With new leadership and management at the table for Upson County, the county and the City of Thomaston have agreed to give it one more try to work out their differences over service delivery and the division of the one cent Local Option Sales Tax (LOST). This decision comes just days before Senior Judge Stephen Bosworth was scheduled to begin the process of making the decision on the division of LOST for the two governments and the City of Yatesville.
A joint news release issued by Upson County Monday states:
“Upson County and the City of Thomaston believe it is in the best interest of the citizens of each government to review their service delivery commitments before continuing with the LOST distribution litigation.
“In that regard, they have agreed to a continuance of the LOST litigation in order to allow more time for the parties to work out their commitments to each other and the community as to service delivery and the LOST distribution percentages.”
At Tuesday night’s Thomaston City Council meeting, city attorney Joel Bentley stated that the LOST negotiation hearing scheduled to begin on March 25 has been continued by agreement between the city and county for purposes of reentering into negotiations with respect to the LOST and service delivery.
“We’ve talked about service delivery in the past, specifically with regards to a tax equity study,” Bentley said. “I want to report that the negotiating team for the city has begun the process. We’ve met one time. I’m pleased with the progress since we started that process. We’ll be meeting again this week, and hopefully at some point we’ll be able to report further in this matter. It is, I believe, progress in the right direction and hopefully we’ll be able to reach an accord on some or all of the issues so that we can get back to doing what we do best.”
Mayor Hays Arnold added that the city appreciated the leadership roles being taken by the county’s newly-elected chair and newly-appointed manager. Board of Commissioners’ Chairman Rusty Blackston was elected in November and Jim Wheeless was appointed County Manager in December.
“From the city’s perspective, I appreciate the leadership that has been shown on the part of Chairman Blackston, and I appreciate the leadership role that is being played by the new County Manager, Mr. Jim Wheeless,” said Arnold. “I appreciate the attitude changes that have taken place with the addition of some of the new commissioners. I think it is a very positive sort of thing to occur here in our community. I think that certainly needs to be recognized, because there has been a change of atmosphere, there has been a change of attitude, and I, as the mayor, certainly appreciate that, and I think city council will appreciate that.”
Bentley added after the meeting that the initial negotiation meetings are being conducted by the city’s legal counsel and the county’s legal counsel.
“My co-counsel and I get direction from the mayor and city manager, and then we go meet with the county attorney,” said Bentley. At some point, the entire negotiating team may have to meet.”
Mayor Arnold added that the attorneys are getting the bulk of the issues out of the way, and that the negotiating team as a whole might have to meet on the finer points.
“You might have a few things that might be sticking points,” said Arnold.