Courtesy By Maggie West and D. Jefferson Bean / Beacon Media.
Milton's finally settled a long-running fight with Fulton County over using sewers, but not before council members raised a stink about money flushed down the toilet.
At the root of the controversy, which landed in county court, were eight land parcels, over which both Milton and Fulton have for four years claimed the responsibility to provide sewerage -- or not.
On one side were residents and business owners who want to use the sewers that have long been there, or simply wanted an end to the four-year deadlock, during which they've been cut off from the facilities.
On the other: citizens voicing concerns ranging from loss of the city's political autonomy, to the lack of publicly available information on the project.
Under the agreement that governs service delivery between the county and the north Fulton cities, Fulton argued that tenants of those eight parcels should be able to access county sewers. Milton contended that they're in charge of that land and can choose not to operate the sewers.
WE DON'T NEED NO STINKING SEWERS!
Milton resident Kim Horn neatly summed up several citizens' no-sewer arguments: "This is a very hot issue and it always has been. Two years ago, a 4 to 3 council vote approved the map [showing Milton control]. If Fulton County didn't agree with it, that shouldn't be our issue." Citing the matter of transparency, she continued: "If it's voted on tonight, it's going to be done in a vacuum."
Besides that, some Miltonites don't want to see the sewers at work, for fear of laying the groundwork for higher-density development.
Local business owner Dennis Potts, though, supported the proposed improvements. "I don't think anybody wants to see the sewer go into the rural areas, but it's wrong to have sewer not available to commercial properties that all along should have been sewered."
OR MAYBE WE DO …
Councilman Joe Longoria agreed. "Here we are with an individual citizen in the audience who's been dealing with this for four years," he said. "We need to give him a choice … It seems a little silly to me that we're even arguing about this. And that we're spending money, and that it's been going on for as long as it has."
A court-appointed mediator in March proposed splitting the difference. That went nowhere.
Milton Councilwoman Karen Thurman, said that unless the city attorney is willing to work for free, it'd be better for the city to give up the fight. "That money could've been spent on growth or anything else that we badly needed to spend it on. It's time to put this to bed and start working for our citizens."
Fulton County's 2006 map, showing county control of the parcels, was put on the table by Councilman Bill Lusk. After a heated discussion between the council members, the motion passed 4 to 3, ending Milton's long battle with the County.
Two days after the city council vote, the Fulton County commission unanimously accepted Milton's retreat.
Neither the county nor the city was able to immediately assign a dollar figure for their time in litigation, as the case was handled by in-house attorneys.
Relieved that the struggle had finally ended, Potts remarked, "They [Milton] want to stay a little horse town, a rural community. But there are enough citizens who know that we need a commercial tax base to survive as a city. Otherwise, they tax the residents. Businesses need sewers."