New survey shows Bibb losing land to Monroe County

The Bibb County line could shift southeast, yielding land to Monroe County, if a new survey of the county line is made official.

A map of the survey, obtained Wednesday by The Telegraph, shows the line moving several hundred feet southeast in a wedge shape, with the smallest portion of the wedge near the corner of Monroe, Bibb and Crawford counties.

Bibb would lose the largest chunk of land in the northernmost tip of the county, starting near the northern intersection of Wesleyan and Riverside drives, according to the map. The map also shows an island of less than one square mile belonging to Bibb, yet surrounded by Monroe.

James Preston, who served as Bibb’s surveyor from 1993 to 2004, said it appears Bibb is poised to lose at least 900 acres, based on rough estimates.

Preston is not involved in the current survey, which Gov. Sonny Perdue ordered to settle a 100-year dispute between the counties. Terry Scarborough of Warner Robins conducted the latest survey.

The shift mostly is due to a change in the location of Turrentine’s Ferry, which is said to be the northern point of Bibb County, and the interpretation of an 1877 alteration to the line. Scarborough places the ferry about 750 feet south of the current location.

Bibb County Attorney Virgil Adams has said the county will protest the findings. State law allows counties 30 days to appeal a survey conducted as part of a boundary dispute. Once a protest is filed, a hearing will be scheduled at Secretary of State Karen Handel’s office, and she will have the final say in the matter.

Bibb officials aren’t going to comment further on the survey until they file their objections, probably sometime next week, Adams said. Those objections will be shared then, he said.

There are several possible arguments to keep the line where it is, said Preston, who has no knowledge of the actual arguments Bibb may be considering.

Among the arguments Bibb County officials could make is that both counties have acquiesced to the current border for more than 130 years, he said.

“We’ve all used that line for jurisdiction and tax purposes for all that time,” he said.

Second, Bibb has made numerous improvements in the disputed area, including paving and adding sewer lines, while Monroe officials stood idly by, Preston said.

In addition, Preston said he doesn’t think the state would allow for an island to be separate from the rest of Bibb County.

The island, known as the “Holt alteration,” was created as the result of a favor from the state Legislature in 1877 to Dr. Lee Holt, who wanted his residence in Bibb County.

Monroe County Commission Chairman James Vaughn said those are arguments for lawyers to make.

Those concepts may apply in a private dispute, he said, but they may not in this case, which is governed by a state statute.

“This is a very unusual situation that is specific to this,” Vaughn said. “I’m not sure that the normal arguments you would make in a case like this would apply.”

And while the Holt alteration may be odd, Vaughn said he has looked at the legislative act that ordered it, and the island seems to be what is described.

Although the Bibb-Monroe border has been disputed off and on for years, the county line took on newfound relevance a few years ago with the announcement that Bass Pro Shops was being built on the Bibb County side of the county line.

At stake are tax revenues from the outdoor retailer complex, as well as property taxes from homes that would be affected if the county line is moved.

Perdue chose Scarborough in August 2005 to handle the survey, which didn’t start until last year because of attempts by Monroe and Bibb officials to settle the dispute without a survey and fee negotiations.

The two counties are expected to split the survey’s $346,180 cost.

To contact writer Jennifer Burk, call 744-4345.