Last week’s meeting of the Upson County Board of Commissioners brought some disagreement between Chairman Rusty Blackston and the rest of the board when it came to the issue of a contract with the Thomaston-Upson Industrial Development Authority. The county has had a contract with the City of Thomaston to fund the TUIDA a director, secretary and expenses of operating an office for the past five years. However, that agreement ended at the close of 2012. The city has offered to continue the contract for one additional year keeping the terms the same. After much discussion, the board voted 3-1 to table the issue until their next meeting on February 26. Commissioner Frank Spraggins was not present at the meeting due to a death in his family.
Commissioner Steve Hudson was the first to speak up, asking if the approval or denial of the contract could be put off until LOST negotiations with the city were complete. County Attorney Ed Trice answered that it needed to be approved now due to the fact that the two TUIDA employees are considered to be county employees and not approving it would affect their insurance and other benefits.
Hudson noted that the problem he had with the contract was that it stated the authority is “funded by virtue of the cooperative efforts of the governing bodies of the City and County,” but then went on to say that the county will provide the authority a sum of money. He wanted to know how that is considered a cooperative effort. Trice stated that the TUIDA is a constitutional authority set up through the state legislature and its members are appointed by both the city and the county, therefore it is a cooperative effort even though the funding comes directly from the county. Trice also noted that the contract is only for the rest of this year and within this year they will be re-negotiating with the city on the service deliveries, which include the TUIDA.
After discussion of the matter was done, Chairman Blackston called for a motion, which Hudson made to deny; it was seconded by Commissioner Lorenzo Wilder. Wilder stated that he thought the board should wait until after they receive an answer of the LOST from the judge at the end of March. Before a vote was called, Trice asked if the contract was denied, how was the TUIDA to be funded this year. Blackston also made the following plea to the board.
“Gentlemen, what we are doing by not continuing or extending the contract, is that we have two employees who are supposedly employees of Upson County. If we don’t continue this contact, they basically won’t be county employees, won’t have any insurance or things of that nature. If we don’t accept this contract tonight, as it has been for the last five years, we are basically closing the (TU)IDA office,” said Blackston.
Trice noted that the county could still voluntarily give the two employees a paycheck, but that it would affect their benefits, which is why it is important to have something in place.
Hudson decided to amend his motion to table the decision until the next board meeting, which was seconded by Wilder. The board voted 3-1 with Blackston voting no.
In other business, the board appointed County Manager Jim Wheeless as the Open Records Officer for the county with Pam Fuentes to serve as the alternate. The board also approved the sale of surplus equipment at the Water Department for a water tank that is located on the property of the Henson well system. Hudson told the board the tank is rusting, not functioning and a liability and that the county has been approached about selling the steel for scrap. They also approved the water department to purchase a Ford F-150 to replace the old truck, which would cost as much to repair as a new one costs. Blackston reminded the public that the funds for the truck come from money collected from the sales of water and the well systems.