By Tia Lynn Ivey
The ongoing negotiations between Morgan County and the City of Madison over the Service Delivery Strategy (SDS) is set to return to public view with an open meeting between the county commissioners and city council sometime in October. The date has not been finalized yet, but will be announced soon, according to County Manager Adam Mestres.
“The commissioners and city council will get back together as two full boards and it will be open to the public,” said Mestres. “There will be no vote taken, but a general discussion as a large group to share information and to update the public on the progress we have made during our smaller meetings.”
SDS sets forth the services provided to the city from the county. The City of Madison petitioned the county last year to renegotiate the SDS, believing the current agreement is unfair to city residents.
The Morgan County Board of Commissioners (BOC) unanimously voted to approve filing for a deadline extension with the Department of Community Affairs (DCA) earlier this year since an agreement could not be reached between the county and city by the usual June 30 deadline.
“It has become necessary to update the 2004 Service Delivery Strategy prior to its expiration on June 30, 2017, as required by law, and changes of delivery in one or more services areas. The Board of Morgan County Commissioners requires additional time to update its Service Delivery Strategy to provide for the best outcome for all jurisdictions involved,” wrote the BOC in the official resolution earlier this year.
The BOC voted to authorize two versions of the extension request, a joint request that would allow the city to piggyback and file simultaneously with the county, and an independent version that files an extension request on behalf of the county alone, leaving the City of Madison to file their own request for a deadline extension. If granted, the extension will last 120 days.
The City and County have been butting heads over SDS since last year, with both sides digging their heels in the ground during two joint negotiation meetings in 2016. The City is unsatisfied with the current agreement, claiming Madison residents unfairly contribute more than $1.5 million in ad valorem taxes annually for select services that are either primarily—even exclusively—utilized by county residents outside the city limits, or unnecessarily duplicated by the county for services that the city already provides. The county, on the other hand, claims the services they provide—in totality—benefit everyone in the county, including Madison residents and, in some cases, disproportionately benefit Madison city residents. City officials have argued that city residents pay county taxes that go toward the maintenance and repair of roads, but that money is only used on county roads. City officials also listed solid waste pickup, animal control, fire services, police services, and county administration costs as services from which city residents do not adequately benefit.
“We have made progress,” said Mestres. “The commissioners and the city council will have to work this out together and answer to their constituencies for the outcome.”