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Who will maintain private utility?
A handshake and verbal agreement were enough to make a Glynn County man's water service the responsibility of Brunswick, but now a lack of legal documentation has him scrambling.

Ben Grantham purchased the service in the late 1980s to serve two properties he owns, Golden Shores subdivision and Thornhill Mobile Home Park, on U.S. 17. In 1999, he says he entered into an agreement with the director of what was then Brunswick's Water and Sewer Department giving the city the responsibility of the service and the ability to collect monthly bills from the approximately 100 customers, Grantham told the Brunswick-Glynn County Joint Water Sewer Commission on Thursday.

But when the city and county merged to form the joint commission, things were lost in translation.

"It was a gentleman's agreement ... then all the gentlemen disappeared," he said.

Grantham's problems come from inconsistency. When the service encounters problems, utility crews will respond, but sometimes he is told the commission has no authority over private services.

"They've been getting the checks," Grantham said. "They just didn't want the problems."

Now commissioners are trying to figure out what can be done.

Commission chair Ronnie Perry has directed the board's legal counsel to determine the utility's obligations.

"It seems pretty obvious. Even though there was nothing in writing, the intent was for us to own it," Perry said. "We've been collecting for more than 13 years."

Other commissioners agreed that something must be done to relieve Grantham's responsibility and ensure that the utility responds to problems at the site.

"I say we either respond to the problems or give this man his money back," said Commissioner Sandy Dean.

* Reporter Nikki Wiley writes about government, business and other local topics. Contact her at, on Facebook or at 265-8320, ext. 321.

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