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County, airport facing off over money

POSTED: February 26, 2014 1:00 p.m.

Barrow County is standing firm, and the Airport Authority is trying to decide its next course of action regarding disputed stormwater fees.

The Barrow County Airport Authority has called an executive session for March 5 to determine what steps to take after no resolution between authority members and county representatives could be reached during a Monday meeting, according to Chairman Scott Miller.

"We’ll inform the Authority members on Wednesday and discuss the matter to determine what actions are best for the airport," Miller said in an email to the Barrow County News.

Miller and authority member Teeny Allison had met with Barrow County Manager Randall Dowling and Stormwater Coordinator Matt Treeter on Monday to discuss the issue.

Dowling disagreed with Miller’s assessment of the meeting, declaring that a resolution had indeed been reached – the authority members simply didn’t agree with it.

"It was explained to Mr. Miller that everyone pays the storm water fees, no exceptions," he said. "The county attorney has agreed to this. The airport authority simply does not want to pay the fees."

 

The fees

The county delivered the stormwater bill to the airport at the end of last year, claiming a $4,255 charge for the years 2010-2012 for the airport itself, along with bills for other properties the airport owns, for a total of $6,137.26.

It was the first stormwater bill that the airport had ever received.

Dowling explained why that was the case, not just for the airport but for a total of 100 entities in unincorporated areas of Barrow which are tax exempt, such as churches and government entities like the airport.

The problem: The fees were included on the individuals’ taxes.

Dowling added that the county did not enforce the fees until late 2013, when they sent out bills to those entities which had not yet paid due to being tax-exempt.

After initially receiving the bill days before the December meeting and discussing it as well at that meeting, the authority said in January that it should not be responsible for at least a portion of the money the county is claiming the authority owes for storm water fees.

The airport is not contesting the bills for the other three properties included, only for the airport itself.

Major concerns that the authority had with the bill:

Miller said more than 75 percent of the bill for the airport property ($3,595) are fees for prior years back to 2011, which were assessed unevenly, as well as late fees.

The airport has provided its own general maintenance of its retention ponds, aside from one maintenance visit by the county, since the billing began and had paid the county $1,400 for the service.

Airport attorney John Stell said at the January meeting that, if the county would back off the late fees and credit the airport the $1,400 it has spent in maintenance costs, the past bill would be around $2,000 and bills going forward $900 or less per year, which would be fair.

Dowling disagrees. He said any late fees would only have begun this year after the bill was not paid on time, and that the maintenance that the county previously performed and paid for is not tied to the fees, which Dowling noted are not individualized.

"They hired the county, we cut the grass around their detention ponds, they paid us, and they thought that was in lieu of the fee," he said. "But that is separate and distinct from the storm fees. By paying the fee, it helps maintain county-wide stormwater infrastructure."

Dowling also noted that initially the county had fluctuated between what areas would be counted when assessing the fees, but that going forward the county is going to bill as per the ordinance prepared in 2008 and passed in 2011: Billing rooftops and impervious services.

"We hope to keep going on annual basis with no more hiccups," he said.

 

The next step

Dowling said all but 33 of the tax-exempt entities that received stormwater bills late last year have already paid, but for the ones that haven’t, the county will be sending out a second delinquent letter on March 3 and those that have not paid by April 1 will be sent to a collection agency, "and we will move on from this," he said.

Airport Authority members are not ready to move on, and have pointed to the economic benefits the airport has provided the county and the federal funding which they say should be taken into account, although Dowling disagrees.

At the end of last week’s monthly meeting the members, along with WK Dickson consultant Phil Eberly and attorney John Stell, went into executive session to discuss possible litigation.

Now that the county has clearly stated its position, the meeting Feb. 5 will be to determine what other options the airport has.

 

COMMENTS

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1 comment
Hmmm: February 28, 2014 6:45 p.m.

roflmao...

"the county is going to bill as per the ordinance prepared in 2008 and passed in 2011: Billing rooftops and impervious services."

The County... The BOC... is taxing the realtor's dream(the Barrow County Airport and its' red herring land grab) with his own invention(Uniform Development Code -UDC) to crush the individual...

Wonder, when the County will use the UDC for all the other little known taxes and regulations? Under the new Strict UDC enforcement mantra...



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