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County votes to move forward with Flying J proposal
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    In a unanimous vote Tuesday, Bulloch County Commissioners decided to move forward with the proposal to extend water and sewer infrastructure to the I-16 and U.S 301 South interchange, in order to facilitate a 22-acre Flying J truck stop development.
    The current plan includes building a new water tower near the intersection, adding a new well source to the area and eventually connecting this area, along with a forced sewer main, to the city of Statesboro’s water system at the south end of Gateway park.
    Tom Couch, county manager, said there’s been a rumor floating around that the county doesn’t want to proceed. He wanted to quell the idea that any of the agencies involved were dragging their feet on the matter.
    “I acknowledged to [Statesboro City Manager] George Wood that if you get Flying J locked in with the water and sewer agreement, [the county] would amend the sales tax agreement and the agreement with the board of education,” said Couch.
    Couch also acknowledged that he and the county board of commissioners were hesitant to make any concrete decisions unless they had an agreement from the Flying J to make up for any shortfall in the SPLOST projections. This is because additional SPLOST revenues generated by the Flying J development would be used to pay the annual debt service for the $6 million Georgia Environment Facilities Authority infrastructure loan. Annual payments are estimated at $447,000 annually. GEFA is a state based agency that make low-interest loan to counties and municipalities to be used for infrastructure improvement projects.
    Couch conceded that of the three agencies involved – the City of Statesboro, Bulloch County and the Bulloch Board of Education – the county faces the greatest financial risk. With the recent property tax increase, he said he wanted to make sure there was no additional burden placed on the taxpayers.
    “Are you willing to take this risk to get a benefit that will only be reaped over a number of years?” asked Couch. “In other words, if there are benefits to be had, the county will have to wait the longest to get a return on investment.”
    The primary benefit to the city is the expansion of the water customer base and the infrastructure – including a new water tower – without having to use city capital to pay for it. The benefit to the school board is an increase in other local taxes – LOST and ESPLOST – which should increase their budget by hundreds of thousands of dollars when the Flying J is operational and turns in their tax receipts.
    The county benefit is additional property tax revenues generated by the potential additional development attracted to the area, due to proximity of water and sewer infrastructure.
    After the meeting Tuesday, Couch said he and the commissioners are ready to move forward once Flying J makes its commitment. He also said that City Attorney Sam Brannen, County Attorney Jeff Akins and the board of education attorney are in the process of preparing draft agreements.
    “I think the city is currently working on agreements with Flying J and we’re starting to work on drafts to amend our sales tax agreement and our board of education agreement on the hospital authority interest,” said Couch. “The contractual language is being worked on and when the Flying J pulls the trigger the bullets will start flying.”

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