By Nick Nunn staff writer
The Rutledge City Council voted to reject a request from Weyerhaeuser Real Estate Development Company (WREDCO), which would extend a portion of the water service agreement that Rutledge made with WREDCO in 2006 for another 10 years.
The 10-year extension would have allowed WREDCO to recover a greater portion of the $366,000 that WREDCO paid into the construction of a 400,000 gallon capacity elevated water tank.
The original agreement between Rutledge and WREDCO, dated August 1, 2006, created obligations for both parties in order for Rutledge to be able to deal with the water supply needs for a projected development by WREDCO called Walnut Ridge.
In exchange for Rutledge upgrading its booster pump station, installing a telemetry system, paying 56 percent of the cost of the construction of the elevated water tank, WREDCO agreed to pay $100,000 toward locating a new groundwater source, donate the groundwater source to Rutledge, install a water line loop on East Ridge Drive, and pay the remaining 44 percent of the cost of the elevated water tank. WREDCO would then be reimbursed for its 44 percent of the water tank by Rutledge based on water tap fees until either the 44 percent was paid back or 10 years from the initial date of the agreement elapsed.
Marty Boyd, of Carter & Sloope, Inc., an engineering consulting firm that has worked with Rutledge on this project, stated that, because of the economic downturn in 2008, WREDCO’s development never got off the ground, and, therefore, WREDCO has not received much compensation for the $366,000 that represented its 44 percent of the cost of the water tank.
With only two years remaining in the agreement, WREDCO approached Rutledge, asking that the agreement be extended another 10 years – until 2026 – so that WREDCO will have more time to recoup its expenses.
Boyd said to the city council that he believed that the agreement was made in good faith in 2006 and that neither party expected to suffer losses but pointed out that Rutledge has also had to shoulder its share of the costs without the benefits of the customer base that it hoped to create.
Former Rutledge mayor Spencer Knight seconded Boyd’s assessment, noting that WREDCO “came up with the time frame” and that Rutledge would not benefit from renegotiating the deal.
“What is the benefit for us to negotiate,” asked Knight. “I don’t think we’re going to renegotiate this deal.”
Council Member Chad Cook then described the decision to leave the agreement as it is as a “no-brainer.” Boyd then informed the council that, although Rutledge has completed all of the requirements listed in the agreement, WREDCO has not as of yet deeded over the property for the groundwater source that they located for Rutledge.
Boyd said that it is in the best interest of Rutledge to develop the well that was located by WREDCO on Fears Road because, in terms of the water capacity of the water source, Rutledge “won the lottery.”
While the agreement stated that the minimum production for the well should be 55,200 gallons per day, WREDCO found a source that is capable of producing more than 360,000 gallons per day, more than six times the minimum requirement.
Boyd stated that the additional costs of developing the well could be up to $150,000 and that the project could be funded by SPLOST, but that Rutledge would first have to receive ownership of the land from WREDCO.
The final motion passed by the council stated that they would reject the recent offer by WREDCO to renegotiate the agreement and would also formally request the deed for the groundwater source property, which is owed to them per the terms of the agreement.
Salome Rowe, a Morgan County resident that lives on Academy Lane, spoke to the Rutledge City Council during the meeting regarding the benefits of possibly being annexed into the city. Rowe wanted to know if water and sewer service from Rutledge would become available if Rutledge annexed additional properties toward I-20, and Mayor James Bratcher stated that, because of her location, water could become available but not sewer.
Bratcher also informed Rowe that, as a citizen of Rutledge, she would have to pay property taxes to Rutledge in addition to the Morgan County taxes that she currently pays.
He then suggested that, if Rowe is serious about wanted to become annexed by Rutledge, she could begin a petition for landowners to sign, indicating their interest in the process. “The method of annexation is a long and hard one,” said Bratcher.