Will taxpayers of Rabun County pay for the RCWSA’s new Little Tennessee Water Plant in Rabun Gap or not?

Opinion

water-plant-sign

Sign in front of the Little Tennessee Water Plant. Photo: Cherie Faircloth

If you haven’t been by the Rabun County Business Park in Rabun Gap lately, you should come and see the Rabun County Water Sewer Authority‘s new $5.5 million Little Tennessee Water Plant, set to serve the north end of unincorporated Rabun County and surrounding area.

The permit to operate the plant was issued to the RCWSA recently, even though the accompanying sign states that the plant was to operational in October 2016.

The good news is: your Rabun County Board of Commissioners (BOC) went to work to search for ways to make the water plant more affordable and they were successful in lowering the cost of the loan. A bond paved the way for refinancing of loans associated with the new water plant.

georgia-governmental-finance-authorityOn the January 2017 BOC meeting agenda, item 9 generated discussion about the refinancing of the county’s Georgia Environmental Finance Authority, or GEFA, loans and the loan was reduced by $443,000, according to RCBOC Board Chairman Greg James.

clark-gefa

Kevin Clark

GEFA loans help local governments improve their environmental infrastructure. Financing water, wastewater, solid waste, and energy, land and water conservation projects encourages economic growth and the stewardship of our environment,” states Executive Director Kevin Clark on the GEFA website.

The Rabun County agenda item was described as follows: “An issuance of a revenue refunding bond for an existing GEFA loan for the RCWSA in the amount of $4,009,000,” which reflects a savings on the $5.5 million loan. That is good for everybody.

 

On Feb. 2 and Feb. 9, 2017, legal notices in The Clayton Tribune‘s classified section detailed an upcoming validation hearing on the bond issue in the Superior Court of Rabun County, Rabun County Courthouse on Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2017, at 11 a.m. The court notice is Civil Action NO.2017-CV-0025-S, and was filed Jan. 27, 2017 in Rabun County’s Superior Court Clerk’s office.

To clarify, a validation hearing is a procedure in which a petition and complaint for validation might be filed in the superior court of the county and served upon the district attorney. The superior court then conducts a validation hearing, of which the public must be notified. The court notice for the validation hearing  is Civil Action NO.2017-CV-0025-S. It was filed on Jan. 27, 2017, in Rabun County’s Superior Court Clerk’s office.

Take note that the filing occurred one day after the judgment came down in favor of RCSWA’s takeover of the Boggs Mountain water district from the City of Clayton.

Since the RCWSA won the right to bill and collect revenue from the unincorporated South Rabun County district, the estimated $120,000 annual revenue might help the authority afford it new Little Tennessee Water Plant.

debbie-chisolm

Debbie Chisholm, City Council

City Councilwoman Debbie Chisholm has maintained that, “only 100 – 120 customers exist to pay for the new water plant.” This was stated before the Boggs Mountain customers were factored in.

Furthermore, the sign outside the Little Tennessee Plant plant reads”Your SPLOST dollars working hard to build better services for your community!”

Remember SPLOST is a special-purpose local-option sales tax financing method for funding capital outlay projects in the U.S. state of Georgia. It is an optional one percent sales tax levied by any county for the purpose of funding the building of parks, schools, roads, and other public facilities.

What is missing?

  • It is unknown how SPLOST factors in since each municipality recently reported on their SPLOST projects for 2016 and none mentioned funding of a new water plant.
  • There is also no mention of any county or RCWSA SPLOST funds that went to fund the plant. Perhaps a look at the RCWSA or County budget might reveal such a SPLOST contribution?
brendan-thompson

Brendan Thompson, RCWSA

Many Rabun County residents are also questioning the need for the new water plant. Yet according to The Clayton County Tribune on Feb. 2, 2017, RCWSA General Manager Brendan Thompson said “the plant provides a needed redundancy for the authority’s infrastructure if case issues arise at the Lake Rabun Water Plant.”

In a recent public notice documented in The Clayton Tribune states that the indent of the hearing to “confirm and validate the issuance by the RCWSA of a revenue bond in the principle amount of $4,009,000” with proceeds of the bond applied for the purpose of “refunding a certain loan from GEFA and paying the costs of issuing the bond.”

Here’s the rub: “The issuer agrees to issue the Bond and the County agrees to pay it back the issuer in amounts sufficient to enable the issuer to pay the debt service on the Bond. In addition a levy an ad valorem property tax on all property in the County is subjected to such tax in order to make the contract payments.” Did you know that?

An ad valorem tax is a tax whose amount is based on the value of a transaction or of property. It is typically imposed at the time of a transaction, as in the case of a sales tax or value-added tax (VAT).

Without reading the legal notice mentioned above, it appears that the citizens of Rabun County would not be aware of this important court hearing on Wednesday morning.

If you are not familiar with government meetings like the Rabun County Water Sewer Authority’s regular meeting, go to http://bit.ly/2lGjDjO.  But for this Feb. 14, RCWSA will be meeting on Tuesday at 10 a.m. at the Rabun County Business Park, 400 Kelly Creek Road, Rabun Gap.

Both are important to county taxpayers.

In addition, the legal notice for the validation hearing was only in the county organ, The Clayton Tribune.

A check of the County’s Facebook page and website, the court dockets for both Superior Court Judges and the calendar of the Clerk of Court’s office turned up outdated or missing information. In an email from Brendan Thompson, executive director RCWSA, states “RCWSA’s website is under construction with completion of the website expected in four to six months.”

Consider becoming involved in your local government. It is vital and important for taxpayers to attend County, City and Authority meetings with regularity. And make sure you are reading the legal notices in The Clayton Tribune is a priority.

Our elected officials depend upon our voice to guide their actions. Is yours missing?

cherie-faircloth

Cherie Faircloth RCOntheRecord Ex. Editor

The editorial written by Cherie Faircloth does not reflect the opinion of Rabun County On The Record, its employees, sponsors or advertisers. Faircloth is the executive editor of Rabun County On the Record RCOntheRecord.com. She is also a freelance writer producing content in Florida and Georgia. 

 

 

 

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