MGRDC manager of planning programs, Bob Rychel, explained in the May 15 meeting that the SDS is a component of Jones County and Gray’s Comprehensive Plan, a mandated plan for land use and future development.
City attorney, Joan Harris, said she had questions about the strategy and she was hoping that Rychel could explain how it would work.
The manager said the strategy update is required by the state every five years.
“The joint Comprehensive Plan was updated in 2007, but the SDS got bogged down during discussions about future water and sewer service areas,” he said. “The expiration date is June 30 and you have to have a new strategy submitted or you will be out of compliance with the state. If you lose your Qualified Local Government Status, you lose your ability to qualify for loans and grants from the state.”
Rychel noted that during a recent meeting with city and county officials there was a lot of disagreement about who will provide water and sewer service in the area of the proposed North Gray Bypass. He suggested that issue be put aside for now.
“You can submit the plan with the current service areas and then you will have the next year to come to an agreement. That basically gives you another year to deal with the conflicts,” he said.
Jones County commission-ers have already signed off on the agreement using current service areas, but the city has to sign it before it can be submitted to the state.
“You don’t have to convince me about what is on the map as long as the county agrees,” Rychel stated.
Harris began asking the RDC manager questions about the agreement, which in the large part dealt with terminology.
“Because we are signing off on something, we want it to be accurate,” she said.
The SDS appeared to be a general fill-in-the-blank template sent to the county by the RDC, and Rychel said the purpose of the document was to show the services provided by local governments and who is paying for the service.
“The goal is to make sure there are no duplicates,” he said.
One of the sticking points of the document is the concept that any area not currently in Gray’s service delivery area is considered in the county’s area.
“Is this saying that we have to ask permission to extend services?” Harris asked.
One of the complaints of county commissioners in past discussions has been the assertion that the county does not know what the city is doing in terms of development. The point being that the city purchases water from the county in order to provide water services to its customers and during times of drought supply has been an issue.
Rychel encouraged the councilmen to only consider projects five years in the future for the SDS.
“If you don’t think it will happen that soon, you need to consider it at a later date,” he said.
Council members agreed to place the SDS on the agenda for their June 2 meeting, at which time it was approved.