Published Thursday, October 04, 2012

Coweta won't object to Griffin sewer bonds

By SARAH FAY CAMPBELL

sarah@newnan.com

The Coweta County Commissioners voted Tuesday to execute an agreement with Griffin saying Coweta County will not object to Griffin’s proposed validation of bonds for sewer projects.

The waiver of objection is part of the recent agreement reached among Griffin, the county and the Coweta County Water and Sewerage Authority regarding the 50-year water supply contract with Griffin.

Whenever a city decides to issue bonds and there are intergovernmental agreements with other cities and counties, “you basically have to get waivers” from the other organizations that they won’t object to the bonds, said Commission Chairman Rodney Brooks.

“That is what we are doing,” said Assistant County Attorney Nathan Lee, “so you don’t show up and object” during the bond validation proceedings.

“We’ve been known to object before,” said Brooks.

Coweta County and the water authority appeared in Spalding County Superior Court in 2009 to object to Griffin’s validation of bonds for sewer and water supply projects. The objection was seen as a way to try and get better terms on the 50-year water supply agreement, which required the authority to buy increasing amounts of water each year, topping out at 7.5 million gallons per day, whether the water is needed or not. The authority came with a check for nearly $7 million, intended to buy an “equity share” in the Griffin system, as mentioned in the contract, signed in 1999.

The authority’s challenge wasn’t successful, and roughly $500,000 was spent in fighting the issue all the way to the Georgia Supreme Court, which ruled in Griffin’s favor in May 2011.

However, the authority and Griffin recently came to an agreement that reduces the amount of water to a maximum of 5 million gallons per day, and that maximum won’t be reached until 2022. The amount the authority has to buy this year dropped from 3,040,000 gallons to 3 million. It will remain at 3 million until 2022. As part of that agreement, the authority will pay Griffin $9 million for water system improvements.

The price per gallon for the water will not change, but the authority will reap savings by not having to buy more water than it needs, hopefully reducing the need for future rate increases for customers.

And because of that $9 million, Griffin doesn’t need to use bond money for water system projects. Instead, the proposed bonds will be for sewer projects.

The water and sewerage authority board is set to execute the same paperwork at its meeting on Wednesday, said Jay Boren, interim general manager of the authority.

The authority board recently made changes to its own bond resolution regarding the bonds it issued in 2010.

Money from that bond issuance was originally allocated for the buy-in to the Griffin water system. The money will still be paid to Griffin, but it won’t be for a buy-in. Instead, it’s a part of the settlement agreement. The resolution had to be changed to allow the money to be used for that purpose.

Boren said the authority has basically already agreed to Griffin’s bond validation; they’ve just got to make it official [on Wednesday.]

“We’re all trusting each other now,” Boren said. “It shouldn’t be an issue.”

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