On Friday, Senior Superior Court Judge Gary C. McCorvey signed an order holding the sanctions imposed on all local governments of Lowndes County in abeyance pending further order of the court. The order, therefore, reinstated the local governments’ eligibility to receive state-administered financial assistance, grants, loans, and permits.
All local governments in Lowndes County were ineligible since November 1, 2016, due to the impasse between Lowndes County and the cities of Dasher, Hahira, Lake Park, Remerton and Valdosta over the execution of a new service delivery strategy (SDS).
“This was the right outcome. The public will no longer face any harm while the local governments move forward with SDS proceedings,” Valdosta Mayor John Gayle said. “I am proud the cities took a position in favor of citizens and requested the sanctions be lifted. We are thankful Judge McCorvey agreed with the cities’ request.”
Local governments are required to review, and revise if necessary, their SDS periodically based on the occurrence of certain conditions specified by Georgia law. One of those conditions is when the county’s comprehensive plan is updated, which took place in Lowndes County during August 2016. Once the requirement to review and revise is triggered, local governments must then submit an executed SDS to the Georgia Department of Community Affairs (DCA) by a certain deadline. If this requirement is not met, all entities involved lose their qualified local government status, which is a requirement for the receipt of state-administered financial assistance, grants, loans, and permits. The loss of this status is also referred to as the imposition of sanctions.
Before the present sanctions were imposed, the cities of Dasher, Hahira, Lake Park, Remerton, and Valdosta approved an extension of the existing SDS. Lowndes County, however, refused to approve the extension. As a result, all local governments lost their qualified status during attempted renegotiations.
After Lowndes County filed a lawsuit against the cities and DCA, the cities filed a counter-claim asking the court to lift the sanctions and require the local governments to resolve their differences in accordance with state law. Once again, Lowndes County opposed the cities’ request. McCorvey, a senior judge from Tifton appointed to preside over these proceedings, nevertheless granted the cities’ request to hold the sanctions in abeyance.
The decision benefits the citizens of the cities and the county, who ultimately benefit from the local governments’