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County considering tougher utility theft law

By Billy Corriher

The Clayton County Board of Commissioners could implement a law that would make it harder to steal or illegally restore electrical, gas or water service.

County Attorney Harry Osborne addressed the commissioners at a work session on Tuesday and said the county ordinance would build on existing state laws and prohibit fraudulent means of acquiring utilities service and ways to avoid monitoring usage of utilities.

Osborne said the new ordinance would also hold property owners accountable for any utility theft on their property.

"If the owner is found with (illegal utility service), it's going to be presumed that the owner knew about it," he said.

Wade Brannan, general manager of the Clayton County Water Authority, said his department has a problem with some people illegally acquiring or restoring water service.

"We try to work it out with the customer, but when we run across it, we will prosecute them for theft of services," Brannan said.

The commissioners will discuss the ordinance again at its March 16 meeting.

The commissioners will also consider resolutions on stormwater management and guidelines for developments around floodplains from the Metropolitan North Georgia Planning District.

Ray Espinosa, the county's land development engineer, said the stormwater management ordinance would give the county better oversight for monitoring development around environmentally sensitive areas that could affect drinking water.

The ordinance regarding floodplains would put in place guidelines to protect structures from flood damage.

Espinosa said the county already practices most of these policies, but needs to pass the ordinances to make the rules formal.

"Clayton County has always been ahead of the curve as far as this kind of environmental protection is concerned," he said.

The county is also in the process of accepting bids on contracts to operate C-TRAN, the county's bus system. The bids will be evaluated on March 16, and Wade Starr, administrative assistant to the chairman of the commissioners, said the current operator, MARTA, is expected to be one of about half a dozen companies to submit proposals.