VALDOSTA — Leaders from Valdosta, Remerton, Hahira, Lake Park, Dasher and Lowndes County met for a second time Thursday at the James H. Rainwater Conference Center to discuss updates in the Service Delivery Strategy Law as mandated by House Bill 489.

Each municipality has to review individual and joint plans to ensure services are not duplicated. The Delivery Strategy is updated along with the Comprehensive Plan as mandated by Georgia law, and has to be completed by Oct. 1, so the Department of Community Affairs has an ample time to review both documents.

House Bill 489, also known as the “Service Delivery Strategy Law,” went into effect in 1999. At that time city and county officials took to a blank slate in learning how to reduce duplication of services. The law made Georgia communities look at promoting service delivery in the most efficient, effective and responsive manner. It eliminated double-taxation by ensuring cost of services for unincorporated county residents were borne by those residents, and not by city residents who already paid for city services. The law had an effect on a number of areas in Lowndes County like emergency dispatch, animal control, libraries and parks and recreation.

Thursday’s meeting was more of a get-to-know HB 489 session for officials. Remerton City Manager Brian McDougal joined Dasher Mayor Kenneth Allen, Lake Park Mayor Walter K. Sandlin and clerk Ann Peterson, Hahira Mayor Pro Tem Temple Ogundu, Valdosta Mayor John J. Fretti, Valdosta City Councilmen David Sumner and Robert Yost and County Manager Joe Pritchard, County Chairman Rod Casey and Valdosta City Manager Larry Hanson in talking about updating plans.

Among discussions were the ways the Service Delivery Strategy split funding between municipalities and unincorporated parts of Lowndes County, and minor changes to regional development and mapping fees for Dasher, Lake Park Hahira and Remerton. Previously, Lowndes County and Valdosta bore the brunt of costs for regional development and mapping services instead of charging each city a separate fee. The cost is around $1.23 per resident, said County Attorney Walter Elliott, and refiguring the fee structure to charge each municipality better reflects the updated configuration. The South Georgia Regional Development Center charges a reported $117,818 for regional development services for the entire county, including municipalities.

Other agreements officials will dig into the next two weeks involve the allocation of hotel-motel taxes and authority funding; an intergovernmental agreement for provision of building inspections services between Hahira, Valdosta and Lowndes County; an intergovernmental agreement for extraterritorial extension of water and sewer services; and the distribution of administrative duties in the Valdosta-Lowndes County Recreation, Parks and Community Affairs Department.

Updates to the Parks and Rec agreement

Of the all the items up for review, the Parks and Rec Department has received the most attention. From 1972 to 1999, Valdosta funded and administered countywide parks and recreation services. When HB 489 surfaced in 1999, it split duties between Valdosta and Lowndes County, and the county funded operations while the city decided where the money went.

For years the county has asked for more control, and the updated Service Delivery Strategy provided the opportunity to restructure interests. A joint meeting between the Lowndes County Board of Commissioners and the Valdosta City Council on July 19 let Councilmen review the first draft of the county’s proposed agreement. A variety of Council comments sent the county back to the drawing board, and a new agreement was drawn up July 31.

Gone was the request to give the county full oversight over sports programs, unincorporated area parks and city parks in addition to provisions on title to city parks, employees, capital improvements and the transfer of equipment. Councilmen questioned the county’s ability to oversee city Parks and Rec services, particularly in ensuring Valdosta programs were funded sufficiently.

Document highlights

Hanson and Pritchard worked together to come up with the compromise, and highlights of the take-two document are as follows:

• Lowndes County would provide parks and recreation services that have a countywide benefit, including youth sports, adult athletics and hosted tournaments. Services would be provided at the South Lowndes Recreation Center, Vallotton Park, Freedom Park and the Anderson Tennis Center. The county would fund and conduct special events like the July 4 fireworks and fund and maintain destination facilities like North Lowndes Recreation Park, Langdale Park, Blackburn Park, the boat ramps, the Trap and Skeet Range, and Jaycee Park. The county would maintain neighborhood parks in the unincorporated area, including Naylor, Clyattville, Snake Nation, Lake Park and Lovett parks.

• Each city would fund and provide parks, centers and programs that benefit its residents. Valdosta would fund, maintain and operate the Mildred Hunter Center, Craig Center, Pinevale Youth Center and Senior Citizens Center in addition to neighborhood programs benefiting Valdosta residents including therapeutics, aquatics, Pinevale youth programs, senior citizens programs, after school programs and instructional programs.

• An advisory board would be formed with members from each jurisdiction appointed by the county, authorized to make recommendations to County Commissioners on the operation of programs provided by the county that have a countywide benefit.

• The new proposal affects fewer Parks and Rec employees because employees working at Valdosta parks can choose to remain on the city’s payroll, with the option let employees of Valdosta working for county-administered parks to remain city employees contracted to the county.

Government officials will further discuss this and other HB 489 issues at Remerton City Hall on Aug. 17 at 10 a.m.

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