Who says that the Twelve Mile Circle can’t break a story? I stay away from the major geographic developments because I figure everyone else will cover them. South Sudan, anyone? You saw no mention of it that on 12MC. The smaller stories, the ones few care to follow and even fewer understand? Well those are perfect fodder for this website.
I have been stalking the many twists and turns of the border dispute between Bibb and Monroe Counties in Georgia since I first became aware of it January 2009. I’ve never been to either place and I have no stake in its outcome. My interest rests solely on the possibility that a county line might change. This is an extremely rare event so I find the story fascinating. I set up a Google Alert and I received an email with article links once every few months as the dispute progressed through various government wickets. I’m nothing if not patient.
This morning, August 23, 2011, Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp held a press conference to announce his decision. He stated that he believed Bibb County met the necessary burden of proof to support its position. He set aside Terry Scarborough 2009 survey that favored Monroe County. The border will remain in its current place.
Much greater detail is available in the Secretary’s Press Release.
Kemp said he had reasonable doubts about the exact original location of Torrentine’s Ferry, the Nineteenth Century starting point for the boundary. It could have been where Scarborough marked it in 2009 or it could have been somewhere further upriver. Kemp reviewed all of the documentation and he personally visited the disputed area. In conclusion, he said that a change would have too big of an impact on the lives of the people affected unless he knew where to draw the line with certainty. He stressed that the two sides could continue to work together to come up with a better solution or the Governor could always commission another boundary survey, but his decision was to keep the border in place as currently configured.
Readers who have not followed 12MC for the last three years are probably wondering how we got here. Let’s review.
- The border was established in 1822 with the creation of Bibb County. It was a direct line between Torrentine’s Ferry on the Ocmulgee River and the northeast corner of Crawford County.
- Problem: Torrentine’s Ferry was out of service so long that nobody knew for sure where it actually operated.
- Monroe County felt it was entitled to more land than recognized by the existing border so the Governor commissioned a boundary survey, which was completed by Scarborough in 2009.
- It was more than an academic exercise. A border adjustment would allow Monroe County to collect significant tax revenue from a large Bass Pro Shop, as an example.
- Granite markers were placed in a manner that favored Monroe County, causing quite a bit of excitement since it seemed to suggest a new boundary before an official decision had been made.
- Bibb County did not agree with the results of the survey and refused to pay Scarborough for a considerable amount of time.
It got rather ugly after that. The issue went before an Administrative Law Judge who ruled in favor of Monroe County. The Judge then presented his recommendation to Secretary of State Kemp. All the while, Kemp urged Bibb and Monroe to resolve their differences themselves. The two parties reached an impasse, forcing Kemp’s hand.
The latest round goes to Bibb County. This probably settles the issue, however Monroe County still has a couple of avenues to pursue if it wishes to continue. I guess I’ll keep my Google Alert active.