In a setback to the City of Waycross, the Georgia Supreme Court has again ruled against the city on an appeal of a ruling in its de-annexation case before Superior Court Judge Kelly Brooks in Pierce County.
The high court unanimously upheld Brooks’ ruling that the city must continue to provide residences and businesses in the Bonneyman tract with water and sewer service.
The city has filed multiple appeals to rulings by Brooks, said City Manager Raphel Maddox. “This is a ruling against us in one of them,” he said. “There are other appeals pending.”
The court ruled Monday that Brooks did not “abuse the trial court’s broad discretion in granting the interlocutory injunction” that forced the city to continue serving water and sewer customers in Pierce County even though Waycross no longer has jurisdiction there.
After State Rep. Chad Nimmer passed a bill in 2015 to de-annex the city out of Pierce County, Waycross City Attorney Rick Currie filed a lawsuit in Superior Court to stop enforcement of the bill (which went into effect July 1, 2015) and to have the new law declared unconstitutional.
Brooks denied the city injunction for relief — to allow Waycross to stop providing water and sewer service to the Pierce County customers — determining the city is still authorized to serve the formerly annexed area.
The judge ruled that the residences and businesses in the Bonneyman Road area would be without water and sewer service if Waycross stopped providing it. Currie filed appeals based on the rulings by Brooks and those appeals have been making their way to the top state court.
Brooks has not ruled on the original suit filed by Waycross. He recently forced the city and Pierce County to go through a mediation hearing, urging the parties to find a compromise before he has to make a final judgment that he recognizes will make one side or the other unhappy.
The hearing was held in October but its results have not been made public. Whatever common ground the two sides achieved at the mediation meeting — described by one source as an agreement in principle — is “still being tweaked,” principals in the case have said.
The mediation process is legally confidential until the judge decides to accept or reject its results.