Bibb, Monroe counties look to Georgia Supreme Court in county line dispute

ATLANTA -- For the second time, the state Supreme Court is considering arguments from both Bibb and Monroe counties in a decadelong dispute about the true border between the two counties.

This time, the two counties are arguing over what evidence Secretary of State Brian Kemp can consider when making the decision.

At issue is the current boundary near Bass Pro Shops. Monroe County supports a survey that puts the line a few hundred feet south of where Bibb thinks it is. The eventual border decision could change which county is responsible for infrastructure in that area and which county receives the property tax payments from nearby homes and part of the outdoor retailer’s property.

Monroe County attorneys told the justices Monday that Kemp should not ask for new evidence and instead should rule based on surveys and documents already submitted to Kemp’s office.

“Brian Kemp is not allowed in the statute to carry it on for eternity,” said Monroe County Commission Chairman Mike Bilderback, who watched the arguments from the Atlanta courtroom gallery.

“You’re obligated to the taxpayers to deliver a timely resolution, and Mr. Kemp is missing that,” he said.

Attorneys for Kemp and Bibb County sat at the same table in front of the Supreme Court, both arguing that Kemp should be allowed to gather more data.

The secretary of state has the right to set up a process for determining the boundary and to ask for evidence “as many times as he or she wants to,” Virgil Adams, Bibb’s attorney, said after the arguments.

“That’s not an abuse of discretion. He’s got the right to do that,” Adams said of Kemp.

Ten years ago, Monroe County asked then-Gov. Sonny Perdue to hire a surveyor to set the boundary between the two counties.

The governor did that, but Bibb also did some research and decided the governor’s surveyor got the line wrong. Bibb challenged the line, throwing the dispute to the Secretary of State’s Office.

A special administrative law judge enlisted to hear the evidence recommended accepting the governor’s line. But Kemp declined, saying the evidence was inconclusive. Kemp drew no line at all.

“The secretary of state made a decision rejecting the survey because it was not reliable, it was not accurate. (The governor’s surveyor) did not search a lot of historical documents that we did,” Adams said Monday.

Monroe County sought to force Kemp to accept the line by taking him to court in Fulton County, where his office is headquartered.

Fulton County Superior Court ordered Kemp to accept the governor’s line, but Kemp successfully appealed that ruling to the state Supreme Court.

The court said that within boundaries, Kemp has the right to set up his own process for making the border decision.

After that, Kemp told both sides he would accept new evidence from them.

Monroe objected, telling the court in Fulton County that Kemp has exhausted his chances to get more data.

The Fulton County court agreed with that and told Kemp to make a decision.

But now it’s the state Supreme Court justices who are being asked to make a decision: Can Kemp collect more evidence before drawing the border?

The court is expected to rule in the coming months.

Information from Telegraph archives was used in this report.