So­cial Cir­cle ex­tends olive branch to BOC

Of­fi­cials will sit down to talk it out

The Covington News - - FRONT PAGE - By Rachel Oswald

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.”

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