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12-14-05 Citizens have questions about the I-20 Four County Development in Area

…….Sam Hay, Newton County “Government Gadfly” and frequent critic of Attorney Tommy Craig wrote a letter….. the letter was sent to several newspapers in the four counties.  A Jasper County Citizen, Taxpayer Watchdog Group, Inc., letter was also sent.   Both (or at least one) appeared in the Walton Tribune, Monticello News, Morgan County Citizen and Loganville Tribune.  Neither of the letters appeared in the Newton Citizen which generally writes positive articles about the Four County Authority……



December 13, 2005


Citizens have questions about the I-20 Four County Development in Area


By Wendell Dawson, Editor, AVOC, Inc.


As a long-time county attorney and elected official I understand the legal obligations of Jasper County in the Four County Development Authority involving four area counties along I-20.  At the same time, I feel sympathy for the current Jasper County Officials.


The situation should cause other local governments to proceed slowly and deliberately in entering into long-term multi-county projects.   We were able to overcome much of the problems with the Upper Oconee Basin Water Authority (Bear Creek Reservoir in Jackson County).


The Jackson County reservoir project took at least 12 years of “talk and planning”.   Most of the decisions were made in public with the press present.  Citizens watched the project develop.  So far the (UOBWA) allocations and governing structure is working although most of the original parties are no longer involved with the authority.


Sam Hay, Newton County “Government Gadfly” and frequent critic of Attorney Tommy Craig wrote a letter about the Jasper request to opt out of the Four County Authority.  (See copy of 11.30.05 letter below).  Sam Hay’s letter was sent to several newspapers in the four counties.  A letter from a Jasper County Citizen, Taxpayer Watchdog Group, Inc., was also sent.  


Both letters (or at least one) appeared in the Walton Tribune, Monticello News, Morgan County Citizen and Loganville Tribune.  Neither of the letters appeared in the Newton Citizen which generally writes positive articles about the Four County Authority.   To See the Jasper Citizen Article, see: 11-29-05 Four County Development Authority ( I-20) Has Challenges


Newton County is the home of Attorney Tommy Craig, a key consultant in the Four County Development Authority and the Walton County Hard Labor Creek Reservoir project.


AVOC does not necessarily endorse all the comments in the letters but they do illustrate that there are some who question the future debt obligations and benefits in these large endeavors that pay huge consulting fees.  

12-1-05 Four County Development Authority Letter Sam Hay


November 30, 2005




Samuel M. Hay, III

Post Office Box 2604

Covington, Ga.  30015



            After reviewing letters from Kevin Little, and Tommy Craig, Vice Chairman and Attorney, respectively, for the Multi-County Industrial Authority, denying any possibility for Jasper (or any other county) to withdraw, there is one avenue that clearly comes to mind for dissolution.


            “Any contract which is executed based upon fraudulent data is void on its face.”  The alleged fraud would stem from speeches, primarily delivered to neighborhood groups and governmental boards by Mr. Craig on behalf of the “authority,” which included such statements as, specifically but not limited to; (1) We have a number of high tech industries wanting to move here. (2) We can pay for the bonds with revenue the project will generate (3) The Georgia Department of Industry and Trade is going to/has agreed to assist us in the acquisition of industries who have shown an interest in moving to Georgia; etc, etc.    These accounts are documented in all the local newspapers.


            My knowledge of this subject is virtually unlimited due to a court action filed by myself and another citizen from Walton County to show the project was bogus from the beginning. Paying $ million for property that was on the market for $ million. Property that was turned down by all perspective buyers due to its unbuildable contours and elevations.


During trial investigation, I ordered from Ga. Industry and Trade, through the court, a list of “Any information concerning industries interested in moving to Georgia”.  The Department, as reported in the Atlanta J/C, spent the next day, Friday through Monday shredding all the documents because they had not interviewed ONE industry nationwide who was interested in moving here.


            “Fraud is an omission of the facts, misrepresentation, either deliberate or accidental, which causes another person to suffer damages, usually monetary losses”. (ie Jasper, and all the rest of the counties at least from interest payments and loss of property tax revenue as the  property was taken off the tax roles)

            A second count of fraud occurs “When the victim is requested to put up front money on the deal in order to discourage withdrawal and ‘stay the course’ based upon the same misinformation”.

            These definitions are found in the United States Code.  There are criminal penalties for such actions.   Civil actions for recovery are also available to an injured party, plus additional damages based upon the party’s “ability to pay”.


            Having paid twice too much for the property, and without any promised “revenues” incoming, and having borrowed $ million instead of the $ million required for the deal, Tommy Craig, attorneys and consultants have taken near $00,000. and the remainder has gone to pay the interest on the loan. No principal has been paid five years later!!!  And there has not one shovel full of dirt been moved.  The estimated cost to develop the park (Infrastructure) is $50 million dollars based upon similar recent projects nationwide, which also stand empty at this moment.   Its your property tax money.


            It appears to me and everyone else the consultants and attorneys and others who put this deal together should have to eat it.  Jasper, you have a way out!


11-30-05 Jasper County Denied Request to Opt-Out of Four County Dev. Auth.


The Newton Citizen



November 30, 2005


Jasper denied bid to opt out of tech park


By Crystal Tatum


COVINGTONThe Joint Development Authority of Jasper, Morgan, Newton and Walton Counties has refused a request by the Jasper County Board of Commissioners to pull out of the authority or delay payments on the Stanton Springs technology park.

Because of what Jasper County Board of Commissioners Chairman Jack Bernard called a “financial crunch,” commissioners were seeking to be allowed out of an intergovernmental agreement to pay off $ million in revenue bonds for the 1,576-acre planned mixed-use park off U.S. 278 and I-20 exit 101.

Alternatively, they asked to defer payments for 10 years, or, thirdly, for the authority to sell part of the property to reduce the outstanding debt.

In a 
letter dated Nov. 29, Joint Development Authority Vice Chairman Kevin Little, on behalf of the authority board, wrote that “we are disappointed that Jasper County found it necessary to make such a request.”

Little called Stanton Springs a major public investment and said the authority has a responsibility to the public to “stay the course as planned.”

The project will encompass more than 10 million square feet of developed space and create about 20,000 jobs once completed, Little wrote.

“In short, the Joint Development Authority was created by four counties which pledged their full faith and credit to develop more than 1,500 acres as a regional center for good jobs and smart growth,” his letter states. “To remain faithful to its mandate, the Joint Development Authority must use any revenues from real estate sales to develop infrastructure such as sewers and roads. Without such infrastructure, private investors will not likely locate businesses and industry here, and the initial public investment will be in vain.

“Moreover, the quick sale of real estate for the purpose of retiring debt is likely to result in the rapid and uncontrolled development of the area, thereby spawning ugly sprawl and depreciating surrounding properties.

“For these reasons, the Joint Development Authority must refuse Jasper County’s proposed alternatives as unfair to the citizens of the sponsoring counties who are relying upon high-quality development at Stanton Springs for the future growth of the region’s jobs and tax base.”

In a separate letter, Newton County Attorney Tommy Craig, also attorney for the authority, laid out the legal reasons that Jasper County cannot withdraw from the authority or delay payment.

The intergovernmental agreement requires that the counties’ payment obligations “shall be absolute and unconditional so long as the bonds remain outstanding and such payments shall not be abated and reduced for any reason whatsoever.”

“In short, Jasper County has pledged its taxing power of one mill to service its obligations under the bonds,” Craig wrote. “Any deferral or withholding of payments under the bonds would constitute default. ... The Trustee, in this case, SunTrust Bank, Atlanta, holds a lien against Jasper County’s taxing power equal to one mill, should default on the bonds occur.”

Jasper County Chairman Bernard called the response “a slap in the face to us.”

“We feel like it was a very negative response, especially Tommy Craig’s letter,” Bernard said. “It was a contentious letter, not one you would expect from a partner.”

Bernard said Jasper commissioners questioned the lucrativeness of the project, noting that no tenants have located there despite an economic upswing.

“If this venture is as potentially lucrative as is being stated in the letter, I would think the other three partners would have jumped at the chance to buy out our share and increase returns on their investments,” he said.

Bernard said Jasper residents are not in favor of the project, which was agreed to by a previous board.
“If there were a vote taken now in this county, the vote would be to leave,” he said.

Bernard said the Jasper County commissioners are also upset that the county is often not mentioned in promotional literature for the park and said the county receives “sporadic” notice of authority meetings.
“We feel like we have never been a full partner in this venture,” he said.

The board will discuss its next move at a future meeting, he said.
Jasper County commissioners agreed in 2000 to pay 10 percent of debt service; Newton and Walton counties are responsible for 37.5 percent each and Morgan County pays 15 percent.

Jasper County’s portion of the bonds would amount to about $.2 million, according to Bernard. The county has contributed $50,000 so far, he said.

12-1-05 Joint Four County Authority Says “No” to Jasper County


The Monticello News


December 1, 2005


December 1, 2005


Four County Authority Says 'No' To Jasper


By Kathy Mudd


Jasper County has received an answer to its request to be removed from the Four County Development Authority (JDA), and the answer is "no."

According to a letter dated October 5, from Wm. Thomas Craig, attorney for the JDA, Jasper County's obligation "shall be absolute and unconditional so long as the bands remain outstanding, and such payments shall not be abated or reduced for any reason whatsoever."

Mr. Craig apparently was responding to Steve Jordan, chairman of the JDA, and Jasper County's representative to the authority. The Jasper County Commission had communicated to Mr. Jordan its desire to be released from its contract.

The letter concluded, "In short,
Jasper County has pledged its taxing power of one mill to service obligations under the Bonds. Any deferral or withholding of payments under the Bonds would constitute default....The Trustee... holds a lien against Jasper County's taxing power equal to one mill, should default on the Bonds occur."

The legal opinion was sent to Mr. Jordan, and he said he was not certain if the commission received the copy of the opinion. County attorney John Nix, however, has told the commission that the bond issue is binding, and he did not think the county could legally get out of its obligation.

At their meeting on November 7, Jasper County Commissioners authorized a letter to the Joint Development Authority asking that:

Jasper County be allowed to withdraw from the JDA.

Delay Jasper County's contributions to the authority for a period of 10 years.

•Sell a portion of the real property and use the proceeds to reduce the outstanding debt.

The letter responding to the commission's request came this week from Kevin Little, vice-chairman of the Joint Development Authority. Mr. Jordan recused himself from the discussions and the vote, according to Mr. Little

"Speaking for the directors of the Joint Development Authority with the exception of Mr. Jordan, we are disappointed that Jasper County found it necessary to make such a request. The JDA's Stanton Springs project is a major public investment by the four sponsoring counties. Each county at the inception of the project independently resolved to share in developing 1,576 acres located at the strategic crossing of U.S. Hwy. 278 and Interstate 20 at exit 101.

"Stanton Springs is to become a technology park with mixed uses: industrial, office, research and development, retail, and resi-dential....The purpose of the JDA is to attract the high-quality technically-oriented job to our region, and the model we are following is one of patient, long-term investment in water and sewer lines, roads, and other infrastructure appropriate for such facilities."

The response went on to say, "
What Jasper County requests is that the JDA depart from its carefully considered business plan to benefit all the citizens of the four sponsoring counties, and sell rapidly appreciating real property now....The JDA must respond that it has an obligation to the sponsoring counties to stay the course as planned."

Basically, the letter states that the legal opinion has already been researched and says the county cannot withdraw, and the JDA also reached that conclusion.

County Commission Chairman Jack Bernard telephoned The Monticello News Tuesday to reiterate his position that involvement in the JDA is "not a good deal for this county."

He said the county had already put in $50,000, and the final obligation of the county will be some $.2 million

He said that there are four partners, and "if it's such a good deal I find it odd they would not want to buy us out."

He said the contract is for 50 years and there are no out clauses. He called the juncture an "investment scheme."

The Jasper County Commission has not been represented by a commissioner at the JDA meetings this year. The other three counties have one commissioner who attends each meeting.

Mr. Jordan approached Jasper County in September about agreeing to sign a fixed-rate bond proposal, saying that with interest rates going up, authority members believe it is time to set a fixed rate. The other three counties had already agreed to the fixed rate. However, Jasper refused, saying that it is their only leverage to get out of the agreement. Interest rates have risen about a percentage point since that time.