By JOHN SCOTT COOPER, Staff Writer
The City of Waycross is battling on many fronts the results of having property in Pierce County removed from the city limits on July 1 by HB 523, with fronts varying from legal strategies in the courtroom to the formation of new city policy.
Sometime today, Superior Court Judge Kelly Brooks is expected to deliver a couple of rulings: one on a motion for an injunction filed by the Pierce County Commission to maintain the status quo of Waycross providing water and sewer service to the Bonneyman Road district and a second motion filed by the City of Waycross to dismiss the case.
City officials have adopted the posture that their sovereignty is being attacked, that Pierce County is interfering with the city’s right to conduct business with customers or to discontinue that business as the city chooses.
To help regain some control of the situation, city commissioners approved a resolution Tuesday evening that makes it an official policy that “the City of Waycross will not create, open or establish any new water and sewer services outside the corporate city limits without express approval of the City Commission.”
They approved a related resolution to “notify the Department of Community Affairs that the City of Waycross is no longer an ‘effected municipality’ in Pierce County and that the services delivery strategy agreement between the City of Waycross and Pierce County has expired.”
This is appropriate procedure according to City Attorney Rick Currie’s recommendation; the city must notify DCA if it annexes property and must notify the DCA when an agreement is dissolved by de-annexation.
Currie and the commissioners hope the judge dismisses the case. But the ruling entered by Brooks today is not the final word. It just points the city in the direction it will then take.
Currie has already filed an appeal of Brooks’ previous ruling against the city’s case when the city tried to terminate service to Pierce County customers in June. The appeal is awaiting a court date before the Georgia Court of Appeals.
And on Aug. 24, commissioners voted to consider negotiating with Pierce County concerning the utility issue depending on the judge’s ruling.
One other issue has arisen — Commissioner Alvin Nelson asked Tuesday at a meeting at City Hall if the city could still seek to recoup a share of the Pierce County LOST funds that are shared with effective municipalities within the county. For many years and until July 1, Waycross was one of those municipalities and was never given a share of the LOST revenues.
Currie said the city could calculate what Pierce County might owe Waycross and request payment, an action Nelson voiced support for.
Commissioners also had to again take up the issue of the Nov. 3 referendum concerning sales of drinking alcohol on Sundays. The action was procedural; the Ware County Board of Elections told the city that the ballot issues needed “titles,” so the vote Tuesday was necessary for the referendum to move forward.
Commissioner Marian Solomon-Gaines told the audience Tuesday it is the commission’s desire that city voters make the decision whether to allow alcohol beverage sales on Sundays. Two separate ballot questions will ask of voters whether Sunday sales be legalized in restaurants (by the glass) and in stores (by the package).