For almost two years, The City of Madison and Morgan County have been gridlocked over the Service Delivery Strategy (SDS), a 10-year agreement outlining services provided to the city from the county. The Morgan County Board of Commissioners (BOC) voted to extend the current SDS agreement until June 30, 2018 while the city and county continue the negotiation process.
However, according to County Manager Adam Mestres, the city and county are hammering out the final details of a new SDS agreement without having to resort to a legal battle.
“We will have a new SDS in place July 1, 2018,” Mestres confidently told county commissioners at the last work session.
According to Mestres, negotiations are being “peacefully resolved” with both sides compromising to craft “a fair and equitable” agreement for both the city and county.
“The process involved sitting down and really looking at the details with open lines of communication with the city. It has been a very engaging and productive process,” said Mestres. “Some of the service areas will be the same, but the ones that were heated discussions in the past, we have worked out the details all together.”
Mestres said the details of the agreement will be released to the public after all involved parties sign off on the agreement before it is sent to the Department of Community Affairs for final review and approval in May.
The road to a resolution has been a long one.
Almost two years ago, the City of Madison petitioned the county to renegotiated SDS, claiming the current SDS was unfair to city residents. The city claimed Madison residents unfairly contribute over $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.
However, Mestres believes each side has compromised in the above issues to finally adopt a new SDS.
“The leaders in this community can work together,” said Mestres. “I think we are going to have an SDS that is fair to everybody.”