Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Waycross to Turn off the Tap; No More Water Service to Pierce as of Monday

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Waycross to Turn off the Tap; No More Water Service to Pierce as of Monday

Article excerpt

Byline: Terry Dickson

WAYCROSS | The city will shut off water and sewer service to areas just across the Satilla River in Pierce County on Monday because a recently discovered 1999 agreement forbids it from delivering those services to any unincorporated areas of the county.

The affected area had been inside Waycross city limits from the 1980s until July 1 of this year when local legislation, House Bill 523, went into effect forbidding the city to have any Pierce County territory inside the city limits.

City Attorney Rick Currie said he was unaware that the agreement even existed until about three days ago and had argued in court that Waycross couldn't provide the services without an agreement with Pierce County. Those arguments came in a hearing prior to July 1, when Waycross tried to halt implementation of House Bill 523 on constitutional grounds.

Superior Court Judge Kelly Brooks refused to grant an injunction on House Bill 523, however, saying Waycross was not being harmed because state law allowed it to provide services outside its corporate limits and to bill customers and collect payments. But after Waycross raised rates, Pierce County filed a petition to halt the rate increases.

Pierce County wants the rates to remain at current levels until a study can be done, but Currie said the county has no standing for such a challenge.

"If it was still in the city limits, they could challenge the rates,'' but House Bill 523 removed that authority, Currie said.

Brooks was to hold a hearing on the rate increases Thursday, but that petition is likely moot, Currie said.

In adopting a motion to shut off the services, the commissioners pointedly said it was not over the nonpayment of rates but because it does not have the required agreement.

Currie said it was his opinion Waycross cannot deliver services because of the provisions in a Service Delivery Strategy Agreement it signed with Pierce County in September 1999. …

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