Following the County Technical Assistance Service (CTAS) opinion in November 2018 that stated the Public Building Authority, the entity that runs the Manchester-Coffee County Conference Center, is a county-owned entity and does not require city representation, Manchester has been looking for a second opinion.
During the Board of Mayor and Aldermen meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 5, city attorney Gerald Ewell revealed the Municipal Technical Advisory Service (MTAS) agreed with the CTAS opinion.
“Since we didn’t proceed with a resolution to join the PBA, the city is not a member of the PBA and not entitled to board members to be,” Ewell said, as per the opinion of MTAS.
“That leaves us with a board that someone else appoints is controlling, something we own and is a lot of our money,” Ewell added.
Manchester Mayor Lonnie Norman was against this. He approached Ewell and asked him to talk with Coffee County Mayor Cordell about this.
“I told him that I wasn’t interested in the PBA,” Norman said. “I couldn’t care less about the PBA. They can have the PBA, but as long as this stuff about the conference center, the people that we put on the board, I would like to see them recognized as being on that board…I don’t like the idea of us paying money and having no say.
“They can have a PBA, that’s fine, but when they meet and make decisions about the conference center, the people we pick be on there,” Norman said.
Norman said there was a possibility, according to Cordell, of taking the control of the conference center away from the PBA and forming another committee with equal representation to run it.
Ewell explained this is a viable option, if the PBA doesn’t want to honor or recognize the Manchester citizens that were appointed to the board late last year. The PBA and the conference center are separate entities and they can be separated if an agreement is made by the county.
“The conference center project is separate from the PBA,” said Ewell. “The PBA runs it right now by an agreement from the city and county. It doesn’t have to. Now there are still bonds outstanding and there’s an operating agreement, but I don’t think we have to let, and we have to have the county agree on this, I don’t think we have to let the PBA run the conference center. Assuming we can get things lined up, we can get the conference center out from under the PBA and then make an agreement with the county to run it separately.”
The other option, which Norman favors, is to ask the county to let Manchester be represented on the PBA for matters pertaining to the conference center.
“Concerning the conference center, we want representation,” Norman said.
“We’ve got another year, year-and-a-half to make payments on it. Let our people stay on it for a year-and-a-half and take them off,” the mayor concluded.
BOMA recommended for Norman to write a letter to the county mayor’s office to recommend both options.
Elisha Hodge, MTAS Legal Consultant, responded to Ewell’s request.
“For the reasons set forth below, I am of the opinion that the Coffee County PBA was not ‘created pursuant to the approval of two (2) or more municipalities acting jointly…,’ as the City of Manchester does not appear to adhere to the statutory requirements necessary to have jointly formed the Coffee County PBA with Coffee County. As such, I do not believe that the City is entitled to representation on the Coffee County PBA board of directors.”
Ewell sent Board of Mayor and Aldermen meeting minutes as evidence, the incorporation of the PBA document, and various resolutions passed by the county in regards to the PBA.
“While it is clear from the attachments provided that Coffee County passed the resolution…, it does not appear that the City did so,” Hodge said in the MTAS opinion.
State law 12-10-120 states each municipality involved in the creation of a PBA needs to adhere to the same requirements, therefore needs to pass a resolution stating their involvement in the board.
Hodge also pointed out there is no mention of the cit y in the PBA’s certificate of incorporation – it was only passed and adopted by the county.