Relations between county commissioners and the leaders of Columbia County's two cities appeared to have warmed during a quarterly work session Wednesday at Grovetown City Hall.
At a previous meeting in January, county and city officials quarreled because of an earlier open records request the county made of the two cities concerning payments to their respective city attorneys and employee information.
Other points of contention during that meeting were previous comments that city leaders were being strong-armed into supporting a county consolidation.
The tone of Wednesday's meeting among Grovetown Mayor Dennis Trudeau, Harlem Mayor Scott Dean and Columbia County commissioners Steve Brown, Tommy Mercer and chairman Ron Cross struck a more cordial note as the leaders discussed city projects to include in a county-proposed $40 million bond issue.
The county is proposing a mix of stormwater, transportation and recreation projects to include in a Capital Improvements Project bond that could be presented to voters in a referendum Nov. 7.
Under the proposal, property taxes will be raised by about one mill, or by about $45 on a $100,000 home, to pay off the bond in 12 years.
Dean identified about $800,000 in projects for Harlem, which include a $400,000 City Hall expansion, $200,000 for water line expansion south of the city to Old Black Road and $200,000 for streetscape projects.
The city of Grovetown has compiled a list of six projects, totaling just more than $2.6 million, and include: $500,000 for a 500-gallon tank on Harlem Grovetown Road, $1 million for a sewer line to Richmond County, $552,627 for water lines to connect with Harlem and Richmond County, $450,000 for sludge removal from a sewage treatment plant and $100,000 for road paving and parking lots.
Columbia County Admin-istrator Steve Szablewski had requested an opinion from county attorney Doug Batchelor on whether the county could tax for city-owned projects. Batchelor concluded the "county cannot tax for city-owned projects."
However, city and county officials agreed to work for more creative means to permit the sharing of funds.
County staff have established a tentative list of about $35 million in projects, with about $5 million still undetermined.
"I don't mind having something in there that benefits the cities," Cross said.
"Nothing would make me happier than to stand up on the courthouse steps beside you and say 'We support this (the bond) unanimously,'" Dean said.
Mercer said he wanted the cities to prioritize their projects so they were not lost in the entire list of projects countywide.
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