Water Wise owner Jerry Wickliffe learns of the Texfi sewage plant
availability from real estate agent Monk Tolbert following a
Jackson County zoning meeting.
· October 22, 1998
Wickliffe meets with the Jackson County Water and Sewer Authority
for the first time.
· January 18, 1999
Wickliffe and attorney Scott Tolbert go before the water and
sewer authority to propose a joint venture to provide sewage
service to Mulberry Plantation and other sites. The two sides
agree to have their lawyers see if a contract could be worked
· January 29, 1999
Tolbert writes attorney general Thurbert Baker and asks about
the scope of a Georgia law that gives the power of condemnation
to private water and sewer companies. Specifically, Tolbert wants
to know if a private firm could have that power without a contract
with a local government as long as the firm has an EPD permit.
· February 4, 1999
Baker responds to Tolbert's letter, saying that as long as the
private firm has a valid permit from the EPD, it's not necessary
for the company to have a contract with a local government agency
in order to condemn land.
· February, 1999
Tolbert and lawyers for the county water authority meet to discuss
a contract between the two.
· March, 1999
Tolbert, his law partner Chris Elrod and father Monk Tolbert
meet with authority chairman Alex Bryan to discuss the Water
Wise deal. Scott Tolbert reportedly indicates that the authority
would get $1 million to do a deal with Water Wise. Bryan's position
was to let the lawyers proceed with working on the details of
a proposed contract.
·May 13, 1999
The county water authority rejects signing a contract with Water
Wise. The contract was a revamped version of an earlier proposal
and lawyers for the authority said it was impossible to cross-reference
the points that had been discussed. Chairman Bryan expresses
some concerns about dealing with Water Wise. In particular, he
expresses concern about Water Wise's ability to get unregulated
power of condemnation.
· June 8, 1999
Lawyers for the water authority and Jackson County Board of Commissioners
receive a copy of the February 4 attorney general's opinion concerning
the power of condemnation. It's the first time county leaders
realize that Water Wise might get the power of condemnation without
local government oversight.
· June 18, 1999
A letter signed by BOC chairman Jerry Waddell and authority chairman
Alex Bryan is sent to the state EPD opposing Water Wise's move
to get a sewage permit should the firm purchase the Texfi plant.
The letter cites concerns about the firm's ability to condemn
land without local government approval.
· June 29, 1999
Water Wise closes deal to purchase the Texfi plant for $1.3 million.
Monk Tolbert brokered the deal and Scott Tolbert represented
Water Wise and closed the deal.
· July 8, 1999
EPD leaders respond to the Waddell-Bryan letter from June. The
EPD says that for Water Wise to get the Texfi permit transferred
into its name, Water Wise will need a Trust Indenture signed
by a local government saying that if the private firm goes out
of business, the government will be responsible for the sewage
operations. It is the first time county officials learn about
the Trust Indenture requirement.
· July 20, 1999
Wickliffe meets with the City of Pendergrass and proposes to
build a sewage plant in the town. He does not mention the signing
of a Trust Indenture or the old Texfi plant he purchased in Jefferson
as being part of the deal. Neither is mentioned in the minutes
of that meeting either.
· July 21, 1999
Pendergrass Mayor Mark Tolbert, Scott's brother, signs a Trust
Indenture on behalf of Pendergrass for Water Wise guaranteeing
that if the firm goes out of business, Pendergrass will operate
the sewage system connected to the Texfi plant.
Also on July 21, attorney Chris Elrod sends a letter to Jefferson
Mayor Byrd Bruce for Water Wise demanding money from the town
for businesses and homes connected to the Texfi facility. Among
other items, Elrod demands $200,000 from the city for the Jefferson
High School football stadium connection.
· July 22, 1999
County officials read a news article about the July 20 Pendergrass
meeting and realize that Water Wise had gone to the town to get
a Trust Indenture signed, thus opening the door for the firm
to get an EPD permit. In an emergency meeting, the county BOC
and water authority agree to file legal proceedings to condemn
the Texfi plant.
· July 30, 1999
The City of Pendergrass files a motion in court to stop the condemnation
move by the county, saying that because of the Trust Indenture
signed by mayor Mark Tolbert, the city and not Water Wise really
owns the Texfi plant.
· August 5, 1999
County leaders travel as a large group to meet with state EPD
officials in Atlanta. The county successfully argues that the
Texfi permit shouldn't be given to Water Wise until all the lawsuits
are settled. The action buys the county some time to pursue its
action against Water Wise.
· August 6, 1999
County leaders drop the condemnation suit and offer Water Wise
$1.5 million for the Texfi plant. Water Wise balks at the offer
and the lawsuit is refiled.
· August 23, 1999
The county and Water Wise begin discussing a contract to settle
the dispute. The county makes it clear that any contract would
have to include giving the county government final say over all
· September 16, 1999
The county files suit against Pendergrass, alleging that Mayor
Mark Tolbert violated the Georgia Open Meetings Law in signing
the Trust Indenture back in July.
· October 22, 1999
Talks between the parties break down. A "special master"
ruling awards the Texfi plant to the county. Water Wise doesn't
put any expert witnesses on the stand to testify about the value
of the plant. The county gets it uncontested for $1.47 million.
· November 1, 1999
Water Wise appeals the "special master" ruling, contending
that the plant is worth more than $1.47 million and that the
condemnation shouldn't be upheld.
· December 31, 1999
A superior court judge awards the Texfi plant to Jackson County
and also rules that Pendergrass had violated the law in its contract
with Water Wise.
· January 21, 2000
Water Wise accepts the $1.47 million, but keeps the door open
to appeal that amount.
· January 23, 2000
Sen. Eddie Madden introduces legislation to limit the power of
private companies to condemn land for water and sewer lines without
local government approval. The action comes at the request of
Jackson County leaders concerned about the Water Wise case. Rep.
Scott Tolbert says the bill is just "politics."
· February 22, 2000
Rep. Tolbert requests that an impending court appeal over the
amount awarded Water Wise be delayed because of his duties in
the General Assembly would interfere with preparing for the case.
The case is postponed until September.
· February 23, 2000
The county signs off on a contract to use its new sewage facility
to provide service to the Mulberry Plantation project on Hwy.
124. Tap-on fees were set at $2,500 per home.
· March 14, 2000
Rep. Scott Tolbert goes to the well of the House of Representatives
to oppose Sen. Madden's bill that gives government oversight
to condemnations done by private water and sewage firms. Rep.
Tolbert offers an amendment to strike key language in the bill,
but the amendment fails 107-53. The bill goes on to win House
approval 158-9. Rep. Tolbert was one of the nine "No"
· April 3, 2000
The state EPD transfers the Texfi waste water permit to the Jackson
County government. Amending the permit for municipal discharge
is postponed, however, due to the lawsuit overshadowing the case.
· April 29, 2000
Commissioner Pat Bell announces her candidacy for state representative
running against Rep. Scott Tolbert. Bell's entry into the race
was largely due to the disagreement between the county and Tolbert
over the Water Wise issue.
· July and August, 2000
Depositions of witnesses in the appeal begins. Both sides maneuver
for position in this discovery phase as they prepare for trial.
· September 8, 2000
With the court appeal looming, the county accepts a settlement
offer of $2.7 million for the old Texfi plant. The settlement
offer came from Prinvest, the lending institution that loaned
Water Wise the funds to purchase the plant in 1999. Prinvest
was also a party in the lawsuit.
· October 4, 2000
Water Wise owner indicted by feds for 'bid-rigging'.