public comments section of Tuesday’s agenda, which preceded the remarks of the county administrator.
Jordan sought an updated tally on the lake related expenses, the Creel survey, the plan to service the debt on the lake, and other issues related to the lake. Jordan also said that the issue of fishing from the GA Hwy. 112 bridge must also be addressed and, according to him, a child was recently nearly hit crossing from one side of the highway to the other. He renewed his call for the county to terminate its agreement with Will Butler. “If you are determined to go against the people, you’ve got to do something different. You should pay for performance,” he said.
Peter Wright, another critic of the project, asked to be recognized only to yield his three minutes to Jordan.
“I hope with the new faces on the authority we can get out of the rut and move forward. I know you inherited a mess of a project, but hopefully y’all can get things back on track,” Jordan added.
In other business Tuesday morning, the authority:
Elected Chip Wells as the vice chairman of the authority.
Tabled action on selection of a secretary after no member of the authority would agree to serve and the Lake Authority has no budget to employ a secretary. Johnson declined to offer the services of County Clerk John White, but did permit White to take the minutes of Tuesday’s meeting.
Heard a report from Lake Authority Executive Director Mike Binion. According to Binion, the Department of Natural Resources may wish to do additional surveys before presenting the county’s Creel Survey and recommending fishing limits to the DNR board. Binion also reported that Schnabel Engineering is close to completing all of the required inspections of the dam and he reported all of their findings were positive.
Discussed the leaking gate in the dam riser. According to Commissioner Prince, the only issue would be during a period of extensive drought. Binion says the gate is leaking approximately 400,000 gallons per day, but he noted that the minimum amount of water he has had to release per day is 600,000 gallons and that 8 million gallons had gone over the auxiliary spill way and riser on Monday. Officials said that it would be during a drought when possible repairs to the gate seal could be undertaken. Until that time, the consensus is there is no serious issue and the estimated $100,000 cost to correct the problem is not warranted.
Heard comments from Lake Authority member Cohen who said there is a prospect of Tired Creek being able to host the top 15 high school fishing teams in Georgia next year. Chairman Childs said that such an event would bring statewide exposure to the lake. All parties agreed it was the type of event the county and authority should work to accommodate.
Heard a report from Binion that many of the 19 wood nesting boxes recently erected at the lake have eggs in them. Chairman Childs expressed gratitude to the Grady County School System and local citizens who had made the project a success.