Bibb files protest to county line survey findings

Bibb County has filed a protest to a recent survey of the county line that shows Bibb yielding land to Monroe County, officials announced Wednesday.

The county submitted its documents to Secretary of State Karen Handel’s office Tuesday and protests the survey’s findings on several counts, according to a fax from Bibb County Attorney Virgil Adams.

Among Bibb’s arguments against the surveyor’s new boundary, the county argues that Bibb and Monroe counties have acquiesced to the present county line since 1877, essentially establishing it as the proper line.

“We’re hoping that what (Adams has) outlined, it gives the secretary of state something to look at and, hopefully, the county commissioners from Monroe something to look at,” Bibb Commission Chairman Sam Hart said.

The survey, ordered by Gov. Sonny Perdue to settle a 100-year dispute, shows the county line moving southeast, yielding at least 900 acres of land to Monroe County. The map also shows an island of less than one square mile belonging to Bibb, yet surrounded by Monroe.

State law allows counties 30 days to appeal a survey conducted as part of a boundary dispute. When the protest period ends April 28, a hearing will be scheduled at Handel’s office, and she will have the final say in the matter.

According to the county’s protest, the U.S. Supreme Court and courts nationwide have held that it is improper to change boundaries that governments have long recognized. Doing so would violate the rights of residents and would deprive Bibb and its taxpayers of the value of its improvements and investments in the disputed area, according to Bibb County’s protest.

Although the Monroe-Bibb 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 side of the line. At stake are tax revenues from the retailer, as well as property taxes from homes that would be affected by the move.

Perdue appointed surveyor Terry Scarborough in 2005 to verify the line.

In its protest, Bibb argues that Scarborough has a conflict of interest because he is related by blood to a Monroe County commissioner. The documents do not name the commissioner, but Commissioner Mike Bilderback said he is Scarborough’s second cousin.

Bilderback said he does not see a conflict of interest.

“The definition of a conflict of interest is when you stand to gain financially. I don’t stand to gain financially, and the governor appointed Terry,” he said.

The Secretary of State’s office told Bilderback in a 2006 letter that there did not appear to be a conflict.

Furthermore, Bilderback said that citing case law and historical context is not relevant to Bibb County’s protest.

“The exceptions to this (are supposed to be) in the context of how Terry Scarborough conducted the survey,” he said. “Historical relevance — I don’t know how historical relevance pertains to this particular hearing.”

According to the protest, Bibb County also contends that:

Ÿ Scarborough violated basic principles of modern surveyors when he allegedly ignored the boundaries determined in the 1820s and 1870s and substituted his own speculation and judgment.

Ÿ Scarborough’s claim that he found the disputed ferry location on the Ocmulgee River is based on assumptions and inconclusive evidence. Given the long recognition of the existing boundary, the location of the ferry is not relevant.

Ÿ Scarborough exceeded his authority by altering the boundary between Bibb, Monroe and Crawford counties.

Ÿ The creation of an island not contiguous to the county it belongs to is “contrary to law and defies common sense.”

Bilderback said he agreed the island would have to be altered, but overall Scarborough did a good job.

“I think he executed his executive order correctly,” he said. “I think everything he did was procedurally correct.”

Bibb and Monroe counties are expected to split the survey’s $346,180 cost.

To contact writer Jennifer Burk, call 744-4345.