Madison County Journal

MADISON - A federal grant that would be used to clear up debris and channeling issues in Hearn Creek here lies in wait while the city and county officials debate who will take the lead on the project.

Discussions at Tuesday's Board of Supervisors meeting centered on future liability risks to the county should they go forward as the primary sponsors of the project funded by a NCRS (Natural Resources Conservation Service) grant.

According to Interim County Administrator Shelton Vance, a request for the city and the county to work together on the project - with the city matching half the required cost ($8,850) and the county taking the lead on the NCRS project - was initially made.

Now, supervisors worry if they become the primary sponsor they will be liable for any issues related to the creek.

"We were concerned...with future liability for the county," Vance said. "(The board) asked me to call Madison and ask the city to become the primary sponsor of this project and the city has not responded back to this request at this time."

Madison Mayor Mary Hawkins-Butler wrote a letter to the board dated Aug. 29 after receiving notification from the county that they wanted to switch gears and step down as primary sponsor.

"According to the grant documents the County provided us the Board of Supervisors will be executing a grant agreement that, among other things, states that the Board of Supervisors will 'assume responsibility for operation and maintenance in accordance with the applicable operation and maintenance agreement in effect,'" Hawkins Butler's letter stated.

She said further, "The city's response did coincide with the county's request and the terms of the grant documents that were provided to the city. Any 'expectation' to the contrary would not be consistent with the grant documents that the County will execute in connection with this project."

District 2 Supervisor Ronnie Lott said he didn't want any future issues to fall on the backs of county taxpayers should anything occur down the road. He seconded a unanimous motion to ask Madison to take over as primary sponsor.

"(I) realized that we would assume liability for anything that went downstream or if there were any affects by our cleaning or rechanneling the ditch," he said. "Then the county would be responsible.

"I live in the city of Madison and I always want to help any time that I can, but we can't burden the taxpayers of the rest of the county if we make an incorrect decision on this one stretch of ditch. In my opinion, this is a city issue and we would be glad to assist. But, I could not ask the taxpayers of the rest of Madison County to assume liability on what property would be associated in the cities."