City, county agree on SPLOST split — Now, it's up to the voters

Bacon County Commission Chairman Andy Hutto (left) and Alma Mayor Peggy Murphy (right) are all smiles as they shake hands after the two governing bodies came to an agreement last week on how to divvy up potential Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax dollars. Alma City Councilman Jerry Sweat (middle left), and Bacon County Commissioner John Thomas (middle right) were also part of the committee that came up with the final agreement.

The Alma city council opted to go local when shopping for a city attorney last week.

At a special, called meeting last week, the governing body voted unanimously to choose Sam Edgar to represent the city. He will replace David McCrea who resigned earlier this year after some legal troubles of his own.

Edgar was one of two candidates, including an attorney from Lyons, Georgia, being considered for the job. In the end, though, the council hired the Alma lawyer without interviewing the out-of-town candidate.

“No disrespect to the other from Lyons, but Sam is literally our next door neighbor,” said Councilman Jerry Sweat.

Councilman Glover Scott agreed.

“He’s well-qualified, and he’s local,” Scott said. “That’s more convenient for all of us.”

Also during the called meeting, the council discussed a counter-offer to the county commission’s recently approved split for the 2018 SPLOST referendum.

In order to qualify for a six-year collection of the penny sales tax, an intergovernmental agreement between in Bacon County and the City of Alma is required by the state. The split initially suggested by the county, would net the city less than the 32 percent (based on population) they were hoping for.

“The county has adopted a plan that is pretty severe to the city,” said City Manager Al Crace. “It would cut us from $2.28 million to $1.5 million.”

Crace went on to explain that he, Mayor Peggy Murphy, and Councilman Jerry Sweat had met in a work session last Tuesday with County Commission Chairman Andy Hutto, County Financial Advisor Larry Taylor, and County Commissioner John Thomas to discuss a compromise.

“The real issue here is the county has a severe challenge with their general fund,” Crace said. “Their greatest anxiety is the fire contract between the city and county which expires next June.”

“The city had already given them notice we would not renew that contract. This has been a tough issue between us for a number of years. It keeps us all stressed and under anxiety. So, we offered a new, six-year fire contract with an increase in the city’s annual payment from $175,000 to $225,000.”

“This will settle the issue of the fire contract and improve the county’s position with their general fund. It gives them financial assurance and stability. They have been working hard for the past several years to bring their financial situation back to where it needs to be and they are doing well. I believe they will break even, financially, this year.”

Crace also noted the city will continue to have a Class 4 insurance rating at a reasonable cost.

“This is the best value for the citizens,” he said.

The city will pay the county quarterly for the fire service and, in return, will receive regular reports on fire and EMS activity.