BOC under fire from citizens about delay in LOST decision
by Ashley Biles Associate Editor
The Upson County Board of Commissioners came under fire Tuesday night when concerned citizen Gary Self asked about the LOST (Local Option Sales Tax) negotiations and when an agreement would be reached. Self spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting and told the board the time to make a decision about the agreement between the City of Thomaston and Upson County is now before any more of the taxpayers’ money is spent on the issue
“It’s been time enough to put this behind us. If we don’t put it behind us tonight, it is the wrong thing to do,” said Self passionately. “I don’t know exactly how much money has been spent on this but it is too much. Absolutely too much money has been spent on this LOST agreement… As taxpayers we have a vested interest. We are the ones paying the bills.”
Self went on to say that the public needed to hear what the proposal was and if it is wrong, what the problems are so citizens would have an idea of what is going on without having to assume things. He also noted that if no decision was made that night that he was going to ask for a list of all the money that has been spent on the agreement and give it to the public. Self stated that way everyone would be able to see exactly how much money, in his opinion, has been thrown away for not coming to some type of an agreement in a timely manner.
Commission Chairman Rusty Blackston stated he could understand Mr. Self’s concerns, but that no action would be taken that evening.
“I will not call for a vote tonight because this board has not been informed if there is or if we will get an agreement handed to us tonight,” said Blackston. “We will leave it at that. We are the elected officials and when we get it and we study over it, if we see that we need to change, tweak or whatever, we will work with the attorney to do that. When we get everything worked out we will put everything out for the public to see.”
No action was taken that night, but the board has called a meeting for 8 a.m. this morning to discuss the draft agreement proposed by the two attorneys.
The county has been in negotiations with the city for the LOST and service delivery agreement since July 2012 with no decision being reached. After the two governing bodies failed to come to an agreement on their own, state law mandated a mediator be brought in to attempt to reach an agreement, however that failed as well. The final step in the process was for the decision to be made by a Superior Court judge from a different judicial circuit than the county and Senior Judge Stephen Boswell was chosen. He was to have begun dividing up the LOST revenue in April of this year, but both bodies decided to try one more time to come up with an agreement with the attorneys for each side handling the negotiations.
Since the LOST began in 1981, the revenue collected has been split between Upson County (55 percent), the City of Thomaston (43 percent) and the City of Yatesville (2 percent).
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