Social Circle extends olive branch to BOC
Officials will sit down to talk it out
After months of their respective attorneys handling all communications, the Newton County Board of Commissioners and the Social Circle City Council will sit down face-to-face to discuss the county’s lawsuit against the city.
The meeting will take place at the Historic Newton County Courthouse on Thursday, Oct. 4, the first available date which fit into all parties’ schedules. While it is an open meeting, there is the chance that because it involves an ongoing lawsuit an executive session would be called at the start of the meeting which would bar the public from attending.
Newton County Chairman Aaron Varner said he was approached by Social Circle Mayor Jim Burgess several weeks ago about the possibility of the two of them meeting together to discuss various proposals which might bring an end to the county’s lawsuit.
“I told him at that time, I thought it would be better to have a meeting with the Board of Commissioners and his council,” Varner said. “He went back and asked his council and they said yes.”
Varner said that the BOC also approved of the meeting.
Newton County filed a lawsuit against the city of Social Circle in December for their annexation last fall of 1,150 acres of Newton County land in the western end of the county. In its suit, the county alleges that Social Circle violated its own annexation laws as well as the county’s and the state’s by annexing the land.
Social Circle responded by filing to dismiss the lawsuit, saying that it was groundless. Both sides are currently in the period of discovery during which they can request and receive documents from the opposing side with which to bolster their respective cases.
The fact that Social Circle sought the meeting could mean that the city fears it would lose if the case came to court or it could simply mean that it wishes to avoid the costly expense going to court would bring.
“I would hope that we can reach some sort of middle ground and settle the lawsuit,” said Burgess. “That would save us a lot of money. If we actually go to a full-blown trial, I think it would be expensive.”
Burgess said the Social Circle City Council has not yet formally discussed what they would bring to the table during the meeting but that a joint-service delivery cooperation agreement for water and sewer was a possibility.
“I have some ideas of what they’re going to say. We’ll have to wait and see,” Varner said.
One of the original objections of the county to the annexation was that it would upset county service delivery to the annexed land and the surrounding county area.
“I’d like to see us develop some cooperative relationships and resolve the dispute,” Burgess said. “So much of our orientation is toward Newton County. We are more a part of that trade area. We certainly use the commercial facilities in Newton fairly extensively. I would like to see us be considered a true partner of the county.”