Water Wise... A Timeline

The Water Wise/Jackson County Government/Rep. Scott Tolbert issue has dominated the news for the past two years because of the potential impact a private sewerage company would have had on Jackson County.

The following is a timeline of the events that made this decision so economically and politically important.


June 30, 1999
Firm ready to move on sewage plan Water Wise will be the first private sewage system in Jackson County
The Water Wise corporation closed Tuesday on the purchase of the old Jefferson Mills sewage treatment facility on the Jefferson-Winder Hwy.

July 21, 1999
Pendergrass to contract with private sewage firm
The town of Pendergrass is getting into the sewerage business by contracting with a private firm to put in the lines and build a treatment facility.

July 28, 1999
Sewerage deal raises stink
County condemns old mill facility in a move to stop private firm; conflict of interest charges fly in fray
In a significant move last week, the Jackson County Board of Commissioners voted in an emergency meeting to condemn the Texfi mills sewerage treatment facility that had just been purchased in early July by a private firm, Water Wise, Inc.

July 28, 1999
Notice of Condemnation
In the Superior Court of Jackson County
State of Georgia
Jackson County and Jackson County Water and Sewerage Authority, Condemnors, vs. Water Wise, Inc., Prinvest Financial Corp. and Jackson County Tax Commissioner,

July 28, 1999
The Jackson Herald
County did right on condemnation
In a dramatic move last week, the county government condemned a waste water facility that had just been purchased by Water Wise, a private waste water firm.

August 4, 1999
Water un-wise?
Pendergrass files motion to stop county condemnation of Water Wise Inc. facility by claiming the property really belongs to city
In an effort to derail efforts by the county to condemn a private waste water facility, the City of Pendergrass filed a court motion Friday opposing the county's condemnation, claiming that the property is actually owned by the town and not the private firm of Water Wise Inc.

August 4, 1999
Editorial-The Jackson Herald
Pendergrass & Water Wise: A web of duplicity
The convoluted dealings between the Town of Pendergrass and a private sewerage firm are little more than a web of duplicity and conflicts of interest by public officials.

August 11, 1999
EPD delays Water Wise permit move
Condemnation hearing set Fri.
The private firm looking to build a sewer system in Jackson County has hit another roadblock - for now.

August 18, 1999
County offers to buy sewage plant
Water Wise balks at first offer, but talks set again Thurs.
Talks between county officials and representatives of Water Wise, Inc. are set to continue Thursday over a controversial waste water facility, but a pending court action may begin next week if the negotiations break off.

 August 18, 1999
Editorial-The Jackson Herald
A kiss for Water Wise
Jackson County leaders should pucker up and plant a big kisson Jerry Wickliffe.

August 25, 1999
Sewage swords sheathed as contract talks begin
Both sides of a controversial sewage deal sheathed their political swords Monday - at least for the time being.

August 25, 1999
Editorial-The Jackson Herald
Deal could be good for county
It's a long way from a done deal, but if the county and Water Wise can reach an agreement on sewer service, it would be best for both parties.

November 10, 1999
Editorial-The Jackson Herald
Pendergrass: A private fiefdom?
We're not sure those living in Pendergrass really care, but the town has a huge problem - its city council.

November 10, 1999
Water Wise, Pendergrass appeal condemnation rulings
The private waste water firm Water Wise Inc. and the City of Pendergrass have filed appeals to a condemnation ruling over a sewage plant in Jefferson.

December 29, 1999
Tolbert: A rebel with causes
If Rep. Scott Tolbert had studied literature rather than law, he might look to the opening words of Charles Dickens' novel, "A Tale of Two Cities," to describe the past year. "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times," wrote Dickens.

 January 5, 2000
Judge Rules For County In Water Wise Condemnation
Jackson County is in the sewage business following a court order signed Friday by Superior Court Judge T. Penn McWhorter.

January 26, 2000
Water Wise accepts $1.5 million for sewage plant
No word on when firm will build promised plant in Pendergrass
Water Wise officials have apparently decided not to appeal a judge's order approving the condemnation suit filed by
Jackson County on the former Texfi sewage plant in Jefferson.

March 22, 2000
Editorial-The Jackson Herald
Tolbert action rife with conflicts
To say that Rep. Scott Tolbert used poor judgment in his bid to undermine an important legislative bill last week would be a vast understatement.

April 19, 2000
Column -Mike Buffington-The Jackson Herald
Demos gunning for Tolbert
The Georgia Democratic Party is learning what it's like to hunt for elephants with an empty gun.

August 9, 2000
Editorial-The Jackson Herald
Where is Pendergrass sewage plant?
One year and 20 days ago, July 20, 1999 to be exact, a Water Wise Inc. representative stood before the Pendergrass City Council and promised to build a private sewage system for the town.

August 28, 2000
County files motion to compel Water Wise info
The Jackson County government filed a motion in Superior Court Friday to compel Water Wise owner Jerry Wickliffe to answer three questions during the taking of his deposition.

August 30, 2000
Bell presses Water Wise issue; says Tolbert skipped legislative committee meetings
The atmosphere was tense Tuesday night as the two candidates vying for state representative for District 25 met for the second time in a public question and answer session.

August 30, 2000
Editorial-The Jackson Herald
Tolbert response on Water Wise deal long on words, short on the truth
After months of staying quiet about his role in the Water Wise affair, Rep. Scott Tolbert responded to critics last week by saying his work for the firm was only attempting to "ease the burden on the taxpayers of this county."

September 13, 2000
Water Wise, county settle sewer plant suit $2.7 million the final price
The battle between a private sewage firm and the Jackson County government was settled out of court Friday.

September 13, 2000
Editorial-The Jackson Herald
Water Wise settlement a good deal for county
After a year of legal maneuvering, the controversial Water Wise sewage issue ended late last week after the county government accepted an out-of-court settlement offer from the firm.

October 4, 2000
Water Wise owner indicted by feds for 'bid-rigging'
Water Wise owner Jerry Wickliffe has reportedly been indicted by a federal court over a bid-rigging scheme in Atlanta.


· Mid-1998

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 out.

· 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 condemnations.

· 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" votes.

· 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'.
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