The group that owns the Bear Creek Reservoir spent more than an hour behind closed doors last week pondering how to proceed on its lawsuit with Jackson County. Minus the Jackson County members — Hunter Bicknell and Eric Klerk — the authority went into closed session to hear an update from its attorney, Kirby Atkinson, on the suit, which the Superior Court of Jackson County and the Georgia Court of Appeals have declared can proceed to trial.
In 2009, Jackson County sued the Upper Oconee Basin Water Authority over the capacity of the reservoir, which determines how much water the member counties can use. Jackson County alleges that the 505-acre lake can provide just 40 percent of its stated capacity. Should Jackson County prevail, the amount each of the four member counties can withdraw would be slashed significantly.
Last Wednesday’s closedto- the-public session came on the heels of a ruling by the Georgia Court of Appeals that the suit can proceed. The authority had submitted a motion to dismiss the suit, which Jackson County Superior Court Judge Joe Booth rejected.
The authority has asked the court to reconsider that decision, said Bicknell, who chairs the Jackson County Board of Commissioners.
“If they won’t look at it, it’s going onto Supreme Court,” said a source privy to the closed-session discussion.
The suit puts Jackson County in the unusual position of being both a plaintiff and a defendant in the same case. In addition to paying legal and engineering fees related to prosecuting the suit, it also pays 25 percent of the cost of defending it.
“Our attorneys fees have surpassed $100,000,” said Eric Klerk, manager of the Jackson County Water and Sewerage Authority. “I know with a fair amount of certainty that we’ve spent a little more than that with C.H. Guernsey (the engineering company providing data to support Jackson County’s contention).”
According to Klerk, the Jackson County Board of Commissioners pays the legal fees for Mike Bowers of Balch & Bingham LLP, and the authority pays the fees charged by Guernsey, “basically the technical portion of the lawsuit.”
For more on this story, see the August 4 edition of the Barrow Journal or click hereto read the full story online when you subscribe to our new e-edition.