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County attorney fees down

Photo by Howard Reed

Photo by Howard Reed

COVINGTON -- Costs for legal services provided by County Attorney Tommy Craig's office total $205,326 for the first five months of 2011, some $300,000 less than they were for the same time period last year.

Craig provided a breakdown of charges from January through May to the Board of Commissioners recently at the request of Commissioner Nancy Schulz.

The lion's share of costs, at $69,276.56, are for services to the Board of Commissioners including preparation for and attendance at work sessions and meetings; preparation of documents for the SPLOST election; preparation and review of contracts; reapportionment research and review of census data; preparation and review of Open Records requests; and miscellaneous legal research.

Charges for legal services related to the Bear Creek Reservoir total $41,667.42 and include preparation and review of the pipeline route and mitigation plan; preparation of information for the Georgia Environmental Protection Division; attendance at agency meetings; coordination with the Army Corps of Engineers on permit issues; assistance with a condemnation; and responses to Open Records requests.

The county's Neighborhood Stabilization Program generated $16,357.77 in attorney's charges related to preparation of bank closing documents; attending meetings with Fairview Estates homeowners; meetings and document preparation regarding the county's partnership with the city on Walker's Bend; and assisting with compliance issues.

The document provided by Craig shows that the county was billed $10,162.10 to handle tax appeals and $10,372.40 for legal services for the Sheriff's Office, including review of contracts and the inmate handbook; Open Records responses; and miscellaneous legal research.

The Department of Development Services generated $11,327.80 in legal fees for zoning and development regulation amendments; advice on business license and abatement issues; Open Records responses; and miscellaneous research.

A charge of $8,799.50 stemmed from county code amendments, such as changes to the adult entertainment and noise ordinances

A little more than $2,400 was spent on litigation and the document shows a $90 charge for research related to the Norfolk Southern rail line.

The board praised Craig for reducing expenses while still doing good work for the county. Schulz said she frequently gets questions from constituents about county attorney expenses and though the County Attorney's Office provides a report to the chairman, Schulz had asked for a more detailed breakdown.

"I commend this board and you for holding our costs down," she said.

"Tommy's office has done an excellent job of advising us on the front end and trying to keep us out of trouble on the back end," Chairman Kathy Morgan added.