TIFTON — Two major projects are in jeopardy due to the failure of the county and cities to reach a service delivery agreement.
City Attorney Rob Wilmot told the Tifton City Council Aug. 3 he has not received any word from the county that it will agree to ask a judge to halt sanctions handed down to Tift County and the Cities of Tifton, Ty Ty and Omega because a service delivery plan was not submitted to the Department of Community Affairs on time.
Wilmot said the city has already filed a motion to hold the sanctions in abeyance while the city and county are going through mediation.
In the meantime, funding cannot be secured because of the standoff.
Tifton Mayor Julie Smith said the projects in question are just as important to the community as the Ruth’s Cottage CDBG grant that the county applied for in 2018.
The county applied for the Ruth’s Cottage grant when the county and city were in the early stages of service delivery negotiations. The county urged the city to come to an agreement on service delivery to secure the funding for that project, which the city did.
“No question, that was a vital, very important project and we did what we had to do to make sure there was no jeopardy in that CDBG application because it was that important," Smith said. "What we have on the table for the Urban Redevelopment Agency is that important too. It is a part of our town that we have said we need to commit resources, we need to commit efforts, we need to do something, and here we are. Now the shoe’s on the other foot.”
The council discussed at its previous workshop the challenges with providing services for city residents.
City leaders said they were given an all-or-nothing ultimatum from the county that stated the city had to allow the county to provide a whole list of services or the city would receive none of the services on the list. These services include animal control, inmate housing, tax collection, municipal elections, recreation and non-emergency 911 dispatch.
The city said it would not be in the best interest of city residents to take that deal, and said if they couldn’t come to an agreement with the county, the city would provide those services to city residents.
Wilmot and City Manager Pete Pyrzenski said they are both frustrated with trying to come to an agreement on service delivery.
“I think that we’re left with the option of providing these services and getting up the gear to do what we need to do,” Wilmot said. “Because obviously it does not seem like we’re going to be able to reach an agreement with the county about these services.
“As elected officials you have provided Tift County Board of Commissioners everything, absolutely 100%, that’s needed via the law…You have went beyond what you need to do as elected officials. I don’t think you’re getting very well reciprocated.”
Pyrzesnki said that city officials are out of time with trying to come to an agreement with the county and need to move forward with working out how to provide these services to city residents.
Pyrzenski said providing an animal control service — one of the items on the list of services up in the air — is definitely something the city could do and asked for the go ahead to begin planning.
Smith said she has been contacted by multiple people about and has visited the current animal shelter, which is run by the county, and said the conditions there are “abysmal.”
“If you have any compassion whatsoever for animals, the way this shelter is run should be illegal,” she said. “It’s a high kill shelter. The animals are not taken care of.”
Smith said she was told any donations made to the shelter for food and care for the animals don’t actually go directly to the shelter, but are instead put into the county’s general fund. She also said volunteer organizations that previously helped with fostering, adoption and spay and neuter efforts are no longer allowed to do so. Council member Jack Folk said he has gotten many calls about stray animals inside the city limits that animal control will not come and pick up without a direct call to a county commissioner.
Pyrzenski said the city owns half of the animal shelter building and it can use its half for the city’s animal control service, or the county could buy it out and build its own shelter. He also told the council he has located a vehicle that would be used for animal pickup, if the council wants to move ahead with that.
Inmate Housing and Tax Collection
The council considered a resolution to house city inmates in the Turner County jail.
“We have to take action,” Pyrzenski said. “We have to have some months to do this.”
Pyrzenski said conversations with the Turner County Sheriff Andy Hester about inmate housing have been very productive. Turner County would charge $35 per inmate and that part of the revenue from tickets written in the city would go to the Turner County jail instead of the Tift County jail, according to Pyrzenski.
Pyrzenski said he also plans to start advertising for a city tax collector in the next month.
Pyrzenski said that neither Tift County Sheriff Gene Scarbrough nor Tift County Tax Commissioner Chad Alexander were the reason for city not being allowed to renew its contract for inmate housing and tax collection.
Pyrzenski informed the council that the second phase of the Willow Creek development is on hold because water sewer service delivery forms the Department of Community Affairs require were not sent on to the state by the county, after the city delivered them to the county.
The city approved an updated water sewer service delivery map to include Willow Creek in March.
“That is a service delivery stall that we’re having,” he said. “I wanted to bring that to your attention.” Mayor Julie Smith said the developer has families waiting on their houses and he can’t build them because the forms weren’t sent to DCA.
Pyrzenski said the delay has nothing to do with the City of Tifton. “We have done everything that we needed to do,” Pyrzenski said. “We’ve sent all the required paperwork that we needed to submit.”
The council also reviewed a proposed zoning overlay for businesses that directly touch Hwy. 82 that would allow them to put up larger signs in exchange for visitor amenities such as landscaping, water features, art, etc; amendments to the board appointment policy; and amendments to the ordinance dealing with abandoned and junk vehicles.
The council was told the FY2019 audit was clean, and there were no issues with the 2020 natural gas inspection.