A view of the Lookout Creek meadowland that the county closed on on Dec. 26.
At the regular January meeting of the Dade County Commission, one much-discussed and eagerly-awaited subject never arose at all: the county's newly-completed purchase of 61 acres along Lookout Creek from landowner Jack Sells for the eventual construction of a reservoir.
The county's option for the land, originated in June 2017 and extended last year, was to expire Dec. 28. Meanwhile, the board of directors for the Dade Water Authority, or so-called water board, which is largely paying for the purchase, had at its Dec. 20 meeting sought last-minute amendments to the contract with seller Sells to allow for the construction of a public walking path and a lease agreement regulating Sells' continued use of the land after the purchase and before construction begins on the reservoir.
County Executive Chairman Ted Rumley after the meeting confirmed that he and Robin Rogers, the county attorney, had in fact closed the sale with Jack Sells on Dec. 26. Asked why he hadn't mentioned it, Rumley said: "It's not big news. It’s just old news. We beat it into the ground the whole year. I figured everybody knew it."
Asked whether Sells had agreed to the proposed amendments of a lease agreement, which requires him to pay $500 a year for continuing to hay and graze the land before the reservoir is built, Rumley said yes, and that Sells had also agreed to the insurance obligations set forth in the amendment.
As for the walking path, Rumley said that that had also been okayed: “If we want to build it."
"We’re not going to spend a lot of money on it," he said. "We’ll do just a rough trail up the creek come spring or summer where people can actually walk the creek bank. But it won’t be all around the property because he’s going to have to cattle in there.”
Again, the reservoir land contract did not arise during the Jan. 3 county commission meeting, but the commissioners did deal with a related matter, the restructuring of the water board--Rumley's chairmanship of both the commission and the water board has been criticized by some as unduly influencing the reservoir deal--insofar as they announced a joint meeting for next week with the city of Trenton and water board on that subject. The changes must be hashed out in time to go before the Georgia Legislature at its winter session if they are to be effected this year, it was explained.
That joint water board/city/county meeting is at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 15, in the Dade Administrative Building. But on Friday after the Thursday meeting, Dade County Clerk Don Townsend issued an announcement that the county commission would hold its own special called meeting briefly before the joint meeting on the 15th, at 5:45 p.m., for "consideration for approval a lease agreement of real estate."
Townsend confirmed this morning that the lease agreement to be approved was the one proposed at the Dec. 20 water board meeting, requiring the $500 per annum and defining liability insurance obligations between the parties.
But what about the entire amended sales contract with Sells? Does the commission not have to approve that? Townsend said no, that that apparently was taken care of by the intergovernmental agreement (IGA) approved by both water board and county. "Robin [Rogers, the county attorney] said this had to happen first," he said.
Townsend did provide a copy of the "Amendment to Option Agreement to Purchase Real Estate" signed by Jack Sells and Ted Rumley on Dec. 26, and notarized by the attorney.
This is a terse document of two pages plus a signature sheet. It mentions the lease agreement allowing Sells to continue grazing and haying the land, the $500/year rent amount during a projected two-year permitting period, and the fact that it may be extended for three additional years.
The amendment does not contain any mention of a public walking path except for a sentence specifying that except for the grazing and haying, the purchaser, or county, will have control over and access to the property "without limitation, for inspection, testing, or other related purposes at its discretion." There is also a clause allowing the lease to be modified by mutual consent of the parties to only a portion of the land, with an accompanying reduction of rent.
Additionally, the amended contract acknowledges that the construction of piers into the reservoir is currently illegal, but specifies that if it becomes permissible in the future, the county will cooperate with Sells in obtaining permits for two such piers.
The amendment also addresses the moving around of dirt--specifying that the removal of "compactable soil" and the replacement with "top soil" should be in equal truckload per truckload. It stipulates that the county will not be required to build roads or infrastructure to facilitate this movement.
And it grants the county a 20-foot easement around the reservoir property to allow for access and maintenance.
Again, the special called meeting of the commission and its joint meeting with Trenton and the water board are next Tuesday, at which time The Planet will continue faithfully to relay any developments to its readers.
The amendment signed on Dec. 26 is attached below.