Citing Misunderstanding, Carl Vinson Institute Says It Will Help County on Land Use

Despite reports to the contrary, the Carl Vinson Institute of Government said Tuesday it is more than willing to help Stephens County in its efforts to design a land use plan.

Last week, County Administrator Phyllis Ayers said that the institute notified her recently that it would not enter into a contract with Stephens County to provide professional assistance on developing a land use plan.

However, Carl Vinson Institute Deputy Director Dennis Epps said that is not the case at all.

“We are willing to help Stephens County in any way we can, but we need to discern some hard deliverables for our work,” said Epps.

By “hard deliverables,” Epps said he is referring to what specific products or particular services the institute would provide to the county.

“Basically, what we have right now is discussion of a scope of work that would allow us to be on call to sort of assist the county,” said Epps. “But in order to engage faculty, I need to know how much time and what specific areas of expertise are needed, those sorts of things.”

Ayers said that she was waiting on the Carl Vinson Institute to present a proposed agreement, adding that she has never seen an agreement.

Last week, Ayers said that the institute told her one reason it did not want to get involved was because it wanted to handle the whole process from beginning to end.

Epps said the institute will help wherever needed, once it understands how it fits in to what the county is already doing.

“Obviously, they are taking action steps,” said Epps. “We have no problem with that. We just sort of need to tease out where we would be involved in terms of particular deliverables.”

In addition, Ayers said last week that the Institute said they did not want to participate because there are many political issues that have faced Stephens County in the past and currently concerning land use.

Epps said that is not the case.

“Any kind of a deliberation like that or a project like that is always a tough situation,” said Epps. “There is nothing particular to Stephens County. It really just comes back to us delivering specific services that add value to what the county is already doing on its own behalf.”

When asked how it got to this point, Epps said it must have been a misunderstanding.

“I think probably because there was some resistance to a general contract,” said Epps. “I think it was a misunderstanding whereas the message heard was we do not want to help you when the reality is we want to help, but we just want the detail as to how to be helpful and add value to what the county is already doing itself.”

Ayers met with the county’s Land Use Regulation Committee Tuesday night and said she also spoke with Epps, who also told her it must have been a misunderstanding.

The committee said Tuesday night it will consider using the Carl Vinson Institute if needed during the process, but made no commitments.